Posted by richmore on August 27, 2015 in Electronicwith Comments closed | ∞
Over the past year or so, we’ve seen enough companies promising to deliver truly wireless power that we’re almost, almost starting to believe in it. But there’s an awful lot of hype, compounded by the fact that there are a bunch of very different technologies all targeting the same goal: charging everything, everywhere, without plugs or cables or pads. Recently, we’ve taken a closer look at a few of these technologies, including uBeam’s ultrasonic power transmitters and Energous’ WattUp pocket-forming antenna arrays.
Yesterday at CES, we were introduced to Ossia, another company that wants to transform how we power our devices using wireless energy. Ossia’s solution, called Cota, uses thousands of tiny antennas to deliver substantial amounts of power directly to embedded receiving antennas in devices located up to 10 meters away. Cota emphasizes safety, efficiency, and reliability, and their technology seems pretty incredible.
Companies like Ossia aren’t working on the kind of wireless power that you might already have in your toothbrush or cell phone, where you have to place the thing you want to charge in a specific
Posted by richmore on August 2, 2015 in Electronicwith Comments closed | ∞
Last year at CES, we experienced a very cool demo from Ultrahaptics of an ultrasound-based gesture interface that provides invisible tactile feedback in mid-air. This year, Bristol, England-based start-up is showing how their technology can be embedded into devices like cars, stereos, and stoves. And it’s exactly as magical as we were hoping it would be.
Ultrahaptics’ tactile interface is based on a Leap Motion sensor that tracks the location of your hand in space paired with an array of ultrasonic transducers. The transducers generate ultrasonic waves that constructively interfere with each other where they intersect, generating targeted points of invisible turbulence that you can feel.
Ultrahaptics showed off a few new demos in a private suite at CES last week that we got to experience for ourselves. The most impressive one was definitely the stove, where you can control the temperature of four individual burners by waving your hand around above the space where the temperature knobs would be if this wasn’t a stove from the future.
There are four discrete controls (one for each burner) that you can feel by moving your hand above Ultrahaptics’ ultrasonic transducer array on the right side of the stove. It’s not like you can feel
Posted by richmore on July 25, 2015 in Electronicwith Comments closed | ∞
Wearable monitors for health and fitness seemed to be everywhere in the exhibit halls and on the conference stages at CES 2016. But while this generation of biometric monitoring devices goes mainstream, a little Silicon Valley company is working on what could be the next generation of body sensing technology: the injectable.
In a small suite high above the CES convention floor, South San Francisco-based Profusa last week demonstrated the Lumee Oxygen Sensing System, the first of what it expects to be a line of biocompatible sensors. This tiny, flexible sensor is about the thickness of a few human hairs and the length of a piece of long-grain rice. It’s made of hydrogel, a substance similar to the material in contact lenses, but is permeated with fluorescent dye. It’s designed to sit under the skin to monitor the levels of oxygen in the surrounding tissue. The company expects to market the device to help people monitor peripheral artery disease, wound healing, and, eventually, for athletes, muscle performance. Profusa has been in stealth mode since 2009, supporting its research with approximately
Posted by richmore on November 22, 2015 in Electronicwith Comments closed | ∞
Energy storage has a number of applications for residential and commercial customers. First and foremost, homes with solar panels could benefit from energy storage, especially if net-metering laws, which let customers use the grid for “virtual storage,” disappear. (Off-grid users with PV systems obviously need storage as well, but that’s a pretty small market right now.) Secondly, as more electric utilities incorporate smart meters and time-of-use pricing, customers may use behind-the-meter storage to reduce their consumption during peak demand hours. Commercial and industrial customers already use energy storage for load shifting and demand management. Finally, on-site energy storage can provide short-term emergency backup power when the grid goes down.
Tesla’s Powerwall works for all of those applications, but it’s not the only player in the game. Other companies – some established and some upstarts – are tossing their Li-ion batteries into the ring as well. Let’s look at a couple.
Schneider Electric’s EcoBlade is a modular, scalable, and fully integrated storage system designed for homes, businesses, and microgrids. About the size of a 30” (76 cm) flat-screen TV and weighing 55 lbs (25 kg), the EcoBlade is designed to hang on a garage wall, much like its Tesla
Posted by richmore on November 15, 2015 in Electronicwith Comments closed | ∞
When my son was young, our family had a membership at our local hands-on science museum for kids. There he was exposed to a lot of cool scientific exhibits and displays, and I’m happy to say that at 20 years old he continues to have an interest in science and technology. Unfortunately, many kids don’t live near such a museum, but thanks to a handful of innovative science educators, one might be coming to them … on wheels. Introducing the Physics Bus:
The Physics Bus is a traveling science exhibit with dozens of hands-on activities that demonstrate a variety of fun scientific concepts. The idea originated at Cornell University, which seems appropriate considering that science popularizer Carl Sagan spent most of his career teaching at that institution. Since its inception, a number of Physics Buses have been rolled out across the country. Today I’ll look at one that works out of Tucson AZ. What’s special about this one? The bus runs entirely on renewable energy. The engine burns discarded vegetable oil, and once the bus is parked, its electrical exhibits are powered by sunlight.
A one kilowatt photovoltaic array, consisting of four Hyundai 250W monocrystalline PV modules wired in
Posted by richmore on November 4, 2015 in Electronicwith Comments closed | ∞
The Alice Ferguson Foundation recently cut the ribbon on its new “Grass” education center, a net-zero energy, net-zero water, carbon-neutral structure that’s designed to meet the strict requirements of the Living Building Challenge. Located on the shore of the Potomac River just a few miles south of Washington DC, the building will support the Foundation’s mission of promoting sustainability through STEM education.
A 47 kW rooftop photovoltaic array generates more electricity than the building uses. The array is grid-tied, so it sells excess energy during the day and buys energy at night, using the grid as “virtual storage.” Electricity consumption is reduced through efficient LED lights and ample daylighting. (The picture above shows the south-facing roof. The north side features clerestory windows for daylighting.) Energy consumption and distribution are regulated by an advanced Building Management System.
Five vertical loop geothermal wells, each 450 feet (137 m) deep, take care of the building’s heating and cooling needs. The geothermal system’s total capacity is 8.8 tons, which is more than enough to handle the 3800 square foot (353 sq meter) facility. Although horizontal wells would have been less expensive to install, vertical wells have a smaller footprint on the surrounding
Posted by richmore on November 1, 2015 in Electronicwith Comments closed | ∞
Most smart TVs connected to the Internet do not track your viewing habits by default. But the 10 million Vizio smart TVs sold so far will automatically track viewing habits and share information with advertisers from the get-go unless customers disable the option.
So what data does Vizio collect? The smart TVs can track data related to whatever TV programming and related commercials you’re watching—whether it’s the latest episode of “The Walking Dead” or Monday Night Football—and link such data with the time, date, channel, and TV service provider. Vizio will also track whether you view TV programs live or later on.
All that viewing habit information gets linked to the IP address that serves as a unique identifier for Internet-connected devices using the same Wi-Fi router. That IP address serves as the focal point for Vizio’s advertiser partners to reach you—and not just on your smart
Posted by richmore on October 29, 2015 in Electronicwith Comments closed | ∞
uBeam, a high-profile startup backed by some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent investors, has become a tech-industry sensation because of the wireless charging technology it claims to have in its labs. Scheduled for delivery next year, uBeam promises to use ultrasound to charge a mobile phone wirelessly, as you go about your business at home or chat away at your local coffee shop.
But even amid a tidal wave of publicity, the company has never publicly demonstrated a fully functioning prototype of its system. Nor has it ever produced an outside expert (who wasn’t an investor) who could attest to its ability to actually make and market a safe, effective version of what it is promising. To the contrary: uBeam is now facing an onslaught of questions about whether it can deliver any significant breakthrough at all.
Meredith Perry, who founded uBeam in 2011 when she was an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, has said that her charging system will be as useful with household appliances as with mobile handsets. On its website, the company proclaims, “The impact uBeam will have across industries will be profound.” It even promises to improve health care. “Because bacteria can spread via electrical outlets,” the
Posted by richmore on October 11, 2015 in Electronicwith Comments closed | ∞
The San Francisco Bay Area tends to be ahead of the curve when it comes to food trends, and if those trends involve high tech gadgets, all the better.
So there’s usually a smart food or beverage-preparing gadget at hardware launch events—in past years we’ve seen automatic bartenders, robotic stir-fry gadgets, and countless ways to brew coffee.
This month, the HAX accelerator’s seventh class featured two food gadgets—one fairly predictable, and potentially successful, and one I definitely didn’t see coming.
First, the fairly predictable but on-point in terms of trends: Auroma Brewing Company’s “coffee science machine” which, the company says, can adjust all the parameters for making a cup of coffee, tailoring the brewing process to a particular bean, or a particular user’s taste. It’s what the company calls a “third wave brew,” explaining that first wave coffee drinkers are just going for the caffeine (their example was Folgers, mine would be Dunkin Donuts), second wave coffee drinkers are going for a snack (Starbucks, likely with milk, sugar, an maybe flavorings), and third wave is about getting the unique flavors out of a bean (Blue Bottle coffee drinkers, and those who describe brews of coffee in the way they describe wine). Auroma
Posted by richmore on October 1, 2015 in Electronicwith Comments closed | ∞
If you’re already drone crazy, here’s what you probably want to know about the latest Parrot drone, the BeBop 2, introduced today in San Francisco. The 500-gram drone has a 2-kilometer range, a 25-minute battery life (twice as long as its predecessor), a top horizontal speed of 60 kilometers per hour, and can resist headwinds up to 39 miles per hour. The pilotless aircraft, which can operate in first-person view mode, will sell for US $500 when it comes out on 14 December.
If you’re interested in the engineering of this gadget, you might want to know that it includes: a vertical camera that watches the ground to help in stabilization; an ultrasound sensor that measures altitude up to 16 feet (about 5 meters) and a pressure sensor for tracking altitude beyond that; a 3-axis gyroscope, magnetometer, and accelerometer, and a GPS chipset; a graphics processor, and 8 gigabytes of flash memory. Its sensors operate at 1 kilohertz to feed the image stabilization’s software. The BeBop 2’s only moving parts are its propellers.
If you’ve never flown a drone solo before, like me, you certainly would want to know that the learning curve is about 45 seconds, it’s really, really hard to hurt someone because it’s small, light, and
Posted by richmore on September 24, 2015 in Electronicwith Comments closed | ∞
My children, young American teenagers, don’t have cellphones yet. They think I’m monstrously out of touch with the century into which they were born. I think I’m conflicted and all over the place on this issue. As the editor of IEEE Spectrum, I could be showering them with all the latest and greatest devices. But I’m not, entirely.
I’m uncomfortable with their technology use and look for ways to minimize it. When I visit their school and see them hunched over their laptops typing while the teacher waves her hand at the classroom smart board, I feel disconcerted, just as I do when I’m in an adult meeting and no one is making eye contact, instead looking down, or perhaps under the table, at a glowing screen.
I don’t feel any need for them to be texting from the dugout during baseball practice. Watching their friends do it gives me the same unnerved feeling I get in an elevator full of people communicating with everyone but the people they are standing next to. In addition to screen time, I have rules about headphone time and about Internet usage.
Yet I’m guilty of all the same behavior, and more: checking e-mail while standing on the
Posted by richmore on September 22, 2015 in Electronicwith Comments closed | ∞
It’s a principle in the startup world: if you see a need for a product and think the technology for creating it is ready, you can be pretty sure you’re not the only one who has that same idea. So you need to get it out fastest, do it best, and offer it at the lowest price—or at least two out of those three.
There’s another axiom in the tech world these days: One day, everything will be part of the Internet of Things.
And, finally, another truism: There is, indeed, more than one way to skin a cat.
Put these three laws of technology evolution together and you get two companies launching low-cost IoT gadgets that automate window shades but don’t do it the same way. And even if you don’t care about window shades, what happened in San Francisco earlier this month is an interesting story of the way startups get ideas, how the IoT is ripe for picking, and (jargon alert) “market disruption.”
The automated window shade market, explained both Raido Dsilna and Ksenia Vinogradova, is extremely ripe for disruption. Dsilna, co-founder of Wazombi Labs, based in Estonia, spoke at a launch event for HAX Boost, a San Francisco accelerator for companies that
Posted by richmore on September 12, 2015 in Electronicwith Comments closed | ∞
A picture of how wealthy or poor people are can be reconstructed from anonymized data generated by mobile phones, according to researchers analyzing cell phone data from Rwanda.
Personal information that mobile devices gather such as a person’s location often gets anonymized by stripping it of names, home addresses, phone numbers, and other obvious identifying details. Such metadata often get shared, and underlies popular services such as Google’s real-time monitoring of road traffic.
However, anonymized data can still divulge a great deal about individuals, suggesting that the process does not protect privacy as well as often thought. For instance, anonymized credit card data can easily be used to identify credit card users, and analyzing the movements of your social contacts can help generate a relatively complete picture of your movements.
Scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle and the University of California, Berkeley, analyzed data from billions of phone calls and text messages from 1.5 million subscribers to Rwanda’s largest mobile phone network. The data captured details about individuals such as social networks, travel patterns, and the amount and timing of communications.
The researchers also conducted phone surveys of more than 850 subscribers of the network. The investigators asked respondents questions about what their housing
Posted by richmore on September 4, 2015 in Electronicwith Comments closed | ∞
Eight companies graduated last week from the Intel Education Accelerator. None are going to set the world on fire, but all are prepared to make learning just a little bit easier. I’ll tell you about a few more of them later this week, but I have to start with the product that I think was at the head of the class: WordsU.
WordsU has developed an alternate keyboard for smart phones with an autocorrect function that, instead of trying to figure out what word you are trying to type, tries to expand your vocabulary. (Alternate keyboards are apps that replace the standard keypad image that appears when you need to type on a mobile device. Most are designed to make typing faster, more intuitive, or more fun.) WordsU’s digital keyboard app will make its debut in January.
In their pitch to potential investors and journalists, WordsU founders Sam Mendelson and Allan Zhang said the company is targeting English as a second-language (ESL) learners and SAT test preppers who would otherwise use flash cards. They say their approach is better for learning because it presents vocabulary in context, and does so throughout the day. The keyboard, the founders said, works with any app, including iMessage, Facebook
Posted by richmore on August 29, 2015 in Electronicwith Comments closed | ∞
In 1891, Nikola Tesla performed an amazing demonstration: He illuminated a gas discharge tube (essentially a fluorescent bulb) with an electric field, showing that it was possible to transmit electric power without wires. Since then, advances in electronics and computing have given us portable versions of his contemporaries’ inventions—Bell’s telephone and Edison’s phonograph. But when it comes to powering up those devices, we’re still tethered in place.
The best we’ve managed to engineer so far is inductive charging: Place your cellphone on top of a resonant inductive charging pad and the pad’s oscillating magnetic field generates a current in the phone’s receiving antenna. The wire may be gone, but the device is still closely bound to the pad until it’s charged, which isn’t quite what Tesla had in mind.
Real progress on wireless power might come as soon as this year. Several companies are promising to deliver the kind of charging that we really want: technology that can charge devices while they’re in our hands, in our pockets, or wherever we happen to put them down. “Promising” is the key word here. Though these systems seem like magic, it’s important to temper any excitement with a healthy dose of the reality imposed
Posted by richmore on August 8, 2015 in Electronicwith Comments closed | ∞
“Your quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail, to the ruin of all.” So says Galadrial to the fellowship sent to destroy the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings. But that advice might as well be directed to the burgeoning virtual reality industry. Early optimism that the second coming of VR, after a false start in the 1990s, will blossom into a new mainstream medium could collapse into despair, with the technology joining 3D television as another misfire.
“Hollywood got a black eye from 3D,” said Eric Shamlin, of the Secret Location production company, yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In the end, despite a lot of effort from TV makers and even some networks, he said, there just wasn’t enough compelling 3D content to overcome the limitations of the technology.
Contrast this with, say, the introduction of home VCRs, in which users were willing to put up with quite a bit of hassle in the
Posted by richmore on July 27, 2015 in Electronicwith Comments closed | ∞
Obama administration officials have released new intelligence indicating North Korea is building mobile ICBMs that will soon be able to reach the United States. This was reported in the Washington Times, which states, “New intelligence indicates that North Korea is moving ahead with building its first road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, an easily hidden weapon capable of hitting the United States.” (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/dec…)
ICBMs typically carry nuclear warheads, and they can easily target cities on the West Coast such as Los Angeles or Seattle. But even this threat doesn’t compare to the “doomsday weapon” that China or Russia could almost certainly launch right now: A high-altitude EMP weapon (HEMP for short, and I’m not joking).
High-Altitude EMP could fry the USA back into the pre-industrial age
HEMP weapons are detonated in the high atmosphere, theoretically as high as 300 miles above the ground (well above the orbits of most satellites, even). Once detonated, the energy released by these weapons interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field, producing an extremely fast and powerful electromagnetic burst that rushes to the ground at 94% the speed of light, slamming everything on the ground with as much as 50,000 volts per square meter at high amps.
Posted by richmore on July 12, 2015 in Electronicwith Comments closed | ∞
Our regular readers know we’ve got a lot of heartburn when it comes to the antics and actions of the Transportation Security Administration and a number of goofballs this rogue agency regularly employs. As we have well documented, it is one of the most lawless federal agencies in existence.
But for the most part, that is us talking; it’s incredibly more damning when one of the agency’s current, – or, in this case, former – personnel talk about the TSA’s culture of criminality.
Pythias Brown, a former TSA employee at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, who spoke to ABC News recently in his first public comments after being released from prison, said he was part of a “culture” of apathy within the agency that permitted corrupt employees – and there are a lot of them, apparently – to prey on passengers’ luggage and personal items with abandon, thanks in large part to nonexistent oversight and tips from fellow TSA workers.
“It was very commonplace, very,” said Brown, who admitted lifting in excess of $800,000 worth of items from luggage and security checkpoints over a four-year span. “It was very convenient to steal.”
Posted by richmore on July 2, 2015 in Electronicwith Comments closed | ∞
If you thought the concept of medically-injectable microchips was something out of a science fiction novel, think again. A cohort of scientists from universities the world over has developed a new type of implantable microchip capable of performing various pre-programmed functions inside the body for a certain period of time, and later dissolving into oblivion.
Published in the journal Science, a new study on the technology explains how “transient electronics” are the exact opposite of traditional electronics, which are designed with stability and long-term durability in mind. Dissolvable electronics, on the other hand, are specifically designed to melt away once they have accomplished their respective tasks, or at least this is what we are being told.
“A remarkable feature of modern silicon electronics is its ability to remain physically invariant, almost indefinitely for practical purposes,” says the study abstract. “Although this characteristic is a hallmark of applications of integrated circuits that exist today, there might be opportunities for systems that offer the opposite behavior, such as implantable devices that function for medically useful time frames but then completely disappear via re-absorption by the body.”
One example of this might be implantable chips designed to target open wounds with heat in order to prevent