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Keeping An Eye On Working Conditions Across Apple's Vast Supply Chain Is No Easy Task

Bloomberg Businessweek yesterday posted a gripping tale detailing the inherent challenges faced by Apple as it tries to promote fair working conditions across its supply chain. The Bloomberg piece zeroes in on life at Flextronics in the weeks preceding Apple's iPhone 5 launch. Based out of Singapore, Flextronics was tasked with manufacturing the iPhone 5's camera before shipping them off to China. With factories spread out across the globe, it used its factory space in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to handle iPhone 5 camera production. What follows is a fascinating tale detailing how Flextronics tapped into an extensive network of recruiters to amass a workforce large enough to handle Apple's massive product orders. Massive is a bit of an understatement as Apple ended up selling the iPhone at a rate of 3.7 million units a week for several months after the launch.

Some of the workers hired to meet these product demands came from as far away as Nepal. And that's where the story really begins. What ensued, according to Taparia and the others, was a frenzy. Even the Nepalese government official in charge of approving foreign-worker permits, Surya Bhandari, says he was deluged with calls from Malaysia and Nepal urging him to issue permits faster and to waive a mandated seven-day waiting period. Bhandari, now retired. They also told him the men were needed to work on iPhones and that sending men to work for Apple would be good for Nepal. The hunt reached then-27-year-old Bibek Dhong on his mobile phone, while he was packing milk crates at a Kathmandu dairy to support his wife, a newborn daughter, and his extended family. The call would change his life.

The article recounts how workers like Dhong are often put into positions where they feel forced, or perhaps strongly compelled, to take out loans for commission payments to a hierarchy of recruiters, who provide access to these coveted manufacturing jobs. What's worse, some employees aren't always able to go back to their home countries on account of intra-country politics and bureaucracies. That's just the briefest of recaps -- the entire article is well worth checking out as it helps color the massive manufacturing machine that is Apple. The article is by no means a referendum against Apple. Indeed, Apple has taken more action than most other tech companies to ensure worker abuse is curtailed as much as possible. Still, the article highlights the daunting challenges involved when overseeing a complex supply chain that spans continents and encompasses thousands of workers.

For long distance, it is possible to convert power to subsonic sound waves transmitted to a receiver that will re-convert the waves back to power. The Japanese have embarked on a 25-year roadmap to build orbital solar farms and precisely beam down the power to a receiving station. These advances may provide a means to shift away from energy grids and associated power cables within national infrastructures. These changes simplify the overall energy infrastructure while reducing risks of national or global outages. Israel is testing roads that will wirelessly charge electric vehicles. Below is a list of applications that would benefit from wireless power transfer (WPT).

Eliminating power over copper wiring will greatly reduce the chances of structural explosions and fires. 450 billion global market in advanced energy storage manufacturing. Energy storage systems (eg. "More than 500,000 Americans and rising are already driving electric and hybrid vehicles, accounting for more than 30% of global demand. In the next 25 years, our current energy grid will be replaced by affordable, stand-alone renewable energy systems. The energy industry will be gradually disrupted away from public utilities using fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Highly efficient manufacturers (using AI and robotics) of solar power and stationary energy systems will provide every family and business their necessary standalone power. A new battery that lasts forever was developed using nanotechnology. Companies are currently developing batteries using nanomaterials.

These batteries have the potential to last decades of use and can recharge faster than conventional batteries. Lockheed Martin is very close to creating the first compact fusion reactor. When the ions get hot enough, they can overcome their mutual repulsion and collide, fusing together. To create plasma energy (similar to the sun) and control it, Lockheed Martin is developing a way that massive amounts of energy can be contained using a magnetic bottle (a tokamak). A tokamak can stabilize temperatures reaching hundreds of millions of degrees. With such containment, the energy can be released in a controlled fashion that can be used. Fusion reactions use the most abundant atom in the universe, hydrogen, and could power the planet for millions of years. High Speed Space Propulsion and Travel. Mars will be reachable in 1 month (as opposed to 6 months).

Destruction of long-lived radio isotopes (ie. "3D printing -- also known as additive manufacturing -- turns digital 3D models into solid objects by building them up in layers. The technology was first invented in the 1980s, and since that time has been used for rapid prototyping (RP). In the next decade or so into the future a major paradigm shift will occur in 3D printing. On computer monitors, everything you see is made up of pixels. All digital technologies are made of small bits of information. "According to Hod Lipson, we will transition from physical things from being made of a continuous material to being made of small building blocks.

Printing with discrete building blocks, tiny Lego blocks if you like. We already make buildings out of bricks, that idea of making things out of building blocks is well-established and we can bring that into the printing realm as well. The future of 3D printing trends towards any scale, printing from sub-micron resolution all the way up to architectural scale. "Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a robotic system that built the basic structure of a building in less than 14 hours. The dome-like structure is 50 feet in diameter and 12 feet high. The prototype is essentially a vehicle with a large industrial robotic arm for reach, and a smaller arm for dexterity. Different tools can be attached to the smaller arm, such as a welding system or a spray head that shoots out building materials like foam.

There are structures that could not be considered with conventional technology, however they are now possible with 3D printing technology. Advances in 3D printing will enable the creation of human tissue in a lab. Tissue engineering is one of the exciting new technological advances made in the medical 3D printing field. 3D Printing in Nanotechnology A great deal of research work performed all over the world makes use of 3D printed nano-models. One significant use of the technology is in the medical field. Scientists at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) are using 3D printed nanoscopic fish-shaped objects with platinum on their tails.

These nano-objects use propulsion to deliver drugs to specific parts of a patient’s body or perform toxic cleanup. Nanotechnology is the science, engineering, and technology conducted at the nanoscale, which is about 1 to 100 nanometers. The ratio of the Earth to a child’s marble is roughly the ratio of a meter to a nanometer. It is a million times smaller than the length of an ant. A sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick. A red blood cell is about 7,000-8,000 nanometers in diameter. A strand of DNA is 2.5 nanometers in diameter. 75.8 billion (USD) by 2020. Nanotechnology may solve the most complex problems facing our world. Materials Science: materials can effectively be made stronger, lighter, more durable, more reactive, more sieve-like, or better electrical conductors, among many other traits.

Electronics and Computing: Nanotechnology follows "Moore’s Law" leading to faster, smaller, and more portable systems that can manage and store larger and larger amounts of information. Medical and Healthcare Applications: Nano solutions draw on the natural scale of biological phenomena to produce precise solutions for disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Energy Applications: Nanotechnology will advance methods to develop clean, affordable, and renewable energy sources, along with means to reduce energy consumption and lessen toxicity burdens on the environment. Environmental Remediation: Along with energy improvements, nanotechnology can detect and clean up environmental contaminants. Future Transportation Benefits: Nanotechnology has the promise of developing multifunctional materials that will contribute to building and maintaining lighter, safer, smarter, self-repairing, and more efficient infrastructure, vehicles, aircraft, spacecraft, and ships.

Other innovations enabled by nanoelectronics can also support an enhanced transportation infrastructure that can communicate with vehicle-based systems to help drivers maintain lane position, avoid collisions, adjust travel routes to avoid congestion, and improve drivers’ interfaces to onboard electronics. Researchers expect to have the first fully functioning nanobot prototype within the next 25 years. Much larger Biobots will be in use long before that occurs. Nanobots will be about 6 atoms wide and will have the ability to float through a bloodstream. Medical nanobots will search for diseases or damage in the body and repair them. "Nanorobots could be used to clear cholesterol from arteries, thereby saving one from a heart-attack.

If the heart itself needs a repair, nanobots will work their way up to the wounded area and do a microsurgery that one would probably not even feel, but which could easily save a life. Nanobots have the ability not only to cure cancers but also many other forms of commonly known diseases found in the human body. Atomic precision manufacturing, as proposed by Eric Drexler should be a possibility in some capacity within the next 25 years, extending from the basic nano 3D printing previously outlined. The ability for complex mechanical machines to be assembled to within atomic precision will be the next evolution in nanotechnology and 3D printing.

This will take the neo-industrial revolution to its peak once this technology creeps into industrial usage. This could even also be achieved by biological means. "Many manufacturing industries may be made obsolete and society could be transformed forever. Molecular manufacturing could spawn another industrial revolution that completely changes the way we do business. At the same time, such advances could make it easy and cheap to produce powerful weapons. By building an object atom by atom or molecule by molecule, molecular manufacturing, also called molecular nanotechnology, can produce new materials with improved performance over existing materials. For example, an airplane strut must be very strong, but also lightweight. Biotechnology uses organisms, tissues, cells, and molecular components to perform functions on living things.

Such functions act by intervening in cellular processes including their genetic material. The future of biotechnology will revolutionize military capabilities, human enhancement, computing, and the environment. In 2001 the National Research Council was commissioned to study enabling biotechnology for the military. The committee provided a detailed report from the National Academies Press with specific objectives for the Army to consider. Sensing the Battlefield Environment: describes technologies for biological sensors and detection mechanisms. Electronics and Computing: consider biotechnologies, such as molecular electronics, biocomputing, and biomolecular electronics and hybrid devices as new frontiers in biocomputing. New Materials: considers technologies for developing biological, biologically inspired, and hybrid materials.

Logistics: considers technologies for miniaturization, functional foods, biological energy sources, and renewable resources that could help reduce logistics support requirements. Genetic Screening - Exerting choices of the genetic makeup of children (intelligence, strength, health, etc..). This only creates a projection of possible outcomes for children. For example, 50 clones of Michael Jordan would not produce 50 superstar athletes because so much depends on one’s drive, desire, passion, and work ethic. It will be increasingly accepted that we safely enhance our body in a variety of ways. CRISPR, a new gene splicing technique, greatly improves scientists’ ability to accurately and efficiently "edit" the human genome, in both embryos and adults.

Pharmaceutical Enhancement - The safe use of drugs (temporarily or ongoing) to enhance memory and cognition is already on the rise and will continue. Nootropic drugs are in use today, affecting and/or enhancing the process of thinking. Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) - Chudler and Johnson wrote in a Psychology Today article: "So far, most of the brain-computer research has been focused on rehabilitation; these devices are designed to restore function after neurological disease or injury. For example, cochlear implants help people with profound hearing loss to hear and retinal implants help people who are blind to see. Neuro-prostheses decode movement-related intentions from the nervous system and use them to control computer cursors or robotic arms for people with paralysis.

]), or orthopedic injuries - given limited alternative avenues for therapeutic intervention. BCI-based replacement or enhancement of impaired function has the possibility to improve the quality of life of these children and even to prevent the progression of the disorder. It is possible to see Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) more expansively as a platform for cognitive enhancement and human-machine collaboration with the possibility of realizing more of our human potential. The BCI functionality of typing on a keyboard with your mind suggests the possibility of having an always-on brain-Internet connection. Consider what the world might be like if each individual had a live 24/7 brain connection to the Internet. Biotechnology can be part of a solution to many global problems such as climate change, an aging society, food supply, energy supply, and infectious diseases.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, "Improved crops resilient to extreme environments caused by climate change are expected in a few years to a decade. Hence, food production during this era should be given another boost to sustain food supply for the doubling population. All of these technologies contribute to a sort of "flywheel momentum" where advances in one area yields advances in another moving the flywheel faster and faster. The fusion of Machine Learning, Renewable Energy, 3D-Printing, Nanotechnology, Biotechnology will result in exponential technological leaps. Nanotechnology and Machine Learning are mutually reinforced by one another. Advances in one results in advance of the other, increasing the acceleration of innovation. The same is true of the relationship between 3D printing and both nanotechnology and biotechnology.

Machine Learning will advance every discipline with the accumulation and application of domain-specific knowledge and intelligence. These disruptions will occur gradually and their adoption will result in the transformation of civilization. Greatly accelerated research using a combination of all of these trend shaping technologies. A renaissance in manufacturing where ideas can instantly become reality and efficient production processes creates abundance. Deeper connections with other people and nations will advance as humanity dissolves the artificial political and dogmatic borders using information available to all. Seismic changes in technology occurring at rapid intervals may be confused with crisis; bringing people together with a renewed focus on ethics, morality, and faith for the common good. These important shifts are moving civilization toward a life at its best and highest purpose for all. NonfictionThe Renewable Energy Revolution: What's Going On? Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account. 0 of 8192 characters usedPost CommentNo HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites. Well researched and presented to elicite tech enthusiasts. I m quite fascinated by the emergence of Blockchain platform. I did some writings on the system and its benefits in mineral industry. Feel free to read them up.

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