Case Studies

Forward Thinking

By Marta Bright, Jeff Erickson, Bobbie Hartman, Christopher Null, and Kate Pavao

February 2011

Bearing Your Sole

Research shows that heel-strike style can increase the impact force of a runner’s foot by as much as 30 percent. These findings support a culture of barefoot runners inspired by the minimalist mantra detailed in Chris McDougall’s Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (Knopf, 2009). The book followed McDougall’s adventures in Mexico with a tribe of runners who run 50 to 100 miles, injury free, while wearing sandals.

Peter Erickson, who studies “disruptive innovation,” says minimalist-style shoemakers—such as Vibram, maker of the Five Fingers, and Terra Plana, maker of the EVO—are struggling to meet demand. He says established brands such as Merrell and New Balance will deliver minimalist shoes in spring 2011. “This is a classic market disruption,” Erickson notes. For information, see

Standard Running Shoe
1. Thick padding
2. Arch support
3. Stiff soles
4. 12 oz. weight

Minimalist Running Shoe
1. No padding
2. No support
3. Flexible soles
4. 7 oz. weight

Digital Distraction

Research conducted at the University of San Diego shows that the average person consumes more than three times the amount of information today as he or she did in 1960. And that megadose of daily data is altering the way we interact with the offscreen world.

Human brains are designed to allow people to perform two tasks at once.

Processing information in a way that yields a lasting impression requires lab rats to take a break from the prescribed activity.
(University of California, San Francisco)

Technology is rewiring our brains.
(Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, quoted in the New York Times)

5 percent of all adults who use text messaging send more than 6,000 texts a month.
(Pew Research)

When long-haul truck drivers texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater than when not texting.
(Virginia Tech)

Internet Invasion

Malware lurks on the internet in a variety of shapes and strategies: worms, Trojan horses, spyware, malicious adware, scareware, crimeware, and rootkits. Regardless of the form, 35 percent of IT executives surveyed by the Ponemon Institute reported at least one unauthorized infiltration in the past year. And these attacks come with a high price tag, costing businesses around the world more than US$20 billion annually.

Here’s a look at some of the most costly (and effective) cyberattacks from the past decade:

2010: The Stuxnet worm—considered one of the most complex malware attacks in history—is launched against Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment facility.

2009: Operation Aurora, a confirmed cyberattack, targets major technology companies.

2008: An infected flash drive plugged into a single U.S. military laptop exposes classified data to foreign servers.

2004: An e-mail-transmitted virus named MyDoom spreads by e-mailing itself to contacts in the victim’s address book.

2000: The I Love You e-mail virus dupes 50 million unsuspecting souls with its amorous subject line—attacking the victim’s operating system and contacts.

Urban Farms Go Vertical

With half the world’s population living in metropolitan areas, rooftop and wall gardening is becoming an increasingly popular strategy for urban farmers looking for inexpensive, reliable access to locally grown, fresh produce.

“People are more concerned about where their food is coming from, and they want to have more control over what they eat, without relying on external sources,” says George Irwin, founder and CEO of Green Living Technologies, a Rochester, New York–based manufacturer that has been designing and installing vegetative green roofs and walls since 1999. “There’s also the simple economics of urban farming—it’s a lot cheaper to grow your own food.”

Green Living Technologies developed and manufactured custom systems of waterproof membranes and sheet metal panels that fit over existing roofs, creating the foundation for a living rooftop garden.

Things took a different direction about five years ago when Irwin’s children wanted to grow lettuce on the family’s green wall. Today the company manufactures both wall-mounted and movable freestanding edible walls that can produce fruit, vegetables, and herbs. The company has installed such agrarian architecture in more than seven countries.

“We’ve developed a system that almost triples the yields per square foot because the plants grow vertically,” says Irwin. “If you have a parking lot that’s not being used—or even a wall—you can grow a garden.”

Next-Generation Internet for Your Last-Generation TV

High-speed internet in the home is changing the way consumers access media. In response, television manufacturers are now including features that allow for hooking directly into YouTube, Netflix, and other online video services. You can get these features on your existing television with additional hardware. Here are four boxes that can make it happen.

Roku XD|S Apple TV Logitech Revue D-Link Boxee Box
The lowdown Originally designed solely for streaming Netflix videos to your set, Roku’s latest box now supports numerous online video services and lets viewers connect a USB hard drive to play offline media. That said, it’s best used as a dedicated streaming system and can’t connect directly to the computers on your network. Apple TV gives you access to movies stored in iTunes on your Mac or PC, or you can rent titles directly from the iTunes Store. If you have an iPhone, iPod, or iPad, Apple TV can also seamlessly stream the video you’re watching onto your mobile device. Netflix streaming is also available, but cinephiles may bristle at Apple TV’s lower video resolution. The first standalone box to connect to the new Google TV service, the Revue gives you quick access to top video channels, media Websites, and downloadable apps that are all connected to a custom Google search engine. It’s more expandable than its competitors, and navigating the system requires a full-fledged wireless keyboard (included). The long-delayed hardware version of the popular Boxee software, the Boxee Box promises easy access to any unprotected (that is, free) video on the Web. Integration with social networking lets you share shows with your pals. And people are already raving about this killer feature: flip the included remote over, and you’ll find a full QWERTY keyboard on the back.
Key services included Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Video On Demand, Pandora, iTunes, Netflix, YouTube Google TV, Netflix, Pandora, Napster Netflix, Pandora
TV connections offered HDMI, composite video, component video, analog stereo, optical audio HDMI, optical audio HDMI, optical audio HDMI, analog stereo, optical audio

Photography by Shutterstock