January 17, we rang in the New Year with RTP180: Smart. We also celebrated three important birthdays—Frontier RTP’s coworking space turned 4 this year, and our presenting sponsor, RTI International, has reached the milestone of 60! Research Triangle Park is also celebrating 60 years since its founding in 1959. So, to add on to our usual popcorn and beer, all our guests received party hats and noisemakers to join in the festivities as we learned what makes the Triangle so “smart.”
Dr. Lucas Blair of RTI International began with the development of smart classrooms and how they can enhance education. Teachers will soon be able to practice their skills in a virtual classroom and receive more accurate assessments on their teaching styles. Students will have the opportunity to go on virtual field trips to literally anywhere, which will broaden learning horizons tremendously! Furthermore, it would be a great equalizer when it comes to education access. Lucas showed that education is not confined within four walls, and with the aid of artificial intelligence, learning can be done anywhere. Watch Lucas’ talk here.
Shannon Smith of K4Connect talked about bridging the digital divide amongst older adults. He explained that it’s not that senior citizens aren’t tech savvy—they just aren’t comfortable with designs that weren’t intended for them. While adaptability is an important skill today, tech itself can definitely grow in its versatility for overlooked audiences. Shannon demonstrated that once smart electronics are better catered to older generations, they have the potential to enhance independence and quality of life. He encouraged more companies to apply more heart into their smart solutions. Watch Shannon’s talk here.
Dr. Kristen Wynns of Wynns Family Psychology offered an alternate view for the night and explored the disadvantages of smart technology. She reminisced about the past, when the biggest concern for parents was a child watching television too closely, and compared it to the impact of our challenges today. An overuse of technology can have a negative influence on our patience, social abilities, mental and physical health. Kristen included studies related to each concern and how to combat them. She recommended starting good habits within the family and increasing the awareness of your screen time by tracking your usage with the help of some apps. To learn more about this topic, watch Kristen’s talk here.
Nicole Raimundo of Town of Cary shared the city’s vision of building a stronger, healthier Cary—specifically tackling the opioid epidemic. I was definitely surprised to learn that opioid addictions are more prevalent than I thought, and could stem from something as common as painkillers prescribed after wisdom teeth removal. In partnership with Biobot Analytics, the town used smart technology to test wastewater and get an accurate baseline of opioid strains in the system. In time, Nicole hopes to collect enough data to begin working on public health programs for NC counties. Learn more about how the Biobot robot works by watching Nicole’s talk here.
Dr. Jesse Jur of NC State University presented on his team’s efforts in combining healthcare with textiles. The Nano-Extended Textiles (NEXT) Research Group, led by Jesse, focuses on the influence of nanotechnology in textiles. They innovate materials for smart garments that can monitor personal health and collect data, thus paving the way for accessible personalized medication. With the textile mindset, the design for these wearables are aimed to be as comfortable as humanly possible. The team has worked with organizations to ensure they are evaluating it appropriately, and using human trial studies to obtain feedback. Watch Jesse’s talk here.
Ready for more #RTP180? Our next topic is Outer Space—be sure to reserve your tickets for the February 21 event!
Thanks to presenting sponsor RTI International for enabling us to provide a platform for our community to share their knowledge. A big congratulations to them as well on their 60th Anniversary! We’re also glad to have UNC-TV as our producer—if you can’t make it to any RTP180 event, you can catch the live stream beginning at 6:00PM EST the day of the show at ncchannel.org, and be sure to follow along with us on Twitter using #RTP180.