Archive for November, 2015

#826 – Li-Fi

I first wrote about Li-Fi, a new delivery method that uses light bulbs instead of radio waves to transmit wireless signals, back on Halloween 2013 but it’s worth re-visiting as it is now being tested in a real workplace for the first time.  According to published reports the trial run, which was conducted in Estonia at a tech startup called Velmini, netted speeds of 1 gigabit per second.

Why is this significant?  As Quartz puts it:  “Light-speed internet may be upon us. A technology called ‘Li-Fi’ uses light waves from ordinary LED light bulbs to deliver internet connectivity that is cheaper, more secure and 100 times faster that broadband internet.”

One hundred times faster than traditional Wi-Fi?!!  Now that’s what I’m talking about!

There are some drawbacks, however, such as the fact that it doesn’t work through walls or outside where sunlight interferes with the signal.  But that’s okay.  Rather than replacing traditional Wi-Fi it can supplement it.  Working in places where traditional Wi-Fi is not allowed such as on planes or in hospitals.

As of now we’re still about three years away from this technology becoming commercially viable but it may be worth the wait if lab test results are to be believed.  That’s because lab simulations have shown that this technology could be used to generate data transmittal speeds of up to 224 gigabits per second.  By comparison the record for traditional broadband speed is 10 Gbps.

How li-fi sends data

Is Li-Fi the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Thanksgiving may have come and gone but I’ve still got Pi on my mind.  The Raspberry Pi Zero that is.  Costing just $5, this credit card sized “computer” is nearly twice as fast as the original Raspberry Pi and could prove to be just as revolutionary as a cheap entry point for learning how to program and build electronics.  No wonder it sold out in less than 24 hours!

Technically though, it’s not really a full computer.  Just a motherboard.  But it provides the basic framework for computing giving users the ability to “level up” to their heart’s content.  CNN Money further clarifies:

“To use it, you’ll have to add your own monitor, keyboard, power source and data storage, via a micro-SD card slot.  But with a 1-gigahertz processor and 512 megabytes of RAM, it packs as much computing power as the iPhone 4. There’s even a mini-HDMI socket so you can play HD videos.”

While you could use the Pi Zero as a makeshift personal computer the real appeal is it’s miniature size giving you the ability to use it as a power source for small scale contraptions.  Like the kind you might make out of Legos.  In fact, the only thing limiting what you can do with a Pi Zero or any Raspberry Pi computer is your own imagination.

Which begs the question: what will you use it for?!

Is the Raspberry Pi Zero the Greatest Idea Ever?

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We track how many calories we eat.  We count how many steps we take.  We monitor our vital signs.  When it comes to life-logging and the Quantified Self Movement we do it all except for the one thing that could actually save our lives: monitor our environments.  Thankfully the Atmotube, a tiny personal sensor that follows you around and warns you if there are any pollutants in the air, aims to change that.  Proving that the Next Big Thing could very well be small enough to fit inside your pocket.

Tech Insider explains how it works:

“The titanium body is embedded with sensors that are capable of detecting the amount of pollution in the air, temperature, and humidity in real-time, according to a video demonstrating the product. The device will send real time updates about air quality via a corresponding app.  If pollution is detected, the app will push through an alert so you can take necessary steps to reduce your exposure to it, like shutting a window or turning on internal air conditioning in your car.”

Check out that video below:

The device is more than just a great stocking stuffer for paranoid germaphobes though.  According to CNN, entrepreneur Vera Kozyr, the CEO of parent company Not Another One, believes it could be useful for, “parents who want to guarantee their children’s safety, athletes that need to monitor everything entering their body, and people with health conditions that may be vulnerable to pollution.”

If you’re one of those people or anyone else who might be interested in this new wearable sensor check out their Indiegogo campaign page.

Is Atmotube the Greatest Idea Ever?

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When it comes to science and technology there’s a lot to be thankful for this year:

  • Plans to actually build the Hyperloop.
  • The uberification of whatever.
  • Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter being tech savvy and on good terms with Silicon Valley.
  • The awe inspiring will power of Elon Musk.
  • Those days when links from I Fucking Love Science dominate my news feed.
  • The fact that it’s now cool to be a nerd.
  • Next Issue, Flipboard, WordPress and Twitter without which it would be a lot harder to do what I love to do.
  • The new Star Wars.  (I hope)
  • Back to the Future’s science fiction becoming reality as hover boards, self lacing sneakers, and even flying cars come to fruition.
  • The sharing economy.  I think.
  • Moore’s Law.
  • Synthetic Biology.
  • IBM’s Watson.
  • The world changing potential of driver-less cars.
  • The fact that in two years I could have perfect vision thanks to the Bionic Lens.
  • Any and all medical breakthroughs.
  • An augmented and virtual reality enhanced future that’s well within reach.
  • Google’s moonshots.
  • My Tesla stock which is the only thing propping up my stock portfolio that invested heavily in 3-D printing.
  • The continued game changing promise of wonder material Graphene.
  • Wired magazine.
  • The Large Hadron Collider, NASA, Space X, SETI, all telescopes and anything else dedicated to exploring the Universe and searching for habitable exo-planets.
  • Cyber Monday.
  • Google’s decision to not completely give up on Google Glass yet.
  • Instagram contributing to my new found love of photography.
  • And best of all, the fact that there are so many new innovations, on a seemingly daily basis, that it has so far proven to be impossible to keep up with them all.

What tech are you thankful for?

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#822 – Red Carpet

Since it’s Thanksgiving I thought I should write about an idea that focuses on giving back.  Which brings me to Red Carpet, a new app that connects users with celebrities in exchange for a small fee that either gets refunded to you if the celebrity doesn’t write back or gets donated to charity if they do.  Considering that I’ve long called for a quick and easy way to get in touch with celebrities (see my open letter to Brittany Snow) I’m all for this idea.

Springwise explains how it works:

“Users create a profile on Red Carpet and search for their favorite celebrity — the platform will be populated with musicians, actors, sportspeople and more.  They can send them a message for a minimum fee of USD 0.99.  If the recipient doesn’t reply, the fan can swipe left to retract their message and get their money back.  If they reply, the fee is processed and donated to a charity of their choice.  Red Carpet keep 20 percent of each transaction.  As well as raising money for good causes, the platform can also help reduce trolling, since people are unlikely to pay just to send negative messages.  What’s more, it will help celebrities keep their interactions to a manageable amount while incentivizing the process.  Of course, the success of Red Carpet will rely on the startup recruiting enough high-profile clientele.”

Having the ability to reach out to celebrities for just a dollar and knowing that the money is going to a good cause is pretty remarkable.  Perhaps I could use this app to get in touch with famous entrepreneurs like the sharks from Shark Tank to pitch them one of my ideas or maybe I could reach out to a famous tech leader like Elon Musk to set up an interview for this blog.  The possibilities are endless.  I can’t wait to try it out!

Is Red Carpet the Greatest Idea Ever?

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When it comes to dating I have a few rules.  The tollbooth rule  The nerd test rule.  The pointy ear rule.  But all of those pale in comparison to my #1 rule: the no snoring rule.  It doesn’t matter if I find an absolute dime piece.  A soulmate.  Or even Brittany Snow herself.  If you snore, I’m dumping your ass.

Given my current status as a single bachelor I probably shouldn’t be limiting my dating pool voluntarily.  Thankfully, I soon won’t have to anymore.  That’s because there’s a new invention on the market, known as The Silent Partner, that promises to solve the age old conundrum of how to co-exist with a partner who snores.

Fast Company explains how it works:

“Like noise-canceling headphones, the Silent Partner listens to the noise in the room and generates the opposite sound. When played over the original ambient noise, the sound waves cancel each other out and the snoring is silenced. Netanel Eyal, the inventor, told Co.Exist that it works as close as eight inches, and that the effect improves with distance. ‘People in other rooms will have a pretty good cancellation,’ he says.  The device hangs across the bridge of your nose and sticks to your lower cheeks with hypoallergenic adhesive patches (good for a month, and replaceable). It runs off a rechargeable hearing-aid battery that lasts the night and uses this to power a microphone and speakers. Can such a small device cancel out a good hard snore? ‘The average snore is 70 decibels, and the speakers can reach even more,’ says Eyal, ‘but if the snorer is very very loud, the effect will work but it will reduce less of the sound.”

By affixing to a snorer’s face and acting like noise cancelling headphones The Silent Partner foregoes trying to fix the root of the problem and instead just focuses on dealing with the after effects.  I can’t imagine that the device is actually comfortable for the user.  But fuck ’em.  They’re the bastards who have been ruining your sleep for years and years.  Let them suffer a little bit if it means you can finally get a good night’s rest!!

Is a noise cancelling device for snoring the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#820 – Flower Power

A rose by any other name would…be a solar panel?  That’s not how that expression goes but in the near future it may very well be an apt description.  That’s because scientists have announced an incredible breakthrough:  the ability to seamlessly intertwine electronics with plants.  A process long desired but never achieved due to one pesky detail:  there was no way to do it without killing the host.

However, that’s no longer the case thanks to a new technique that used a special polymer that can carry electricity throughout the stem without cutting off the flow of nutrients throughout the flower.  Popular Science explains how it works:

“The scientists invented a particular polymer called PEDOT-S that could be sucked into the rose’s vascular system, just like a cut flower sucks up water and plant food in a vase. Once inside, the polymer forms ‘wires’ inside the plant’s xylem, allowing electric signals to be transmitted, but still letting the plant get the nutrients and water it needs. Plants, just like people, naturally contain electrolytes, substances that can carry an electric charge. By connecting the wires to the electrolytes, the researchers were able to create a working transistor and a digital logic gate, the basic building block of a computer system. Using a similar polymer, the team was also able to create a colored display on the leaves of a rose, making the polymer inside the leaves change color.”

So what’s the point of all this anyway?  As it turns out, more than you think.  As Engadget explains: “If the technology takes off, though, it could change how people harvest energy. You could see gardens that are effectively natural solar power farms, collecting electricity as they look pretty and clean the air. The breakthrough could also turn plants into antennas, sensors and anything else where you’d normally require hunks of metal.”

In other words, we could be talking about having literal Power Plants at our disposal!  Or as Popular Science points out we could use this technology to monitor the health of plants: “While it’s unlikely that your next computer will be grown, this kind of technology is hugely exciting for ecologists and plant biologists. By growing circuits inside plants, researchers could get an unprecedented look into how these living things function, and monitor their health on an amazingly intimate level–think of the sensors that we have for monitoring heart health or brain activity. Now, we might be able to do similar things with plants, a vital part of Earth’s ecosystem.”

Either way, this is an incredible breakthrough.  One that could enable us to become more in tune with nature both figuratively and literally while also going green and creating more aesthetically pleasing displays at the same time.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

Is uses flowers to create hybrid plant electronics the Greatest Idea Ever?

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When I first moved into my apartment I tried to assemble a nine cube book case in order to display the awesome antiques that I was planning on buying as part of the interior design kick that I was on at the time.  However, since this is me we’re talking about the construction of that book case did not go according to plan.  What I wound up with was a wobbly, mismatched fire hazard with one row of boards facing the wrong way.  Yikes!

To save face I moved this contraption into my closet and used it as a glorified shoe rack.  Eventually, I wound up replacing the shoes with t-shirts and shorts with each cube serving as a divider for different types of clothing.  One row for workout clothes, one for casual clothes, one for warmer clothes, etc.

The problem with this system is that it’s nearly impossible to keep the clothes folded, as it is in any closet organizer, as the entire pile gets messed up as soon as you take one thing out.  Thankfully, there’s now a solution to this age old problem due to the advent of a magnetized closet organizing system known as ThreadStax that is capable of keeping your clothes separated.

Fast Company explains how it works:

“The heart of the system is a collection of individual slides which separate your clothes from one another. In combination with an innovative bracketing system, the problem the ThreadStax slides are trying to solve is that thing that happens all too often: you try to pull out just one shirt or pair of pants from the middle of a folded stack, only to unfold the rest of them in the process. The slides keep your clothes separated from each other in the stack, thanks to load bearing spacers, while a magnetic edge lets you easily snap them in and out of a bracket system which uses 3M Command strips to adhere to any surface.”

Now if only someone could invent a way to ensure that socks don’t go missing I’d be all set.

Is ThreadStax the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#818 – BitLock

I like puzzles and I like bikes so I figured why not get a lock for my bike that acts like a puzzle with a unique method of twisting and turning required to get it to unfurl from it’s holder.  Big mistake. The other day I rode my bike several miles to attend a baseball game.  I never made it inside.  After thirty minutes of struggling with the lock, much to my chagrin and the enjoyment of everyone on line at the ticket booth, I had no choice but to turn around and ride back home.  At which point I got a flat tire a block from the stadium.

That was not a good day.  Thankfully, better days are ahead.  That’s because there’s now a smart phone enabled lock on the market known as BitLock that makes it easy to use and even share your bike.  All you have to do is carry your phone on you when you ride and you’ll then be able to unlock your bike either via a proximity sensor or from within the dedicated app.  And since you can open the lock from within the app that means you can share your bike with a friend by providing access remotely.  Take that puzzle lock!

But, wait.  There’s more.  As TechCrunch explains:

“The app will also let you view the location where you last locked up your bike on a map (based on recording your smartphone’s GPS at the time), and get maps of your rides and activity data — such as average speed, distance pedaled and estimated calories burnt. Bundling lots of handy functions in one.  Best of all: BitLock’s battery life is apparently good for five years’ average use (based on five lock/unlock operations per day), thanks to the low-energy requirements of Bluetooth 4.0 and a Lithium thionyl chloride (Li-SOCl 2) battery.”

All of which begs the question: where do I sign up?!!!?

Is BitLock the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I broke my ankle.  Shattered it really.  Tore the ligaments too.  I was also in a car that flipped over several times and landed in a swamp a hundred feet away from the highway.  But nothing can compare to the pain I’ve experienced when I’ve stepped on a Lego while walking barefoot.  If nails scratching a blackboard and stubbing your toe had a baby it would be the feeling you get when you step on the jagged edge of one of those iconic children’s toys.  Thankfully, Lego agrees.  Which is why they’ve teamed up with design company Brand Station, to create special Anti-Lego slippers with extra padding on the bottom that make your feet impervious to pain.

As CNET explains, “The squared-off slippers are interchangeable between right and left feet, which is handy when you’re fumbling for them in the dark. They come in bright red and yellow with the bold Lego logo on the top of the foot. They have an open back so they can be quickly shuffled onto your feet before you step into a potentially painful area full of little Lego landmines.”

For now this concept is just for a promotional campaign with only 1,500 pairs being given away at this time.  But I’m hopeful that someone else will come along and make these into a real thing just in time for the holiday season.  And if they don’t, I might just have to make a pair myself…out of Legos.

Are Lego Slippers the Greatest Idea Ever?

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