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News Article | October 7, 2016
Site: phys.org

A new Bluetooth chat app is for people with sensorial disability. Credit: UC3M Blappy is a smartphone application that enables fluid communication between people with visual and/or auditory disabilities. Voice messages can be changed into text and vice versa; in addition, high-contrast images can be included, and the screen has a zoom feature. It is also compatible with the TalkBack accessibility service. To use the service, it is only necessary to install the app in two terminals that are less than 30 meters apart and in a closed Bluetooth environment. Once the user is registered, there are two ways to send messages: either using voice recognition or a keyboard. In Spain alone there are nearly 1 million visually handicapped people and nearly 1 million more with auditory impairment, according to CESyA. The application is available in four languages (Spanish, French, English and Portuguese), but its technology translates conversations into all of the languages that the Google Translator service recognizes. Blappy is currently available for mobile phones that have the Android operating system; it is available via the Play Store. Users enable Bluetooth to connect with another smartphone that also has the app installed. Its developers are also working on a version for Apple's iOS platform. Belén Ruiz Mezcua, associate professor of UC3M's Computer Science department and the general director of CESyA, says this initiative represents a commitment to accessibility and "is an example of technology transfer in the service of society's needs." In the same way, "it achieves the paradigm of design that is accessible for everyone," says Adrián Baeza, CESyA researcher and one of the professionals involved in the project's launch.


News Article | March 8, 2016
Site: phys.org

Among other things, this new system can determine if the customer pays attention to special offers, which route they take in the store and which products they stop and look at. "In our first test, we realized that clients in a supermarket avoided a certain aisle because the pet food was located too close to the end. When we exchanged the pet food for muffins, people went down that aisle again and the cross-sales of breakfast foods skyrocketed," says Jorge Bueno, CEO of Proximus. The sensors installed in carts and baskets emit a short-wave signal via Bluetooth to a set of receivers located in the ceiling; these send the information to a cloud server. In this way, it is possible to track each shopper's position and the amount of time they stay in one place, giving information in real time about the section of the store where the most people are or how fast the check-out lines are moving, for example. All of the information that the system generates is accessible on a web page with a flow diagram analyzing the movement of carts within the store and heat maps with specific information regarding the traffic in each section of the store. "More than thirty parameters of customer behavior are analyzed,"says Bueno. This tool uses techniques from the field of robotics to analyze the position and behavior of users inside stores and large commercial establishments. Thanks to its own interior positioning algorithm and its Big Data motor, Proximus enables users to determine metrics in order to improve marketing campaigns. "We are focused on providing new information to these chains so that they can improve their strategic decisions on a daily basis, physically in their stores. This is like Google Analytics for physical space," explains Bueno. In addition, Proximus has a system of notifications to alert users when it detects unforeseen events. "While the analytics are designed to help a store manager see the current state of the supermarket, the notifications allow managers to maintain control over their businesses without having to stare at the screen all of the time, because the alarm will be activated whenever it detects a specific anomaly," the company explains. The system has already been tested in Carrefour and Proximus is working with some of the most important retail chains in Europe. In addition, they have just signed an agreement with Unilever in Singapore to monitor the brand in supermarkets there. After being the first Spanish start-up to go through the prestigious business accelerator Techstars, they received €300,000 in financing to expand their business plan. As part of this growth policy, they plan to open an office in the United States next year. Proximus got its start in the Vivero de Empresas del Parque Científico (Science Park Business Incubator) as a result of its participation in UC3M's Ideas Contest (Concurso de Ideas UC3M) for the creation of innovative, tech-based companies. There, they received help in developing their business plan and received advising services that the Park offers in order to convert entrepreneurial initiatives based on UC3M technology and innovation into viable businesses that add value to the area's economic development. Explore further: System uses video surveillance cameras to alert security agents of dangerous situations


News Article | November 23, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

This free tool, known as "FDVT" (Facebook Data Valuation Tool), was developed by engineers in UC3M's Telematics department, and is part of a European Project called TYPES (Towards transparencY and Privacy in the onlinE advertising business), which is, in turn, part of the Horizon 2020 program. In addition, the tool is partially funded by the Data Transparency Lab. This initiative, founded by MIT, Telefónica and Mozilla, promotes Internet transparency, with the goal of raising awareness among internauts of the importance of protecting their digital privacy. The application, which was recently launched and is currently available for Facebook and Google Chrome browser helps to visualize, in real time, the advertising revenue being generated by a user while he/she is navigating on the social network. In order to use it, the user simply needs to download the application and enter some basic identity data (age, gender, relationship status, interests and country, etc.), so that the tool can identify the profile's economic value on the advertising market, a volatile sector subject to widely varying supply and demand. "Evidently, each of us has a different market price according to our profile, so the tool will give you an estimate of what you are generating," say brothers Ángel and Rubén Cuevas, UC3M professors and the developers of this innovation, along with doctoral student José González. "When you connect to Facebook and receive an ad, what we do is obtaining its associated value, the price that those advertisers pay for displaying those ads or each 'click' that you make on one of those ads," they explain. "The average cost of a user in Spain comes out to be roughly half of the cost of a user in the US, but it's important to understand that the value changes over time," they add. Facebook continually earns money from advertising, "even when the internaut who is on the platform doesn't click on the ads," they explain. "The advertising sector increasingly "profiles down to the last detail" their potential customers, who they direct personalized ads to based on their personal characteristics, in order to improve the return of their investment," assures Ángel Cuevas. There must be "a balance" between this personalization of advertising (which can be expressly agreed to by users in order to improve their experience) and the guarantee of maintaining basic rights, he adds. It is important that the companies that manage advertising be transparent in how they handle other people's data, these researchers insist. "We don't want to demonize Facebook, Google, or any other platform for generating income through advertising, a sector that is undoubtedly generating economic growth and employment," they affirm. What they do insist on is that companies exploiting personal information must act with transparency when they report what they do with the data they get from third parties. Companies such as Telefónica R&D, EURECAT, la Asociación de Usuarios de Internet (AUI- The Association of Internet Users) and IAB Europe are part of the international consortium behind the European Project called TYPES, with Spanish participation being around 50 percent. Companies from Germany, Greece and Israel also participate in this project, which is funded through the European Union framework research program Horizon 2020 (reference number 653449).


News Article | March 15, 2016
Site: www.treehugger.com

We've seen how social media can be more than just a place to share pictures of your dinner. It can play an important role in cultural movements, political discourse, tracking diseases and now, researchers have discovered that it can play a crucial role in natural disaster relief by predicting the true impact in just a few hours. An international study by researchers at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M), NICTA (National Information Communications Technology Australia) and the University of California in San Diego has found that analysis of social network activity during and in the hours following a natural disaster can quickly reveal the extent of damage. "Twitter, the social network which we have analyzed, is useful for the management, real-time monitoring and even prediction of the economic impact that disasters like Hurricane Sandy can have," says one of the researchers, Esteban Moro Egido, of UC3M. Hurricane Sandy was the perfect chance for the researchers to collect data because it was a very large storm that was being tracked and they could monitor Twitter for information before, during and after it hit areas. Hundreds of millions of geo-located tweets were sent by Twitter users referencing the storm in 50 metropolitan areas. The researchers were able to track the movement and impact of storm through Twitter activity as it pummeled the East Coast. The storm caused more damage than any other is U.S. history with an economic impact of 50 billion dollars. The researchers compared the Twitter data they collected with official FEMA data concerning the level of aid grants for different areas. The researchers found that there was a strong correlation between the mean per capita social network activity and the mean per capita economic damage for each area. The danger and actual disaster impact was directly observable in real time by monitoring the social network. The researchers have gone on to verify that the same correlation exists in floods, tornados and storms. The researchers believe that social networks could be a critical prediction tool for the damage of natural disasters, giving governments the ability to see where and how much relief will be needed much more quickly. It can also be used to see where people are in need of immediate help so that first responders can be dispatched to the hardest hit areas. The researchers say this finding is especially important as we face an increase in natural disasters due to climate change. "We believe that this is going to cause even more natural disasters and, therefore, the use of social networks will allow us to obtain useful supplementary information," Egido said. "We are trying to see if there is a relationship between activity on social networks and climate change which will affect us in the future". If social networks are monitored, more lives could be saved and the right amount of aid will reach the areas that need it much more quickly.


News Article | December 7, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

The research project to be carried out by Tobias Koch will be within the UC3M Signal Theory and Communications Department, under the name LOLITA (Information Theory for Low-Latency Wireless Communications). The design of low-latency wireless communication systems is a great challenge, since it requires a different focus than that which is used in current high-speed data transmission systems. "The project seeks to establish the theoretical framework necessary to describe the fundamental tradeoffs in low-latency wireless communications," Koch explained. "This enables the design of novel systems that employ resources such as bandwidth and energy more efficiently." Current wireless communication systems exchange packets of several thousand bits and include large correction codes to protect them against transmission errors. "What we do is to include additional bits to correct possible errors," Koch stated. In this way, the reliability of the system is guaranteed (what is transmitted is what is received). However, future low-latency systems will exchange information in a much quicker way (almost in real time) and, hence, exchange packets of only a few hundred of bits (a much smaller size), which requires the design of novel correction codes of a shorter length. Put differently, it is like transporting goods in thousands of cars instead of dozens of trucks. For that purpose, it is necessary to design new correction codes that allow the cars to stay on track when there are driving mistakes. "If we have to send many packets, we can decide if we store them in a warehouse and later send all of them in a truck, or if we send the packets one by one in a car," Koch explained. With the truck, it would take longer because you would have to wait to complete the load, but its advantage is that larger and stronger security systems (correction codes) can be employed because we have more space. In contrast, transportation by car would be faster because each packet could be sent the moment that it arrives at the warehouse, but then codes must be used that are not as strong. This simile is related to some applications for this kind of technology. In the future, vehicles will be interconnected wirelessly, inter alia, to avoid accidents. To this end, communication needs to occur in almost real time (with a delay of not more than 10 milliseconds), researchers point out. Furthermore, low-latency wireless communications will be used in 5G networks, and applications can be found in many industrial processes. This project, which starts on March 1, 2017 and has a duration of five years, will receive funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement number 714161).


The study, published in the latest issue of the journal Science Advances, along with scientists from NICTA (National Information Communications Technology Australia) and the University of California in San Diego concludes that it is possible to determine the damage caused by a natural disaster in just a few hours, by using data from social networks. "Twitter, the social network which we have analyzed, is useful for the management, real-time monitoring and even prediction of the economic impact that disasters like Hurricane Sandy can have," says one of the researchers, Esteban Moro Egido, of UC3M's Grupo Interdisciplinar de Sistemas Complejos - Complex Systems Interdisciplinary Group (GISC). The research was carried out by analyzing Twitter activity before, during and after Hurricane Sandy which, in 2012, caused more damage than any other storm in US history, with an economic impact in the region of 50,000 million dollars. Hundreds of millions of geo-located tweets making reference to this topic were collected from fifty metropolitan areas in the USA. "Given that citizens were turning to these platforms for communication and information related to the disaster, we established a strong correlation between the route of the hurricane and activity on social networks," explains Esteban Moro. But the main conclusion of the study was obtained when the data relating to social network activity was examined alongside data relating to both the levels of aid granted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and insurance claims: there is a correlation between the mean per capita of social network activity and economic damage per capita caused by these disasters in the areas where such activity occurs. In other words, both real and perceived threats, along with the economic effects of physical disasters, are directly observable through the strength and composition of the flow of messages from Twitter. Furthermore, researchers have verified the results obtained from Hurricane Sandy and have been able to demonstrate that the same dynamic also occurs in the case of floods, storms and tornadoes; for example, whenever there is sufficient activity on social media to extract such data. In this way, communication on Twitter allows the economic impact of a natural disaster in the affected areas to be monitored in real time, making it possible to provide information in addition to that currently used to assess damage resulting from these disasters. Moreover, the distribution space of the event-related messages can also help the authorities in the monitoring and evaluation of emergencies, in order to improve responses to natural disasters. The authors of the study suggest that we are facing an increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters as a consequence of climate change. "We believe that this is going to cause even more natural disasters and, therefore, the use of social networks will allow us to obtain useful supplementary information," points out Professor Esteban Moro, who is currently working on further research in this area. "We are trying to see if there is a relationship between activity on social networks and climate change which will affect us in the future". Explore further: A system detects global trends in social networks two months in advance More information: Y. Kryvasheyeu, H. Chen, N. Obradovich, E. Moro, P. Van Hentenryck, J. Fowler, M. Cebrian, Rapid Assessment of Disaster Damage Using Social Media Activity. Sci. Adv. 2, e1500779 (2016) DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500779, http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/3/e1500779


News Article | October 27, 2016
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

"This paves the way for creating very sensitive microfluidic devices that respond readily to small physical changes like variations in temperature, gravity, acceleration or orientation" explains Carlos Rascón, one of the authors of this study. Rascón, from the UC3M Department of Mathematics, has just published a study in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) along with Andrew Parry from Imperial College London and Dirk G.A.L. Aarts from Oxford University. Their study focuses on the behavior of fluids in capillaries: containers with a constant cross-section, like cylindrical glasses, whose cross-section is a circle all along. "In addition to circles, we have also studied other cross-sections: ellipses and regular polygons (triangles, squares, pentagons, etc.). These non-circular sections seem to have more technological applications" explains Rascón, a researcher from the UC3M Interdisciplinary Group of Complex Systems (GISC, in the Spanish acronym). For example, if the cross-section of the capillary is a sufficiently flattened ellipse, the liquid can flow even if the capillary is extremely narrow, contrary to the standard assumption. These results could have applications in nanotechnology. In narrow circular tubes, the liquid always stays inside (by capillary action), and emptying them is very difficult without pumping. By choosing the tube cross-section, one can control when and how they empty. "This would allows us to make very sensitive devices in which the liquid flows for specific values of the physical parameters," adds the researcher. In those devices, very small changes in the physical conditions could trigger the emptying of the capillary. This could be in itself the purpose of the device, or just a mere indicator of the change in the physical conditions, which opens the door to creating new diagnostic and measuring devices. The technological implications of this research have been protected through patent applications in Europe and North America, and are commercialized by the UC3M Science Park. The control of micro and nanofluids is a multidisciplinary field that combines biotechnology, physics, engineering, nanotechnology and chemistry, and has practical applications in the design of systems used to control and manipulate small volumes of fluids. In this regard, the patent is very general and could be applied to the fabrication of measuring devices or, for example, to the design of high-resolution printers. It could also have applications in the food, aerospace and medical industries. The study originated from a discussion of some experiments with colloidal fluids carried out at Oxford University. "Dirk asked Andy and me what the expected shape of the meniscus (the curvature of the surface of a liquid) was when a bi-dimensional capillary is in the horizontal position. In answering this question, we pondered what the shape of a 3D meniscus in a horizontal capillary would be. We needed more than five years of research to answer that second question," says Rascón. "We obtained numerical results that we couldn't interpret, and thought were programming errors but, after a very thorough checking, the results didn't change and we realized we needed to reinterpret them. Putting all the pieces of the puzzle together has been a long and tortuous journey."


News Article | October 27, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

"This paves the way for creating very sensitive microfluidic devices which respond readily to small physical changes like variations in temperature, gravity, acceleration or orientation" explains Carlos Rascón, one of the authors of this study. Rascón, from the UC3M Department of Mathematics, has just published a study in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) along with Andrew O. Parry from Imperial College London and Dirk G.A.L. Aarts from Oxford University. Their study focuses on the behavior of fluids in capillaries: containers with a constant cross-section, like cylindrical glasses, whose cross-section is a circle all along. "In addition to circles, we have also studied other cross-sections: ellipses and regular polygons (triangles, squares, pentagons, etc.). These non-circular sections seem to have more technological applications" explains Rascón, a researcher from the UC3M Interdisciplinary Group of Complex Systems (GISC, in the Spanish acronym). For example, if the cross-section of the capillary is a sufficiently flattened ellipse, the liquid can flow even if the capillary is extremely narrow, contrary to the standard assumption. These results could have applications in nanotechnology. In narrow circular tubes, the liquid always stays inside (by capillary action), and emptying them is very difficult without pumping. By choosing the tube cross-section, one can control when and how they empty. "This would allows us to make very sensitive devices in which the liquid flows for specific values of the physical parameters," adds the researcher. In those devices, very small changes in the physical conditions could trigger the emptying of the capillary. This could be in itself the purpose of the device, or just a mere indicator of the change in the physical conditions, which opens the door to creating new diagnostic and measuring devices. The technological implications of this research have been protected through patent applications in Europe and North America, and are commercialized by the UC3M Science Park. The control of micro and nanofluids is a multidisciplinary field that combines biotechnology, physics, engineering, nanotechnology and chemistry, and has practical applications in the design of systems used to control and manipulate small volumes of fluids. In this regard, the patent is very general and could be applied to the fabrication of measuring devices or, for example, to the design of high-resolution printers. It could also have applications in the food, aerospace and medical industries. The study originated from a discussion of some experiments with colloidal fluids carried out at Oxford University. "Dirk asked Andy and me what the expected shape of the meniscus (the curvature of the surface of a liquid) was when a bi-dimensional capillary is in the horizontal position. In answering this question, we pondered what the shape of a 3D meniscus in a horizontal capillary would be. We needed more than five years of research to answer that second question," says Rascón. "We obtained numerical results that we couldn't interpret, and thought were programming errors but, after a very thorough checking, the results didn't change and we realized we needed to reinterpret them. Putting all the pieces of the puzzle together has been a long and tortuous journey."


News Article | January 15, 2016
Site: phys.org

A new concept for an ergonomic smart desk with the objective of improving teamwork, this proposal has been put forward by Pynk Systems, a company created by an entrepreneur from the UC3M Science Park Business Incubator. Credit: uc3m New technologies are changing the way people work; in recent years, many companies have tended towards using large open plan spaces, without individual offices, which help to facilitate teamwork. With this in mind, Pynk Systems is launching a new work concept called the "Ergon Desk". This smart desk has an ergonomic design incorporating movable elements, which can be adapted to both laptops and tablets; it is controlled by an application. "At the start of the working day, we will be able to log-in at our work stations and the desk will respond by recognizing our work configurations, our height, both seated and standing, and our preferences for the desk's degree of inclination", explains David Mata, Pynk Systems' CEO. Each desk can be operated by foot and is equipped with sensors which are able to learn from user behavior patterns and, therefore, recommend posture changes and rest breaks based on the ergonomic criteria that best suits the user's way of working. David Mata goes on to point out that "there are around thirty five medical conditions associated with the sedentary nature of desk jobs, and the Ergon Desk helps to minimize these ailments as well as increasing productivity during the working day". According to the creators, the ergonomic design of each work station optimizes office space by offering the same work area, but taking up thirty percent less space than a conventional distribution. Pink Systems' CEO adds, "Entering the UC3M Scientific Park has been instrumental not only in supporting us in the design of the product and the incorporation of the most advanced technologies, but also in publicizing its launch." Explore further: Gadget Watch: The desk that tells you to stand up


News Article | November 23, 2016
Site: phys.org

This free tool, known as "FDVT" (Facebook Data Valuation Tool), was developed by engineers in UC3M's Telematics department, and is part of a European Project called TYPES (Towards transparencY and Privacy in the onlinE advertising business), which is, in turn, part of the Horizon 2020 program. In addition, the tool is partially funded by the Data Transparency Lab. This initiative, founded by MIT, Telefónica and Mozilla, promotes Internet transparency, with the goal of raising awareness among internauts of the importance of protecting their digital privacy. The application, which was recently launched and is currently available for Facebook and Google Chrome browser helps to visualize, in real time, the advertising revenue being generated by a user while he/she is navigating on the social network. In order to use it, the user simply needs to download the application and enter some basic identity data (age, gender, relationship status, interests and country, etc.), so that the tool can identify the profile's economic value on the advertising market, a volatile sector subject to widely varying supply and demand. "Evidently, each of us has a different market price according to our profile, so the tool will give you an estimate of what you are generating," say brothers Ángel and Rubén Cuevas, UC3M professors and the developers of this innovation, along with doctoral student José González. "When you connect to Facebook and receive an ad, what we do is obtaining its associated value, the price that those advertisers pay for displaying those ads or each 'click' that you make on one of those ads," they explain. "The average cost of a user in Spain comes out to be roughly half of the cost of a user in the US, but it's important to understand that the value changes over time," they add. Facebook continually earns money from advertising, "even when the internaut who is on the platform doesn't click on the ads," they explain. "The advertising sector increasingly "profiles down to the last detail" their potential customers, who they direct personalized ads to based on their personal characteristics, in order to improve the return of their investment," assures Ángel Cuevas. There must be "a balance" between this personalization of advertising (which can be expressly agreed to by users in order to improve their experience) and the guarantee of maintaining basic rights, he adds. It is important that the companies that manage advertising be transparent in how they handle other people's data, these researchers insist. "We don't want to demonize Facebook, Google, or any other platform for generating income through advertising, a sector that is undoubtedly generating economic growth and employment," they affirm. What they do insist on is that companies exploiting personal information must act with transparency when they report what they do with the data they get from third parties.

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