Tech Universe: Monday 07 October 2013
- IN GREEN WATER: Thieves in the London Borough of Brent may turn green at a new police initiative — literally. SmartWater devices detect intruders and spray thieves with a fine mist of a special substance. The mist contains a mix of chemicals that are almost impossible to wash out of clothes, and can stay on the skin for weeks. Under UV light the chemicals show up as a bright green. Advertising that the devices are in use is intended to deter thieves, while the colour can help catch out those suspected of the crime. Smart thieves will doubtless turn to disposable coveralls and masks. The Daily Mail.
- LEVERAGE: The Mipwr iPhone case doesn’t just contain a battery to help keep the phone charged, but a small pop-out lever so you can charge the phone in an emergency. Move a switch and the lever pops out of the side of the case. Pump the lever for a few minutes by squeezing your hand to get a couple of minutes of talk time. Build your arm muscles while staying connected in an emergency. Mipwr.
- ON THE CARDS: Would you like instant credit card sized prints from your photos? That’s what the instax mini 90 Neo Classic camera from Fujifilm can do. The camera includes various shooting modes, including double exposure and a bulb mode for light trails or night views, as well as macro and party. The camera takes film packs to produce prints that are 62 mm x 46 mm. That could be a novel way to create a business card on the spot when networking. Fujifilm.
- THROUGH A GLASS CLEARLY: If you have a DSLR its lens almost certainly contains numerous heavy and expensive optical elements, many of which compensate for the deficiencies and errors in the others. How about if you could do away with all that specially ground glass and replace it with a cheaper and lighter simple lens and some very clever software? Researchers have devised software that can apply complex algorithms to the output of a poorly performing lens such as a single plano-convex lens. The software eliminates colour fringing to deblur the image and produce a sharper picture. The notion of replacing much of a physical lens with an app is very intriguing. University of British Columbia. Video:
- P12 IN THE SKY: The P12 Martin Jetpack is on its way — at least for rescue workers, police and fire services. The Kiwi-designed jetpack has a maximum airspeed of 74 Kph and can fly for up to 30 minutes up to a height of 900 metres. The engine itself weighs 60 Kg and must be overhauled every 200 hours. Maybe for now you’d better stick to the skateboard for getting to work. Gizmag.
Tech Universe: Tuesday 08 October 2013
- BIRD: NO; PLANE: NO; SUB: YES: It’s not exactly a plane, although it looks like one. The DeepFlight Super Falcon from Hawkes Ocean Technologies is a 2 or 3 person electric submersible. It’s 6.4 metres long and up to 2.7 metres wide, depending on whether the wings are folded or not. It cruises at up to 6 knots and can descend to 120 metres. The sub operates on the same principles as aircraft, and is always buoyant so it’ll return to the surface rather than sinking if everything is turned off. Oh, and you can launch the sub from your yacht, so that’s handy. Hawkes Ocean Technologies.
- A SWEET DEVICE: Some people with diabetes must constantly monitor their blood sugar levels and inject insulin if it’s needed — that’s a highly manual process. An artificial pancreas from Medtronic may make their lives easier. The device continuously reads the wearer’s glucose levels then a computer algorithm triggers a pump to provide appropriate amounts of insulin. The wearer inserts a sensor under their skin then hooks the device to their belt. The device can alert the wearer to low blood sugar and if necessary shut off the supply of insulin for 2 hours. At the moment the device’s false alarm rate is 33%, but of course they’re working on that. Even so, many people with diabetes will welcome the automation. Singularity Hub.
- BOTS GO BALLASTIC: Cargo ships work hard and in conditions that make regular inspections and repair vital. Ballast tanks full of seawater help keep ships steady, but a visual inspection every 5 years means putting the ship in dry dock and it’s a difficult and hazardous task for either humans or robots. Swiss students have created a functional prototype of a Ship Inspection Robot that uses magnetic wheels to crawl along the metal ballast surface. A human inspector controls the robot which can run for up to 3 hours on a full battery charge. Cameras, lights and infra-red distance sensors let the operator see via WiFi what’s going on. Four overlapping magnetic wheels allow the robot to always stay in contact with the ship’s surface, even as it navigates sharp angles, vertical surfaces and overhangs. As always: making the robots do the dirty and dangerous work. RoboHub.
- WEEDS FOR THE POT: Samoa has problems with an introduced invasive Merremia vine that strangles more productive plants. Meanwhile electricity costs are extremely high and many villages where incomes are low cook on open fires that emit harmful smoke, polluting the air and damaging health. A biogas project in Piu Village aims to harvest the weeds and turn them into power for cooking and lighting. Weeds and waste are put into biodigester tanks along with bacteria. As the waste breaks down gas is released that can then fuel stoves and lights. Even weeds can be useful if they’re just handled the right way. Transform A Samoan Village With Biogas! Video:
- HOW DID YOU SLEEP?: Would you like to monitor your sleep? Many devices that monitor sleep have you wear a bracelet or other gadget that can in fact interrupt your normal sleep patterns. Beddit is a passive sensor resembling a strip of sticky tape that you put under the sheet. The sensor uses ballistocardiography: it detects the tiny movements caused by your respiration and heartbeat then turns that data into useful information. The next morning an app gives you a full report on your sleep quality, heart rate, breathing rhythm, movement, sleep stages, snoring, and the sleeping environment; noise level and light. Then it goes on to provide personalised tips and guidance for improving your sleep and wellness. In a world where it seems we’re all sleep-deprived this could change your life. Beddit. Video:
Tech Universe: Wednesday 09 October 2013
- HELP AT WRIST: Folks often worry that their elderly parent may fall or have other problems and not be able to get help. The QMedic bracelet aims to take away the worry. It’s waterproof, has a single large button on top and is meant to be worn all the time. The passive medical alert system warns the caregiver if the user isn’t wearing the bracelet, fails to get out of bed, or is out of the home for extended periods of time, and also sends weekly status updates. Sensors in the bracelet monitor sleeping habits and gauge physical activity, to help predict problems. If the wearer has problems they can press the button to contact the landline base station which calls for help. The initial response comes through a speakerphone, then by phonecall and if contact still can’t be made, then emergency services can be despatched. If the bracelet detects an emergency, designated contacts are alerted. That could relieve a lot of concerns. MedGadget.
- CHARGED WITH SECURITY: Has your mobile phone being infected with malicious software? Could it be, if you plug in to some random charger or open the wrong email? The Skorpion charger from Kaprica aims to both safely charge your phone and check it for malware at the same time. That sounds like a useful approach. Kaprica.
- SKI FOR STATS: If you’re into pushing the speed on your downhill ski runs you may consider Oakley’s Airwave 1.5 goggles. They include a built-in heads up display that integrates GPS, Bluetooth, accelerometer, barometer and gyro sensors that give you instant jump analytics that show distance, height and airtime. The goggles give you access to loads of stats, your phone, Facebook, and maps, music and buddy tracking too. Fresh air and views — who needs them? Oakley.
- DRIVEN BY DATA: The A14 highway in the UK is extremely congested, connecting a busy port to Birmingham. It will soon become a smart road though, able to monitor traffic by sending signals to and from mobile phones in moving vehicles. Small base stations beside the road will send data on to a central database. Rather than using mobile phone networks the system will send signals over the white spaces between television channels. The data will help planners make better use of the road, but in future a system like this could perhaps directly control cars and traffic flow. Now even the roads have ears. The Guardian.
- 66 LARGE: With 66 ultra-precise antennas the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array stretches for up to 16 kilometres across the desert in the north of Chile. The telescope has now been completed and will start observing the universe in wavelengths between infrared light and radio waves. Light at these wavelengths comes from some of the most distant objects in the cosmos and has not been studied much before. Let the new discoveries begin. ESO.
Tech Universe: Thursday 10 October 2013
- BOOKS ON DEMAND: In Uganda books can be quite scarce, making it hard to give kids the chance to improve their literacy. The Everywhere Library though let anyone with even a basic mobile phone download books for free. Each week for 4 weeks newspaper ads provided codes for specific titles. After entering that code on the phone the book downloaded free of charge. Of course, reading the book on a tiny non-smartphone screen is the next challenge. PSFK.
- FLOAT THE HOME: Parts of The Netherlands lie below sea level. So why not build a floating apartment complex? The Citadel, when complete, will float on 2 metres of water. The main deck will be a floating heavy concrete base 80 x 140 x 3 metres. The base will support 60 luxury lightweight apartments and a parking lot. Units will be wrapped in aluminium and topped with a green roof. A bridge to the mainland allows for easy road access. The designers estimate these building will be 25% more energy efficient than those on land. The whole structure will be heavy enough so that residents don’t notice any movement in the water. But the glare from the aluminium wrapping will be interesting. Inhabitat.
- SOLAR POWER, SORT OF: Solar panels are good, but night time and cloudy weather rather reduce their usefulness. So how about putting the solar panels on geostationary satellites 36,000 km above the Earth and beaming energy down to receiving stations via lasers or microwaves instead? The Space Solar Power Systems project in Japan aims to launch a successful space-based solar power system by 2030 and is now working on that energy transmission problem. Lasers from space, eh. Treehugger.
- WALKING ON SUNSHINE: You tend to think of solar panels being mounted on a roof, if they’re not going to be up in space. At the Virginia Science and Technology Campus though 10 square metres of solar panels have been laid down as part of a walkway. 27 slip-resistant semi-transparent walkable photovoltaic panels extend an existing public footpath. The walkable panels have a combined average of 400 watt peak capacity — enough to power 450 LED pathway lights below the panels. Which is all very pretty, but perhaps also rather pointless surely. George Washington University.
- DIESEL DEODORISER: Honeybees are an essential part of our foodchain as they pollinate crops. They have a very sensitive sense of smell that helps them find just the right flowers to feed on. Research has shown that diesel exhaust can severely interfere with that sense of smell. Lab experiments showed bees finding the right smell 98% of the time until diesel fumes removed key chemicals from the odour within a minute of exposure. After exposure to diesel the bees found the right smell only 30% of the time. There’s another reason to find alternative fuels. The Guardian.
Tech Universe: Friday 11 October 2013
- SHAKEN TO THE CORE: If you live in a tornado zone you face the real dangers of not only losing your home but being unable to quickly find a secure shelter. The CORE house from Q4 Architects deals with both. At the centre of the normal looking house is an indestructible concrete core, able to be sealed off with heavy-duty tornado doors and hurricane shutters. Inside the core are beds, a kitchen, bathroom and access to backup systems. Around it are spacious but less tornado-proof rooms for regular living. The house combines the normal ease and comfort of everyday life with the secure shelter you need from tornados and similar disasters. The Atlantic Cities.
- THE GRAND VIEW: It’s so frustrating to find you’ve been pointing your camera in one direction while the action is happening just out of shot. The Geonaute 360 Video Camera can be used for stills or video and has three 8 megapixel wide angle lenses whose images are automatically welded together to build a 360 degree view. A microphone, 2 hours of battery life and one-button shooting are great features, while the camera responds to a remote too. The camera shoots at 25 fps, and will also capture 150 degree vertical footage or images as well as 360 horizontal. Images and video are in standard formats, stored on a microSD card up to 64 gigabytes in size. That’s a lot to look at. Red Ferret.
- BIG BIG DATA: India has a population of 1.2 billion, most of whom don’t have bank accounts. Many also can’t read or write. Poverty levels are high, as is welfare fraud, especially by corrupt officials. One problem lies in establishing and verifying identity, with many different inefficient systems in place, leading to duplicated documentation. The biometric Aadhaar system aims to get welfare to the right people in the most efficient way. It starts with fingerprints and fingerprint sensors, but also uses iris scans for those many agricultural workers whose fingerprints have been damaged. 1 million people are being enrolled in the scheme every day and the blade servers run about 300 trillion biometric matches per day.That’s a massive system that reminds us just how tiny and cohesive New Zealand’s population is. SC Magazine.
- PROP CIRCLES: Wind turbines commonly take the form of propellers atop a tower. The Peace Frontier ring turbine though resembles an aircraft’s jet engine. The shape pushes air into a narrower stream, increasing both wind speed and generation efficiency. It also means the turbine can very quietly generate sufficient electricity with a wind speed of only 3 to 5 metres per second in urban areas. The whole thing is both lightweight and compact, so it could sit on a roof. DigInfo.tv.
- MAGNETIC BLOOD: We need iron — the right amount — for our physical wellbeing, but standard blood tests don’t do a very good job of determining how much iron is in our blood. Researchers from Ulm University in Germany think they can make a more accurate assessment using tiny artificial nanodiamond to measure a protein called ferritin. Electrostatic interactions between the tiny diamond particles and ferritin proteins allow researchers to measure the weak magnetic fields ferritin produces. That in turn reveals how much iron is in the blood. It stands to reason all that iron would be magnetic. AlphaGalileo.