Digital Revolution

Chapter 7 - Technology development

Biotechnology Improvement: Opportunities or Threats ?

What is Biotechnology? The term "biotechnology" refers to any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms or their derivate to make or modify products or processes with a view to particular use. Biotechnology, in the form of traditional fermentation techniques, has been used for decades in the making of bread, cheese and beer. Biotechnology is also the basis of the traditional techniques of animal or plant reproduction, such as hybridization and selection of plants and animals to specific particular features to create such crops giving a greater grain yield. But today we face to a huge improvement of biotechnology thanks to technologies development.

Living organisms, which can be animals, plants or microorganisms, are used for their natural properties or are genetically modified. They are exploited in many areas. We distinguish:

  • Biotechnology called red used in the health sector: development of diagnostic tools, development of gene therapies...
  • Biotechnology called white applied to industry: biological synthesis of molecules or cosmetic active ingredients, degradation of household waste...
  • Biotechnology called green used in the agricultural and food sector: degradation of manure and other agricultural waste generation food...
  • Biotechnology called ocher, used in the environmental sector: decontamination of soil and water, making compost ...

Biotechnology: the ethical dilemma

Nowadays, improvements in Biotechnology raise the question of ethics. Indeed, for instance some scientists are studying how to choose the gender and the features of an embryo. But isn’t it the role of genetic lottery or even the god field? Aren’t we playing with something, which we don’t know the consequences? Modify the genome in order to avoid diseases is a good thing but choosing the size or the hair colour of our child is against nature. The beauty of human lies in its diversity, not in a world where everybody is tall, blond with blue eyes. The problem we have to deal with is “how far could we go”? And “When do we have to stop the progress?”

Development of biotechnology: modern technology Indeed, since more than thirty years, modern biotechnology has revolutionized our ability to transform the living. Scientists can now extract a specific gene in the cell of a plant or animal and integrate the same gene inside the cell of another plant or other animal to give them the desired particular features, for example in order to create a plant resistant to insects or diseases. The result of these manipulations is called living modified organism or, more commonly, genetically modified organism (GMO). This is the difference between biotechnology and modern biotechnology.

Is modern technology a solution or a problem? For advocates of genetic modification, the technology helps to increase food security and sustainable crop yields, and will benefit the environment as it will reduce the cultivation, the amounts of pesticides and irrigation, and will produce medical treatments, vaccines, industrial goods, fibre and more efficient fuels. However, these huge developments in science raise ethical concerns, the environment, health and society. Many people believe that modern biotechnology is too new to really know how these products will behave and evolve, and how they may interact with other species.

Occupational risks associated with these new technologies are similar to those typically found in the sectors of activity concerned. These include biological, chemical, mechanical, electrical, fire, explosion ... On top risks specific to biotechnology such as the construction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the use of bioreactors necessary the multiplication of microorganisms.

Is the modern technology a solution or a problem? This debate has led to a broad consensus that modern biotechnology has great potential if developed and used with adequate safety measures, including the environment. Countries with strong biotechnology industries have national legislation and risk management systems. However, many developing countries interested in modern biotechnology and its products are still in draft regulation. International rules are also needed, given that biotechnology is a global industry and that GMOs are the subject of international trade.

Risk prevention Currently, industry, governments and civil society promote biosafety through various means, for example through the Cartagena Protocol that encourages risk prevention biotechnological practices by establishing rules and procedures for the transfer, handling and use of GMOs that, with particular emphasis on the regulation of transboundary movements. The concept of biosafety covers a wide range of measures, policies and procedures designed to minimize or eliminate the potential risks that biotechnology may pose to the environment and human health. It is essential that credible safeguards and effective on GMOs are taken to maximize the potential of biotechnology while minimizing possible risks.

Biotechnology is a revolutionary science, and became such a powerful industry that can transform the world around us. It is already changing agriculture and much of our food. Any errors may result in catastrophic or permanent changes in the natural environment. Science continues to advance rapidly and that the biosafety regime does not let behind, it was agreed that governments would proceed, every five years, a formal evaluation of the effectiveness of the Protocol and procedures, with a view to possible revision or improvement. Governments cannot, by themselves, ensure biosafety: they need the active participation and cooperation of other stakeholders, including the biotechnology industry. Biotechnology companies have the knowledge, resources and incentives to ensure the safety of their industry and its products. As for civil society, citizens and non-governmental organizations, they must understand the issues and be able to articulate their views to decision makers and the industry.

Modern Biotechnology faced to a huge development that leads to the improvement in many sectors (health, agricultural…) but that can also emerge several risks. By establishing some regulations, the government have tried to find a balance between the advantages and the risks of the modern biotechnology in order to ensure the development and the safety of biotechnology. These regulations are different among the countries; depend on how dangerous or rewarding these countries see the development modern biotechnologies.

Social-driven Internet of Connected Objects

Recently, the Internet evolution has been related with some aspect of user empowerment (e.g. content generation and distribution by end-users) and this has been ultimately accelerated by the fast-paced introduction and expansion of wireless technologies. Wireless gave the means to expand Internet services beyond the working sphere and towards a social sphere. Hence, the Internet should be seen also as a communications infrastructure with capability to support interconnection and integration of a myriad of embedded and personal wireless objects. Today, the majority of such devices are able to communicate within short-range due to wireless capability, directly or via some third party, with social and contextual awareness, provided that a specific platform supports such interconnection. This is the beginning of a new computing and communication era that will significantly impacting society. In this new era the increment of processing power will increasingly and transparently embed technology into our everyday lives.

This idea is supported by forms of ubiquitous information made evident with the widespread use of networked gadgets that have become an integral part of everyday life for many millions of people. Such objects are normally connected into some infrastructure and normally rely on ambient information to interact both with the user, with infrastructures, and with the environment surrounding Internet users. More often, such objects have social requirements and may mimic up to some extent a social behaviour in the way they interconnect. Internet users are therefore the central point of focus in the way these objects interconnect, and impacts the way they change information.

Around the information society there is therefore a social ecosystem of objects that often may require spontaneous support for interconnection. The potential of such ecosystem as a driver of novel business and development opportunities is the motivation that supports the development of interconnected objects able to take advantage of spontaneous communication opportunisties. Such communication ecosystem is expected to support augmented entertainment, business, and social experiences embedded in our daily lives. The overall requirement for an Internet of connected objects is to stimulate economic growth, improve people well-being, and to address some of today’s societal problem namely by including interactions in the physical world as a source of communication opportunities in the virtual world. With this perspective in mind, this position paper aims to raise some discussion about the technology that is required to ensure an efficient interaction between the physical, social and virtual worlds while estending the Internet by means of interconnected objects.

The vision pursuit in this position paper is of a user-centric Internet of connected objects where users will implicitly interact with their physical and social environments by means of software embedded in portable objects with augmented sensorial capabilities. This pervasive embedded communication system will augment people’s daily life experience, leading to a perfect relationship between virtual, physical and social worlds. In a world increasingly mediated by technology, the road to an Internet of connected objects can only be achieved through user-oriented strategies where there is a strong connection between stakeholders that create technology and those that use it. That is, people should be at the core of the overall vision, as their needs will be central to future innovation in this area. Indeed, technology and markets cannot exist independently from the principles of a social system.

The interconnection of physical objects is expected to amplify the profound effects that large-scale networked communications are having on our society, gradually resulting in a genuine paradigm shift. This vision does not rely on objects that are only capable of collecting and disseminating data to central databases. Instead, a user-centric vision of an Internet of connected objects is more consequential, in the sense that objects can now participate in conversations that were previously only available to humans: objects will be aware of dynamic community structures, thus being able to develop a spontaneous networking infrastructure based on the information to be disseminated and not only on the objects themselves.

The presented vision requires a IP-driven communication system able of sustaining seamless and intelligent communication amongst a large number of social-aware objects. Such objects may be intermittently connected most of the time, and may be capable of collecting and processing data without a constant human intervention. The result is a self-organised ecosystem able to make useful data available to people when and where they really need it, augmenting their social and environmental awareness. A user-centric view of an Internet of connected objects is expected to result into a network platform capable of sustaining distributed communication among networked objects, being such communications local, through direct wireless links, or global, via the Internet. This requires a standardization effort in order to ensure the interoperability level required to achieve economy of scale and low market entry barriers.

Annex 1 : The Google glass case

Google Glass, a real danger to privacy or pure technologic revolution ?

The connected glasses of Google is the new gadget which everyone speaks. These glasses - which have no glass - connect to the Internet through a tiny screen.

For now sold exclusively in the United States. The use is very simple, just a look and his voice to utter commands loud. The glasses awake when we pronounce "OK Glass"; the user must then apply the function it wants ("Take Picture", "Record a Video", etc.). On paper, the concept is nice ... But in reality, for now, the glasses understand only English spoken with an American accent.

Nevertheless, the concept is promising: Some features, such as translation, are impressive. Just look at a text in a foreign language (on a poster for instance), and translated words magically appear. The video quality is very satisfactory, posting clear information. But it remains annoying technical problems to use: the battery takes a few hours, and tends to heat on the frame of the glasses.

Last avatar of the surveillance society? The augmented reality glasses Google already have detractors. Anti google glass emit concerns about the respect for private life. The debate thus opens the possibilities of this type of glasses, able to photograph and film what the wearer sees and share that content on the internet.

The logo "No Glass" and the collective « Stop the cyborgs », which count thousands followers on Twitter and many "likes" on Facebook, is one the main opponents of augmented reality technology. The problem, according to such groups, will be linked to home that will receive such technology and its spread in everyday life.

Remain to now how far Google is ready to go in the development of its product that could be a part of the futur, helping us to develop skills and facilitate our everydaylife, without endengering the privacy of all.

Annex 2 : The 3D house printer

Would you like to have a 3D printer for your house!?

It has the volume of an oven, and glass door behind her, it manufactures plastic objects. Jewellery, toys, decorative objects. This is the XYZ 3D Printing printer. This is the first printer solid, well designed and ready to use, which is sold for less than $1 000.

What can we print on the printer? Everyone can find useful object ideas for their house.

Where to find objects? To print an object, you need a plan: a 3D file. It can be downloaded from the Internet or thousands of "3D models" are available. We can also create our object. Anyone could download a 3D plane, improve it, and offer it to the community. There is also a third way to feed the printer, scan an object. This allows DIY scanner broken items, and then repair the 3d before printing.

How works this printer? The printer uses an "additive" technology. The principle is simple, it works in steps. The printer deposits a first level of plastic fine as a hair. Then it built a second level overcoat, followed by a third, and so on. The raw material is an ordinary plastic The order in which it comes and goes, the time it takes, variations in thickness, the geometry of embankments reflects a sophisticated artificial intelligence. The objects are partially hollow, very strong and very light at the same time. Plastic consumption is optimal. Unable to get the same light factory: the injected plastic parts using more materials

Some failures to practice When you start printing some overly complex models with a minimalist aesthetic or geometric pose problems for printing

Mastering 3D printing does not offer effortless. It takes a long time to explore the printer settings and deploy ingenuity. With a little practice, you miss a lot fewer impressions. The successful rate object grows from 20% to 60%. But a lot of great ideas still refuse to print. A real lose of times. Sometimes it takes two hours to find the right set, which is quite discouraging. The main printer problem is that it lacks an intelligent printing assistant, able to advise the optimal settings depending on the object.

In summary the results of these impressions is sometimes beautiful but it requires real expertise.

Smart Home

We already know the technology in the office and in the automotive sector, but today the home is also digitizing: thermostats, smoke detector, surveillance camera, weather station, connected bulbs, the market for "smart home is growing. Now, no needed to use keyring. The technology exists today and opens the door of our home thanks to finger and eye. Among the promising areas, control of energy, security, leisure and health offer many opportunities.


-> Customer Relationship Connected home is not a short buzz, but a strategic growth area for many professionals. Refrigerator manufacturers for example had previously only one relationship with their client: the moment of purchase. In a connected home environment, they can now create a new relationship with the end consumer, more direct and maybe daily, offering regular services and post-purchase experience.

-> The market All current projections predict a surge in the connected home market in the coming years. Projections about the connected home market are bold: by 2017, it should generate a turnover of about 300 million euros, against 150 million in 2014. Why such predictions ? Three factors will promote the installation of home automation equipment by 2017:

  • Improving the economic situation in the building
  • The growing needs of French in comfort, safety and reduction of the energy bill
  • The launch of products design and easy to use.

-> the Harmonisation: The challenge of the connected home lies in the distribution of new services. The latter must be federated, compatible, or even shared, to be the conductor of these various "instruments" and to preserve harmony in the house.

-> Digitizing of products: According to the European Commission, a European in 2012 had 2 objects connected on average, and use 7 in 2015. We will then have more than 25 billion worldwide and 80 billion in 2020. Another upheaval, the possibilities offered by smartphones and the phenomenon of applications that change the situation. Google Play and Appstore are accelerating the maturity of this market. Mobile become stunning remotes to control objects. few years ago it was not possible.


The emergence of the connected home will not be without affordable solutions, innovative and simple to install and use. Real estate developers and builders would also be of proposals in the integration of home automation solutions to the housing; this requires that increased efforts with really compelling equipment. A point challenged by Xerfi analysts estimate that 70% of home automation devices are always perceived as gadgets (like the connected objects) to the often laborious installation.

When home automation supports sustainable development

Sustainable development is a concept, which has been developed at the end of the 20th century with the main idea to maintain a balance into our society. It is to be interested in environment while being focused on human being. Even if there are numerous means of acting daily in terms of sustainable development, home automation has to be taken in account concerning energy savings and autonomy.

Home automation and environment

Our energy resources are not that’s why it is time to think to realize daily eco-gestures. Everyone has to feel involved in. home automation, if its main goal is to bring comfort, is perfectly well setting-up to realize energy savings and so preserving our resources. Thanks to an automation system really efficient, it offers the possibility to everyone to manage its heating, the lighting, automatically close their blinds to keep out the cold outside. Setting up scenarios, home automation helps to set its heating according to the pace of people living in the house, it allows to keep the lights on or off automatically in the goal of avoiding any oblivion and thus unnecessary consumption. Saving each year on the energy invoice and preserving to its own stage is what home automation helps for.

Home automation in the goal of living better

Because it offers more autonomy, home automation allows to a lot of people to stay longer at home. Offering long distance orders, it permits to manage without doing effort, its lighting, heating or moreover the opening and closing of its blinds. By answering to everybody’s needs, home automation belongs to the framework of sustainable development and brings efficient solutions to mix well-being and save.