October 28th, 2014 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Art & Society, Health, Science & Tech | Comments Off

Wearable Tech to Access the Net – Infographic

Over the next decade more of us will access more of the Internet more often using more wearable tech devices. They will be related mostly to convenience, notices of things we need to attend to, and personal health monitoring applications. Web site operators will need to begin to plan how they will optimize their sites for wearable devices.

How Wearable Technology Will Change The Internet

How Wearable Technology Will Change The Internet [Infographic] by the team at Quality Nonsense Ltd

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October 24th, 2014 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Business & Economy, Environment & Energy | Comments Off

Solar energy growing too fast?

iStock_000016699748XSmallInteresting that conversation is beginning to focus on whether solar energy and other renewables are growing too fast for the current electricity generating and grid system to cope with. The basic problem is that current generating capacity cannot be ramped up and down swiftly enough to accept huge amounts of renewable energy, and we still lack storage capacity for excess power generation. Predicted to be a bigger problem in the next 5 years or so, than in 15 years when there is more renewable energy and the system has adjusted.

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October 24th, 2014 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Business & Economy, Science & Tech, Transportation | Comments Off

Autonomous Trucks on the Horizon

Autonomous vehicles will be the focus of the next MIT Enterprise Forum, Northwest Chapter, here in Seattle on October 29, 2014. You can register here. This is a subject that is racing (pun intended) toward transportation planners, trucking companies and shippers, auto manufacturers and auto owners. The idea of driverless cars, or autonomous trucks, is one that even most futurists believed was a decade or more away. But as we have written about here and here, the prospects for at least limited applications for autonomous cars and trucks for highway driving may be just around the corner.

For the shipping industry, two fundamental issues plague their future planning: safety especially related to driver fatigue, and the availability of truck drivers. Is it possible that autonomous trucks will begin to solve both of those issues? It appears so.

Mercedes recently tested their concept truck that is able to drive autonomously on open roads, using a combination of radar, sensors, GPS, and computing. As you can see in the accompanying videos, the driver is able to set the truck on auto-pilot, and the truck handles driving down the highway just fine, even with traffic and emergency vehicles in the vicinity. Mercedes labels this truck their concept 2025 vehicle, but it is quite easy to imagine that with the technology essentially ready now, we might see limited adoption in the next five years or so. The Mercedes spokesperson points out that the truck could be driven legally, in auto-pilot, in several U.S. states already.

Currently the idea is that a driver would be in the vehicle, and do other things or rest while the truck is self driving. That makes sense for now, but it is also possible to imagine a future where autonomous trucks operate completely driver free while on the highway, and pull into a driver pick-up station when they near a city, where a driver comes on board. This is not unlike the way the local pilots board in-bound ships to guide them into and out of port. Imagine a future where truck drivers are mostly local experts, and don’t have to waste time driving endless miles cross country.

When I addressed the American Trucking Association technology conference late in 2013 I recommended that fleet operators move up their timeline for autonomous trucks. But even a year ago it was not clear that things could move ahead this quickly.

For some technical details of the Mercedes 2025 Truck check this video.

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October 23rd, 2014 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Health, Science & Tech | Comments Off

3D Printing and real robotic prosthetic arm

13-year old Sydney Kendall poses with Kranti Peddada, Kendall Gretsch and Henry Lather, the Washington University student developers of her pink prosthetic arm.

13-year old Sydney Kendall poses with Kranti Peddada, Kendall Gretsch and Henry Lather, the Washington University student developers of her pink prosthetic arm.

I came across this great article and video about some Washington University, St. Louis students who created the concept for a 3D printed robotic prosthetic arm. The concept assignment came in their biomedical engineering design course. But they took the project one step further, going from their computer design to actually printing the arm. The total cost of the arm was $200, versus a standard prosthetic cost of $6000 or more.

The arm allows the user to pick up objects using a simple shoulder movement of an accelerometer to trigger the arm and hand to open and close. It is quite dramatic in its simplicity. The development illustrates two major trends shaping the future – the application of 3D printing to real-world problems, and the fact that young people more and more are side-stepping long development or apprenticeship times to go direct to impacting the world now.

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October 22nd, 2014 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Business & Economy, Science & Tech, Transportation | Comments Off

Self Driving Cars are Coming

I came across an insightful blog on self driving cars from Peter Diamandis (entrepreneur, principle creator of X-Prize movement, etc.) He agrees that self driving cars are coming sooner than originally thought, and goes on to list several major implications…

  • Reduced deaths, reduced accidents: In the U.S. alone, there were over 33,000 automobile deaths in 2013. For those aged 5 to 34 in the United States, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death, claiming the lives of 18,266 Americans each year.
  • Saving LOTS of Money and Time: It’s estimated that AVs could save over 2.7 billion unproductive hours commuting to work. This in turn translates to an annual savings of $447.1 billion per year in the U.S. alone (assuming 90% AV penetration). This number was calculated by taking into account crash cost savings, congestion benefits, reduced travel times, fuel savings, parking savings, changes in total number of vehicles, and other factors.
  • Massive Fuel Savings: Today, a 4,000-lb. SUV spends less than 4% of its energy moving a 150-lb. driver around. Imagine if a car could be significantly lighter (because they don’t crash), getting four times the mpg?
  • No New Roads, Less Traffic: Autonomous vehicles packed with sensors can drive fast and efficiently at 8 times the packing density of today’s human-driven cars. This means no traffic jams and no need to build new roads. Plus, when they pack closely together, the reduction in wind drag alone could reduce fuel use up to 20 – 30 percent.
  • No Ownership – Just “On-Demand” Usage: Today your car is an unused asset 95% of the day. Why own a car when you can have access to whatever car you want, whenever you want it? On-demand car usage will change the future. (Who wins? You do. Who loses? Detroit). It is estimated that at 90% AV penetration, we could actually reduce the number of cars on the road by 42.6%.
  • No Garages, No Driveways, No Parking: In his book, Eran Ben-Joseph notes, “In some U.S. cities, parking lots cover more than 1/3 of the land area.” But what if you never need to park your car? What if it just drops you off and goes and does something useful? No need for parking garages, parking lots, driveways… Plus, one MIT study found that 40 percent of total gasoline use in cars in urban areas is spent while drivers look for parking.
  • No Mandatory Car Insurance: Self driving cars won’t crash and will disrupt the $200 billion auto insurance industry.

Check out this video of another entrant in the self driving car derby – this time Audi setting a speed record with a driverless vehicle – about 147 mph on a race track. Very cool.

To learn more about autonomous vehicles and the future, attend the MIT Enterprise Forum in Seattle on October 29, 2014, 5:30-8:30 PM. Information and registration here.

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