Sunday, December 30, 2007
Civic Lighting Idea Grows To Bear Solar Fruit
Plant an idea and watch the green grow through technology and design.
This last fall in Milan, Italy and Vienna, Austria, a new design in street and plaza lighting was installed with great success. A grouping of arching beams that look a little like futuristic tree branches are topped with solar cells and LED lights and use storage batteries to hold power are designed by Ross Lovegrove, a British designer, who said that they are not only efficient but also attractive and bring a sense of "nature into a gray city environment".
Solar cell "tree" tops that grab power from the sun. Image Credit: Gerhard Koller (MAK)
Artemide, an Italian lighting design systems company, and Sharp Solar, a German company known for being the world's largest producer of photovoltaic (PV) cells, joined forces to turn the design into reality.
Someday soon, these “solar trees” could well be the main form of street lighting in Europe … and maybe, the rest of the civic/commons use spaces throughout the world.
Close up of branches on a solar tree in Vienna. Image Credit: Gerhard Koller (MAK)
This excerpted from RenewableEnergyAccess.com website -
Introducing the Solar Tree
by Jane Burgermeister, European Correspondent, RenewableEnergyAccess.com - December 21, 2007
The streets of Europe could soon be lit by solar energy due to the fact that a solar tree prototype recently passed a key test phase.
The solar trees went on display for four weeks in October on a busy street — the Ringstrasse — in Vienna, Austria. They were able to provide enough light during the night-time even when the sun did not show for as much as four days in a row.
"The solar cells on the tree were able to store enough electricity in spite of receiving no direct solar light for days at a time because of the clouds. They showed that solar trees really are a practical form of street lighting," Christina Werner from Cultural Project Management (Kulturelles Projektmanagement, Vienna) told RenewableEnergyAccess.com.
She said that the City of Vienna was now in the process of deciding whether to install more solar trees.
Putting solar powered LED light systems on trees would cut down on the carbon emissions and also slash the bills of local authorities, she said.
Street lighting consumed 10 percent of all the electricity used in Europe in 2006 or 2,000 billion KWh, and resulted in carbon emissions of 2,900 million ton.
The use of more energy-efficient lighting in the Austrian city of Graz, with a population of almost 300,000 saved the city 524,000 KWh of electricity and 67,200 euros [US $96,800] in 2005.
"Not just trees but other objects could be decorated with solar cells and so keep streets well lit at night time," she said.
The branches of the solar tree were decorated with 10 solar lamps, each one comprising 36 solar cells; they also had rechargeable batteries and electronic systems.
A sensor was used to measure the amount of light in the atmosphere and trigger the solar lamps to go on automatically at sunset and off at sunrise.
The tree's lights went on for the first time in Vienna on October 8, 2007 at 11:00 pm. They are now on display outside the La Scala opera house in Milan.
The idea came from Peter Noever, the Director of the Austrian Museum for Applied Arts in Vienna (Österreichisches Museum fuer angewandte Kunst).
Ross Lovegrove and Sharp are now working on the design study for a car that is powered by solar energy.
Sharp solar had a production volume of 434 megawatts in 2006 and a world market share of 17 percent. It produces PV cells in a factory in Katsuragi, Japan.
Most of Sharp's modules are used for solar energy systems on roofs, but the company believes that solar cells could soon be used in all areas of everyday life from clothes to satellites.
A suggestion to Artemide, the Italian lighting design systems company ... use PowerSheet by Nanosolar instead of standard manufactured silicon solar cells. The PowerSheet was the Popular Science - 2007 Innovation Of The Year!
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Information and the ease at which information is created and moved is blossoming into a great problem. So much so that it has caught the attention of a noted consultancy firm as 2008’s Problem-Of-The-Year!
The problem and its growth is “Information Overload”. It costs our economy in productivity and time some serious money. In 2006 the estimated cost came in at $650,000,000,000 … that’s six-hundred and fifty BILLION. A figure that is roughly equal to the Gross Domestic Product of the 16th largest economy in the world, The Netherlands.
Economic costs are run up when we are distracted and interrupted from our core duties and have to take the time to get re-engaged after responding to needless or repetitive communications.
This from the Associated Press via WIRED TECH BIZ News -
Researcher: Info Overload Costs Economy
By ANICK JESDANUN - AP Internet Writer - Dec 26, 12:04 PM EST
Think twice before you copy someone on an e-mail or hit "reply all." Such practices have made today's workers less productive, a research firm concludes.
After years of naming a product or person of the year, Basex Inc. decided to forecast "information overload" as problem of the year for 2008.
"It's too much information. It's too many interruptions. It's too much lost time," Basex chief analyst Jonathan Spira declared. "It's always too much of a good thing."
Workers get disoriented every time they stop what they are doing to reply to an e-mail or answer a follow-up phone call because they didn't reply within minutes. Spira said workers can spend 10 to 20 times the length of the original interruption trying to get back on track.
Spira has a number of recommendations: Resist the urge to immediately follow up an e-mail with an instant message or phone call. Make sure the subject line clearly reflects the topic and urgency of an e-mail. And use "reply all" sparingly.
At Symblogogy, sometimes the best way to use systems to automate our lives is to NOT use all that is available to us at our fingertips!
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Tracking Santa The NORAD Way Christmas 2007
Christmas is a time we come together to celebrate forces that are beyond our own experience. On December 25, the birth of the son of God is the source of the excuse for additional forces we know are beyond our own experience to come to life.
Santa is even known to stop and leave a gift where some people are not even aware they actually believe in him and/or God’s power because he knows what resides deep in all people who wish for a better world but have not found a conscious way to its understanding.
Technology and the internet were made for times like these.
This from the How Stuff Works website -
How Santa's Sleigh Works
by John Fuller – How Stuff Works
On Christmas Eve, millions of children around the world will settle uneasily into bed, hardly able to contain themselves. What vision could possibly dance through their heads, turning them into twitchy, restless insomniacs for just one night? Is it the Sugar Plum Fairy from Tchaikovsky's ballet "The Nutcracker" or the sugarplums from Clement Clarke Moore's poem "The Night Before Christmas"? Can sugarplums really do such a thing?
Chances are the children are thinking about toys, Santa Claus and his team of reindeer -- if the children have been nice this year, jolly old St. Nick should be landing his sleigh on their roofs sometime late in the night.
Everyone has their own traditional image of Santa's sleigh, but could there be more to it than just a sled and a team of reindeer? Although no one may ever know for sure just how Santa operates, we at HowStuffWorks have what we think are the most logical explanations for how the big guy accomplishes all that he does: science and technology.
Sure, demystifying Santa's modus operandi puts us at risk of getting nothing but coal in our stockings this year, but it's all for the noble pursuit of yuletide knowledge. After all, have you ever wondered how Santa's sleigh flies? What about the reindeer? And how does Santa fit all of those presents into one bag? In the next section, we'll look at the possible technology behind Santa's sleigh.
Rustic on the outside and state-of-the-art on the inside, Santa's sleigh would have to be a marvel in engineering. These are the main parts of the sleigh that would be needed to get Santa across the world in one night.
The Sleigh's Interior
The front of the sleigh's dashboard would be dominated by Santa's own GPS navigator -- the elves would map out millions of destinations before Christmas Eve, just to make sure Santa doesn't miss anyone. The device would also have a built-in Naughty-or-Nice sensor that keeps Santa updated on children's activities. This is important, as even the most minor of naughty deeds committed within the last few hours of Dec. 24 can determine whether or not a child receives a shiny lump of coal.
A speedometer on the far left of the dashboard would allow Santa to monitor his flying speeds. On the far right would be a radio communicator -- Mrs. Claus sends broadcasts, and the elves update Santa with weather reports and toy inventory.
For in-flight entertainment, we'd like to the think that the elves would have installed an iPod dock -- perhaps even a red-and-green iPod, which would come with enough memory to play Christmas songs for the entire year through. There would also be a hot cocoa dispenser in the middle of the console, and fuel for the reindeer (in the form of carrots) in a compartment located on the left side of the sleigh.
Transdimensional Present Compartment (The Bag)
Ever wonder how Santa fits all of those presents into one bag? Think of a transdimensional present compartment in the form of a traditional gift sack, which would act as a portal between the sleigh and the North Pole. However, we'd also like to think that Santa may have harnessed the power of nanotechnology and found a way to miniaturize millions of presents into one large bag. But this information remains unconfirmed.
The Stardust Antimatter Propulsion Unit
What is antimatter? Is it some kind of magical substance Santa uses to power his sleigh?
Antimatter is the opposite of regular matter -- the mirror image of normal particles that make up everything we can see or touch. The big draw to antimatter is the amount of energy it helps create. When antimatter and matter come into contact, they annihilate each other -- breaking apart into tons of smaller particles -- and 100 percent of their masses convert into energy.
Although antimatter propulsion rockets are mainly used in science-fiction shows to allow spaceships to travel at warp speed, the possibility of designing one is very real -- NASA is currently developing one that would get us to Mars within a matter of weeks. [source: NASA]
Santa's would have to be way ahead of the game, however, and we'd like to imagine that he has his own custom Stardust Antimatter Rocket. It would be small enough to install in the back of his sleigh and fast enough to deliver every present to all good children across the globe. Of course, if the rocket ever malfunctions, the reindeer would be there to back Santa up.
Track Santa Claus across the globe as he performs his amazing task and journey -
Santa maintains a huge list of children who have been good throughout the year. The list even includes addresses, ZIP codes and postal codes. The list, of course, gets bigger each year by virtue of the world's increasing population. This year's population right now is 6,634,570,959!
Santa has had to adapt over the years to having less and less time to deliver his toys. If one were to assume he works in the realm of standard time, as we know it, clearly he would have perhaps two to three ten-thousandths of a second to deliver his toys to each child's home he visits!
The fact that Santa Claus is more than 15 centuries old and does not appear to age is our biggest clue that he does not work within time, as we know it. His Christmas Eve trip may seem to take around 24 hours, but to Santa it could be that it lasts days, weeks or months in standard time. Santa would not want to rush the important job of bringing Christmas happiness to a child, so the only logical conclusion is that Santa somehow functions on a different time and space continuum.
We believe, based on historical data and more than 50 years of NORAD tracking information, that Santa Claus is alive and well in the hearts of children throughout the world.
Santa Claus is known by many names, but his first recorded name was Saint Nicholas. Historians claim that the history of Santa starts with the tradition of Saint Nicholas, a 4th Century Christian priest who lived in the Middle East in an area of present day Turkey.
Saint Nicholas became famous throughout the world for his kindness in giving gifts to others who were less fortunate. Typically, he placed gifts of gold down people's chimneys - sometimes into stockings. It may be that the Santa we know and love emerged from the legacy of Saint Nicholas. Clearly, Santa's basic approach to gift giving is strikingly similar to that of Saint Nicholas. What we know from history is that the tradition of Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas merged.
Could they be the same person? Only Santa Claus can tell us for sure.
Long before the Wright brothers flew the first airplane or the Montgolfier brothers flew the first hot air balloon, Santa knew he had to find a way to travel quickly from house to house at great speed. We know from our Santa Cam images that Santa's choice for quick transportation was a herd of flying reindeer. Of course, to this day, detailed information on these reindeer remains a mystery. We do know, however, that Santa somehow found a way to get the reindeer to help him with his worldwide mission of gift giving. A veil of sweet mystery hides the rest.
Virginia's letter, written in December 1897, is the most famous example of a child wanting to know about Santa.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
The Seed Of Enterprise Mobility Celebrates 60 Years
The transistor, the beginning of the move from vacuum tubes in electronic circuits used to amplify an electronic signal, was born sixty years and a couple of days ago when three physicists from Bell Labs, through experiments, had the semiconductor they were looking for.
One would think that the earth would shake at such a breakthrough, but the news was received by the New York Times and placed at the bottom of page 46 in a regular column named “News Of Radio”. No banner headlines, no tickertape parade, and barely a mention in the nation’s newspaper of the day.
The move from tubes to solid state, allowed for a transition in manufacturing and thinking of applications for electronic circuits beyond just that for the reduction of power consumption and heat associated with the replacement of the vacuum tube, it lead to miniaturization and eventually integrated circuits that are at the core of computers today.
In 1952 Intermetall unveiled what was probably the first transistorized portable radio on the Düsseldorf Radio fair. /// The first commercial transistor radio, the Regency TR-1, was announced on October 18, 1954 by the Regency Division of Industrial Development Engineering Associates of Indianapolis, Indiana and put on sale in November of 1954. /// It cost $49.95 (the equivalent of roughly $364 in year-2006 dollars) and sold about 150,000 units. Raytheon and Zenith Electronics transistor radios soon followed and were priced even higher. Even the first Japanese imports (in 1957) were priced at $30 and above. Transistor radios did not achieve mass popularity until the early 1960s when prices of some models fell below $20, then below $10 as markets became flooded with radios from Hong Kong by the mid to late 1960s. Caption and Image Credit: Wikipedia
This Excerpted from Forbes Magazine -
The Transistor's Birthday
Fred Allen, Forbes Magazine - 12.15.07, 10:30 AM ET
Sixty years ago, on Dec. 16, 1947, three physicists at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J., built the world's first transistor. William Shockley, John Bardeen and William Brattain had been looking for a semiconductor amplifier to take the place of the vacuum tubes that made radios and other electronics so impossibly bulky, hot and power hungry. They were so instantly certain they'd found their answer that they didn't speak a word of it to anyone for six months, until they could experiment further and apply for patents.
Then on June 30, 1948, they held a press conference in New York City. They showed the world not only a big model of a transistor but also a TV and a radio with transistors in place of the tubes. Nobody was talking about anything like computers yet, but it was a first look at the future we all live in.
It sounded like a gimmick, and just too good to be true. The historian Robert Friedel quotes a Bell Labs engineer as saying, "The transistor in 1949 didn't seem like anything very revolutionary to me. It just seemed like another one of those crummy jobs that required one hell of a lot of overtime and a lot of guff from my wife." Only 20% of them worked. They were hard to manufacture. They required the design of new kinds of circuits. Even if they could eventually, theoretically, replace the vacuum tube, the tube worked well enough. How could they be worth the trouble?
But the technology kept improving. It got its first consumer application in December 1952 in a hearing aid, where it replaced one of three tubes and lowered battery costs. Then it took off. By 1954 the transistor was in 97% of hearing aids and sales of the devices were up 50%. That year the first transistor radio came out. It cost $49.95, the equivalent of $380 today.
Revolutions can take time. We think of the information revolution as having changed our world in an instant. But it took two later breakthroughs, each a full decade apart, before the transistor could even begin its ascent to the pinnacle of its capability--so far.
Between 1958 and 1959 two men working independently, Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments (nyse: TXN - news - people ) and Robert Noyce at Fairchild Semiconductor (nyse: FCS - news - people ), figured out how to combine a sequence of transistors on a single wafer of silicon crystal. Now true miniaturization and mass production would begin to be possible.
Today a single advanced microprocessor can contain 1.7 billion transistors, and the transistors can be as small as 200 billionths of a meter. The numbers become dizzying. Gordon Moore, who quantified the effect of all those devices with his Moore's Law, estimates that every year "we make transistors amounting to a one followed by 17 zeros. ... We make about one transistor for every ant on earth these days--every year."
There's something satisfying about being able to trace back that truly ubiquitous, transformative technology, which we carry with us everywhere in numerous places on, and sometimes inside, our bodies. It runs almost everything in our lives that isn't strictly mechanical--to trace all that back to three men in a research office in 1947. It would be even more satisfying if those three men could have possibly envisioned what would grow out of their work. But that was no more possible than it is for us to see today what nanotechnology and whatever grows out of it will bring us 60 years from now. The only thing we can be sure of us is that the revolution isn't over. Hard as it is to fathom, it's only just begun.
Imagine, a cellphone built upon a vacuum technology platform! One would probably need a wheelbarrow and two assistants.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Robots And The Science Of Surface Tension
“Aquabots” take advantage of the properties of water surface tension and the ability to mimic water walking insects.
The adhesive bonding property of water molecules allows for the formation of water droplets Caption & Image Credit: © 2004 Edward Tsang via PhysicalGeography.net
Scientists have figured out how insects, like the Water Strider, not only walk, but more recently, bounce on water. The critical dynamic force that allows water skimming insects to bounce on water comes down to the speed at which the insect approaches the surface of the water.
Water has a very simple atomic structure. This structure consists of two hydrogen atoms bonded to one oxygen atom. The hydrogen side of the water molecule has a slight positive charge. On the other side of the molecule a negative charge exists. This molecular polarity causes water to be a powerful solvent and is responsible for its strong surface tension. Caption & Image Credit: PhysicalGeography.net
Water has a high surface tension, water is adhesive and elastic, and tends to aggregate in drops rather than spread out over a surface as a thin film. This phenomenon also allows water to stick to the sides of vertical structures despite gravity's downward pull.
The following illustration shows how water molecules are attracted to each other to create high surface tension. This property can cause water to exist as an extensive thin film over solid surfaces. In the illustration example above, the film is two layers of water molecules thick. Caption & Image Credit: PhysicalGeography.net
Applications for this new found understanding include robots that can move about on lakes and reservoirs to monitor water quality, spy or explore.
This excerpted from the Telegraph (UK) -
Scientists crack how insect bounces on water
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor - Last Updated: 7:01pm GMT 07/12/2007
Walking on water may seem like a miracle to humans. But it is a humdrum achievement for the little water strider, which is able to bounce up and down on water too.
Scientists have already solved the mystery of how their six slender, stilt-like legs evenly distribute their scant body weight over a relatively large area so that the "skin" formed by the surface tension of the water supports them, so four millimetre across dimples form under each foot as they skim about.
But scientists remained puzzled by how they could jump up and down upon the surface of water.
Now a team in South Korea is about to report that it has at last explained the water strider's baffling ability to leap onto water without sinking, in a forthcoming issue of the journal Langmuir.
Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have created robots that can walk on water while another team works out how an insect bounces on water. Video Credit: Telegraph TV (UK)
Ho-Young Kim and Duck-Gyu Lee of Seoul National University note that scientists already have discovered the water-repellent, hairy structure of the water strider's legs and how they enable the creatures to scoot along ponds and placid lakes.
They solved the mystery of how the insects jump onto or "bounce" off liquid surfaces by dropping a highly water-repellent sphere onto the surface of water at different speeds, carefully tracking its motion with high-speed cameras.
Footage revealed that the ball must be traveling within a narrow range of velocities in order to bounce off the water's surface. The sphere may sink if it goes too fast and won't bounce back if it is too slow.
This explains why water striders have extremely water repellent - superhydrophobic - legs, and how they touch down at just the right speed not to sink, said Dr Kim. "Application of our study can be extended to developing semi-aquatic robots that mimic such insects having the surprising mobility on water."
The real thing is extraordinariliy mobile. Some water striders can propel their bodies across the water surface at nearly 3.5 feet, or 100 times their body length, per second. A six-foot-tall human swimming at a comparable speed would achieve around 400 mph.
The reason that the insects can skim around on water is because water molecules at the surface are strongly attracted to each other and those beneath, unlike the air above. The result is surface tension, a skin-like effect that these insects exploit. The strider's legs can support 15 times the insect's weight without it sinking, according to calculations.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
TV & Video In The Palm Of One's Hand
Last week, Symblogogy was able to attend a very specialized conference held in San Diego, produced by the prestigious international technology advocacy group, Informa.
This definition from the Informa website –
Informa plc is the leading provider of specialist information to the global academic & scientific, professional and commercial communities via publishing, events and performance improvement.
Choose from over 10,000 events and training courses, 40,000 book titles, over 2,000 subscription-based services including academic journals, magazines, newsletters, real-time information and news services, unparalleled performance improvement solutions, hundreds of exceptional brands and 70 countries.
Handsets Forum USA held in San Diego coordinated by Gavin Whitechurch & Laura Black of Informa plc. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks
The conference, Handsets Forum USA, was attended by professionals from the mobile phone industry and covered virtually every aspect associated with the business of providing cellular phone solutions to the North American marketplace.
Some of the more interesting subjects addressed packaging and distribution, manufacturing and technology nuances, niche marketing in a perceived homogeneous environment, “The Value Tree”, security vulnerabilities, closed vs open source program solutions, successes, and failures.
In one conference module presented by Nokia’s Director, Business Development – Convergence Customer and Market Operations, Vipul Mehrotra, discussed the concept of “Quad Play”. Through the presentation, he illustrated how one would be able to take advantage of technologies that exist today, throughout the day through a smartphone handset.
Image Credit: Nokia, Vipul Mehrotra
In a Quad Play world, one would be able to utilize the handset in many different and functional ways making this small tool valuable beyond just the cellphone it represents. Move content from DVR to mobile, grab the latest song from the net, utilize it as a dataport away from the home or for work, initiate VOIP (voice over internet protocol) phone call at hotspots, share photo images in many applications for personal and professional purposes, and the most interesting demonstration – video broadcast delivered to the handset directly from the cable or satellite service one already gets at one's home!
Image Credit: Nokia, Vipul Mehrotra
Vipul showed how he was able to retrieve content being broadcast and delivered to his home address in the Dallas metro area to his handset in San Diego. He hooked up his Nokia N95 smartphone handset to an overhead projector and reached out to a Slingbox device located next to his television set. By having the Slingbox connected to his Satellite feed and broadband DSL connection, he was able to address the Slingbox via TCPIP and further, give it channel commands and display the content that was being delivered to his home on that specific channel. In the demo, he was first able to show Drew Carey hosting “The Price Is Right” and then he punched in the channel code for CNN Headline News. Simply fascinating … web, and cell, TV in the palm of one's hand.
What makes this concept economically feasible today, of course, is a phone plan that allows unlimited minutes or what is commonly termed an “all-you-can-eat” plan. So this concept is do able and accessible by most consumers with a typical smartphone handset.
Slingbox Family - Slingbox SOLO, Slingbox PRO, Slingbox AV - Image Credit: Sling Media
Related news excerpted from CNET -
Tech innovation in 2008
By CNET News.com staff - December 1, 2007
Technology luminaries, analysts, and other experts tend not to be shy about predicting what might be the bust-out developments in their respective fields. CNET News.com reporters asked several sources what they thought would be among the most important innovations in 2008 in their areas of expertise. Some, naturally, referred to their own projects, some to technologies and trends likely to emerge in the marketplace, and trends that have already gathered steam and are likely to grow in prominence. All responded thoughtfully. Here are some of their insights on topics such as automotive technology, broadband services, games, "green" transportation, Internet search, microprocessors, open-source software, photography, privacy and surveillance, security, enterprise software, and wireless technology.
While there's plenty of video accessible on the Internet, there isn't much commercial video available online. The dearth of such programming has been cited as one of the reasons products such as Apple TV, which allows you to play Internet video on your big-screen TV, have not really caught on. Internet communications pundit and VoIP industry pioneer Jeff Pulver says he aims to help change that in 2008 by launching an Internet TV service called pulverTV 24/7, which, as Pulver notes on his Web site, will produce its own programming in the spirit of "the early days of broadcast TV from the 1950s." Beyond his own project, Pulver said he expects 2008 to see the emergence of other Internet TV channels and more online delivery of video content from major media companies--plus "the first weekend premiere of major movies both in the movie theaters as well in our broadband home theaters." Next year, he adds, also will be a "breakout" year for Internet-video advertising.
Competition in 2008 between the phone and cable companies, meanwhile, will precipitate "the biggest war over customers we have ever seen," says Jeff Kagan, a wireless- and telecommunications-industry analyst based in Atlanta. Faced with slowing rates of subscriber growth, the phone and cable carriers will bundle their services -- voice, video, Internet access, and even wireless -- as attractively as possible to win customers
The most innovative product of 2008 could be one announced this year--the Amazon Kindle -- according to another game-changing gadget maker, Blake Krikorian, chief executive of Sling Media, which created the Slingbox. "The Amazon Kindle will be the first successful e-book after dozens of attempts by other companies over the past two decades." Although many companies have attempted to develop electronic books offering the right combination of features and reliability, none found wide acceptance with mainstream consumers. Krikorian blames that on "a poor user interface, lack of content, or buggy software." But Amazon.com's first go at making its own gadget gets the formula right, he argues. "I think this is the first e-book solution to deliver on the promise. It has a great user interface, an impressive catalog of content, and a service that 'just works.'"
At Symblogogy, we look at these two categories highlighted by CNET and wonder – Why is the CEO of Slingbox talking about Kindle when, in the previous section of 2008 technology projections under "Broadband", the smartphone/cellphone combined with his company’s brilliant interface device, one can deliver their own cable or satellite television service to their handset? Just asking.
Slingbox SOLO Back Panel - Image Credit: Sling Media
Heck, with very little set-up and tweaking, one can deliver video images from a camera mounted over one's front door directly to the handset giving the average consumer the same capability of a security professional at any major casino property … discrete camera video broadcast directly into one's hand!
All this takes (along with a cable/satellite service and a remote security camera) is a smartphone handset and a Slingbox hooked up to a DSL line!
SLING MEDIA/NOKIA VIDEO DEMO
Next month, Informa will be sponsoring a conference in the Bay Area entitled Mobile Web 2.0 and if it features the quality and calibre of conference participation that the Hnadsets Forum USA experienced, this event will be a “must attend” for anyone interested in exploring mobile applications.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Popular Science - 2007 Innovation Of The Year
PowerSheet is “green”, aluminum silver, and inked all over and comes in as Popular Science’s 2007 Innovation Of The Year.
The PowerSheet represents a new way capturing energy from the sun. What makes the PowerSheet a real innovation is that the manufacturing process does not use the expensive and limiting method of using silicon on which to generate electricity. Basically, Nanosolar, a Silicon Valley based company, was able to sandwich thin layers of paint that has the property to convert light to electricity, in aluminum sheets and deliver solar conversion at a fraction of the cost of traditional solar panels.
Image Credit: Nanosolar
PowerSheet says it all in its name. The new “sandwiched sheet” material can be made into roofing materials, window coatings, and other exterior wraps that will have the ability to grab power from the sun. The technology breakthrough moves the cost from about $3 per watt of energy for traditional silicon solar cells, $1 per watt for coal, to as little as 30 cents a watt for the Nanosolar PowerSheet.
How It Works
This excerpted and edited from Popular Science Magazine -
The New Dawn of Solar
By MICHAEL MOYER – Popular Science - 11-22-2007
Imagine a solar panel without the panel. Just a coating, thin as a layer of paint, that takes light and converts it to electricity.
Consider solar-powered buildings stretching not just across sunny Southern California, but through China and India and Kenya as well, because even in those countries, going solar will be cheaper than burning coal. That’s the promise of thin-film solar cells: solar power that’s ubiquitous because it’s cheap. The basic technology has been around for decades, but this year, Silicon Valley–based Nanosolar created the manufacturing technology that could make that promise a reality.
Accelerated lifetime testing is possible through specialized equipment that performs many –40°C to +85°C heat cycles per day, that exposes solar cells to intense UV light, and that exposes them to intense humidity. This has made it possible for us to study potential degradation mechanisms at accelerated time scale during product development. Image Credit: Nanosolar
The company produces its PowerSheet solar cells with printing-press-style machines that set down a layer of solar-absorbing nano-ink onto metal sheets as thin as aluminum foil, so the panels can be made for about a tenth of what current panels cost and at a rate of several hundred feet per minute.
Cost has always been one of solar’s biggest problems. Traditional solar cells require silicon, and silicon is an expensive commodity (exacerbated currently by a global silicon shortage). What’s more, says Peter Harrop, chairman of electronics consulting firm IDTechEx, “it has to be put on glass, so it’s heavy, dangerous, expensive to ship and expensive to install because it has to be mounted.” And up to 70 percent of the silicon gets wasted in the manufacturing process. That means even the cheapest solar panels cost about $3 per watt of energy they go on to produce. To compete with coal, that figure has to shrink to just $1 per watt.
Printing is by far the simplest, highest-yield, and most capital-efficient technique for depositing thin films. Printing is extremely fast; the equipment involved is easy to use and maintain; and it works in plain air (no vacuum chamber required). Another key advantage of a printable CIGS ink is that one can print it just where one wants it to be, achieving high materials utilization of the semiconductor material. Image Credit: Nanosolar
Nanosolar’s cells use no silicon, and the company’s manufacturing process allows it to create cells that are as efficient as most commercial cells for as little as 30 cents a watt. “You’re talking about printing rolls of the stuff—printing it on the roofs of 18-wheeler trailers, printing it on garages, printing it wherever you want it,” says Dan Kammen, founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley. “It really is quite a big deal in terms of altering the way we think about solar and in inherently altering the economics of solar.”
Highlight 2007: Parallel construction of factories in California and Germany commences. The product specification is finalized in close collaboration with leading customers. Image Credit: Nanosolar
In San Jose, Nanosolar has built what will soon be the world’s largest solar-panel manufacturing facility.
Right now, the biggest question for Nanosolar is not if its products can work, but rather if it can make enough of them. California, for instance, recently launched the Million Solar Roofs initiative, which will provide tax breaks and rebates to encourage the installation of 100,000 solar roofs per year, every year, for 10 consecutive years (the state currently has 30,000 solar roofs). The company is ready for the solar boom. “Most important,” Harrop says, “Nanosolar is putting down factories instead of blathering to the press and doing endless experiments. These guys are getting on with it, and that is impressive.”
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Barcodes For The Bird Lover Makes Editors Choice
Would-be ornithologists the world over have trouble getting started in their budding pursuit. In order to be a good “twitcher”, one needs to be able to match the bird with the sound.
iFlyer consumer barcode scanner scans barcodes on the bird identification card and plays the call. Image credit: iFlyer - Birdsong Identiflyer
Experts say that 70% of bird identification is through the bird’s song rather than identifying by sight.
The iFlyer was just given a 2007 Editors Choice Award by Organic Gardening Magazine. It is easy to see and hear why. This consumer barcode scanner and booklet made the cut along with other helpful items that include a folding saw, a digging tool, a hat, a kneeling mat, a plant labeler, a mulching fork, long-handled tools, and a power cultivator.
The iFlyer is a unique idea on playing and identifying bird calls. The device is a wand with a bar code reader, memory and a speaker. When you draw the scanning end across the bar code that is next to the color image of a bird, the wand plays the sound of the bird pictured.
A colorful booklet packaged with the iFlyer contains over 200 bird illustrations (and 10 Frogs), with a barcode printed next to each image. A set of stickers with bird names and codes is provided, so one can put them in his own field guide!
Just in time for Christmas, a gift of Barcodes for the budding birder!
This device may give rise to a whole new meaning of the phrase … “scanning the horizon”.
This SongCard is an effective, safe and responsible way to attract all birds within listening range. Image Credit: iFlyer - Birdsong Identiflyer
This edited from Organic Gardening Magazine -
Editors Choice Awards 2007
By Zazel Loven – Organic Gardening – November 19, 2007
Every season--sometimes it seems like every day--we hear from garden-product makers who want us to try a revolutionary new tool or gizmo that's certain to make tending our beds easier, more rewarding, and downright fun. But our group of evaluators (which includes OG editors and test gardeners, as well as the pros who care for the gardens of our founders, the Rodale family) is a skeptical bunch.
We've tried a shed full of products that are at best nothing special and at worst [insert favorite expression for manure here]. After this season's trials with dozens of products, we all agree that these 12 deliver on their promises and are worthy of our Editors' Choice award this year (and might make a nice gift for your own holiday list).
Testers included: Lisa Gabory, Josh Brunner, Dale Geist, Pam Ruch, Brad Pollock, and Suzanne Royer. Not shown: Don Boekelheide, Maggie Kuschner, and Zazel Lovén.
Okay, this one is pure fun, but we enjoyed the iFlyer BirdSong Scanning Wand all season long. Recorded in the wild, the songs of 206 birds and 10 frogs are captured on bar codes in a pocket-sized book, and you play the sounds by simply passing the penlike instrument over the bar codes. Adults wanted to use this audio wildlife ID guide as much as children. Included are a carrying case, plus shoulder and wrist straps. $100; identiflyer.com
Josh likes the Pocketboy 170 Folding Saw for its comfortable rubber handle and secure locking mechanism. The clip-on carrying case keeps it handy (such as on Josh's belt here), and the blade is replaceable. Pam and Maggie rely on the extra-fine-toothed tool for fast and smooth pruning of errant branches in the OG Test Garden. $29; silkystore.com
You can protect crops from flying pests effectively without toxic sprays using this product created by a home gardener. Pam notes that the medium Moth-Blocker completely prevented cabbage moths from laying their eggs on broccoli and cauliflower, then went on to protect Brussels-sprout seedlings destined for the fall garden. $35; mothblocker.com
Row Cover/Shade Fabric
Nylon reinforcing threads make Tufbell more durable than other row covers, says Don, our North Carolina test gardener. Here, Josh and OG art director Gavin Robinson use it in the OG Test Garden to let sunlight and water reach the plants while protecting them from weather and animal damage. $60 for 20 feet; groworganic.com
The shape and sharp edges of the Pro Gardener's Digging Tool, popular with professionals, make it great for digging out tough weeds, report Pam and her crew. The serrated edge cuts roots and vines--especially the massive roots of biennial weeds such as burdock, Pam adds. $57; garrettwade.com
The Adventure Hat does much more than provide some shade, Pam says. The lightweight fabric fully blocks the sunlight, protecting your face, nose, ears, and back of the neck from harmful rays. "I love this hat," says the usually restrained Pam, "and you can quote me." $38; groworganic.com
The OXO Garden Kneeling Mat is our constant companion in the garden. The extra thickness makes kneeling easy and keeps dampness at bay. You can work longer in the garden because the kneeler makes it easy to change position--flip it closed, and it's a comfortable seat. $15; oxo.com
Professionals who regularly work with tools know that sharp edges make everything from shovels and spades to pruners much more effective. The Swiss Professional Sharpener lets you give your tools a fresh edge quickly and easily without disassembling them. $28; gardenhardware.com
We spend a surprising amount of time thinking about, discussing, and making identification signs for our plots. Lisa, who cares for the ornamental beds at the Rodale family gardens, raved about the Brother PT-1280 Label Maker because it allowed her to fit all the plant information she wanted on one label. And the labels stayed clear and legible after a whole season of exposure. Techno-savvy gardeners can use the labeler to transfer plant information to their computers for future reference. About $40 at office-supply stores; brotherlabelmaker.com
The most useful cultivator this season was the new Stihl MM 55 Yard Boss. Dale and Brad found it powerful for cultivating and aerating soil at the Rodale family gardens, and its new handle and wheel innovations make it easy to manipulate. About $330; stihl.com
Suzanne especially liked the unique shape of the Unifork for gathering large amounts of material. Made of high-grade polypropylene, it will never rust and is lightweight. Vegetable gardener and tester Brad reports that it's surprisingly effective at heavy-duty compost turning and mulching. $40; unionjackstable.com
Designed to relieve arm, hand, and wrist stress, the Radius long-handled tools won over all of our testers (male and female). With stainless-steel working ends, a unique handle design, and generous stepping edges, these tools proved both comfortable to use, Lisa reports, and strong enough for every garden task. $35; radiusgarden.com
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Blogworld & New Media Expo -- “Woodstock For Geeks”
Attending a tradeshow usually becomes an exercise in real work. One attends conference modules headed up by well oiled presentations that are tightly scripted and thinly veiled attempts at a one hour advertisement of the product or service the presenter is tied to. Exhibits on the showfloor, generally, are laid out with the fortune 500 companies and/or industry leaders of the exposition's primary focus at the front of the hall, followed by dozens of “me too” offerings scattered throughout the hall. One has to turn over a lot of rocks in order to find a gem to write about or to find a new, unique approach that amazes.
Blogworld & New Media Expo was a tradeshow of a surprising and different stripe. First, this debut of a conference and exposition presented strong, established, and well defined names that operate successful media and world wide web communications platforms. Blogword then included newer technology players into the mix, and attracted an audience of over 1,500 focused and information-starved (this does not mean uninformed) weblog participants looking to become better at the craft they forge. The wealth of discovery and collaboration of this unique event was impressive.
Educational and reference resources were in abundance at the BlogWorld Bookstore. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (Symblogogy)
In the conferences, the offering of expert-presented topics was almost too much too absorb. Topics were broken down into focus tracks which helped but many of the topics overlapped, so it was impossible to get to all of the information available – kind of like one large supermarket of information. One small suggestion for future consideration --- have longer trade show visitation periods planned into the conference schedule and possibly offer the most heavily-attended sessions at more than one timeslot to allow access to more exhibitors and session topics.
Andy Beal presenting on "Integrating New Media into your Marketing Mix". Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (Symblogogy)
Track titles included Beginners, Advanced, Podcasting & New Media, Entrepreneur, Monetization, Executive, Sports Blogging, Milblogging, Political, and Special Interest Sessions. Each track offered four sessions on different topics per day and, to be honest, this was a little overwhelming. For example, if one were a writer on politics and wanted to learn how to subsidize his effort, he would have trouble choosing between sessions held at the same time titled “Smart Ways To Monetize Your Blog” and “The Power Of The Political Blogosphere.” Needless to say, many choices and so little time. Perhaps that's what made it such a great event.
Hugh Hewitt broadcasting his radio talkshow live from the tradeshow floor. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (Symblogogy)
On the exhibit floor, many new and innovative software, advertising, and web community companies populated the hall, all with a great story to tell. Due to the rapid interest and growth of the social media side of the internet (Technorati currently tracks 110 million weblogs), some company efforts were showing for the first time.
TALKSHOE tradeshow booth demonstration. Anyone can easily create, join, or listen to live interaction audioblogs, podcasts, discussions, and conversations (called Talkcasts). Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (Symblogogy)
Yahoo, AOL, Pajamas Media, The Truth Laid Bear, Technorati, Microsoft, Townhall.com, Blogger & Podcaster Magazine, SharedBook, ibnma – International Blogging & New Media Association, lingospot, podango, sphere, DOC’S Sports Service, Blog Talk Radio, PRWeb, and GodBlogCon were just a few of the exhibitors with strong solutions wanting to grow with this whole communications concept that has come to be known as BLOGGING.
With all the time spent absorbing information and solutions at the show one would think there would be little time to connect and network on a more human level – WRONG! On opening night, a pajama party sponsored by several industry leaders (Pajamas Media, Zune, Technorati come to mind) billed as the “World’s Largest Pajama Party” was held at “The Joint” inside the Hard Rock Hotel. Several people took the pajama challenge seriously and the crowd attitude was running high from physical community discovery. Both DJ-performed and Live Music played throughout the evening with an interruption for the 2007 Weblog Awards. Food, Fun, and Conversation were in plentiful supply as the night wound on with few people feeling pressed to end this time spent with like-minded people too early.
Weblog 2007 Video Category winner, Mary Katharine Ham. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (Symblogogy)
Yes, this first ever Blogworld & New Media Expo was a surprising success and it all goes off again next year in September 2008 right here in LA’s favorite suburb … Las Vegas.
Come one and come all to the second edition of a "Woodstock for Geeks” … all the like-minded people, music, no mud!
Congratulations to all the 2007 Weblog Awardees!