Albert Einstein once said “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted”
Cue talk of smart cities and open databases. You begin to get a sense of the potential from projects such as the UCL CityDashboard which shows many of the data feeds available as a dashboard. You can quickly see London temp, air quality, traffic reports, public transport updates.
The practical application of this sort of work is still fairly hazy and rings slightly of what one Forum collaborator has called ‘data spectatorship’ but the potential is there for programmes like this to play a very useful role for future cities.
Using your intuition on whether your child's nappy needs changing could soon be a thing of the past thanks to a group of Japanese researchers who have unveiled an organic disposable sensor to potentially be used in diapers.
In addition to use in infants' diapers, the technology can be applied to adult nappies, which are a big seller in rapidly ageing Japan.
Regular diapers change colour to indicate they are wet, but a caregiver still needs to take off the wearer's clothes to see. "If sensing is done electronically, you can tell simply by coming close to the wearer - without unclothing him or her," Prof Someya said.
Similar ideas have purported to monitor nutrional deficinecies and give the health warnings for the wearer.
Keeping up with the neighbours has been used time immemorial to encourage greater consumerism but could it now be used to reduce consumption rates?
E.On, OPower and British Gas have all offered customers the chance to compare energy bills with similar households in the area. Just showing 'what the neighbours paid' (all info is kept anonymous of course) is an effective nudge to get users to save more energy.
Now, a Californian utility company has just finished trialling a similar service for neighbours to compare water use, with some remarkable results: in addition to using on average 5% less water over the trial period, participants were then twice as likely to participate in further conservation efforts, and six times as likely to request a home audit to get more advice on saving water.
We all want well maintained lawns, but most mowers (whether electric or petrol powered) leave us scratching our heads when it comes to finding a way to do this sustainably.
Now, however, a group of engineers and business students from Virginia have come up with a design which proves that the grass does not always have to be greener on the other side: a self-propelled lawnmower powered by the very biomass it collects.
Whilst you are busy trying to catch up with/understand Bitcoin there are digital currencies emerging all over the place. One of the latest ones is SolarCoin. The currency is a "bitcoin-style asset, pegged to units of photovoltaic energy".
"Each SolarCoin can be exchanged for 1MW/hr of solar energy. According to the SolarCoin Foundation, which is stewarding the coin, each unit equates to emissions savings of 1,500lbs of CO2."
SolarCoin will not require as intensive computing to generate each coin and the idea is that awarding "coins to solar energy producers will create fresh incentives for them to invest in solar PV capacity."
Google has patented a 'free' taxi service to take customers directly to business locations.
Advertisements will feature a 'take me there' button, an algorithm will calculate whether the potential profit to the retailer (who will front the bill) offsets the cost of travel, in which case the service would be provided for free. The spookiest bit though? Google plans to use driverless cars for the journey.
Google already collects huge amounts of traffic and location data and driverless cars perhaps not as far away as might be believed. Either way, this looks like a good way to allow businesses and customers to use it to everyone's advantage.
Facebook are currently trialling a ‘Donate Now’ button for non-profit pages which allows users to give money over facebook without being redirected.
Hopefully, this will increase donations by negating the gap between a user becoming aware of an issue and actually taking the action. However, it does mean facebook will get its' hands on coveted financial details of users...
The system is currently being trialled with 19 organisations, including WWF and Unicef.
Also in 'Facebook news': most fans won’t see a page’s posts on their news feed ‘organically’ unless the company/brand pays for promotion. Although this means users pages will see a decline in the bombardment of adverts the move is likely to hurt non-profits that lack the resources to match big companies and brands in ad spending.
Hundreds of tiny windmills embedded into phone sleeves could be the future of charging on the move.
Researchers at the University of Texas have developed these miniscule 1.8mm windmills in the hope that they will one day be used to charge mobile phones and other devices.
Made from a flexible nickel alloy, small enough to fit ten of them on a single grain of rice, the researchers believe that they will be able to generate enough energy to power a phone. As one of the creators, J. C. Chiao, explains, “When the phone is out of battery power all you need to do is to put on the sleeve, wave it in the air for a few minutes and you can use the phone again.”
Cycling is already one of the greenest ways to travel, but thanks to a Bangkok design company it could become even better!
Lightfog Creative & Design Company’s design for the ‘Photosynthesis Bike’, as it has been dubbed, would convert sunlight into energy using an on-board lithium-ion battery and water tank. The energy produced would then power an air filter located between the handlebars, which would strip the air of pollutants and release clean air towards the rider. This feature would also continue to work even when the bike is not being ridden. As the Creative Director of the company explains, “we wanted to add more value to a bicycle by adding the ability to reduce pollution.”
The future of food is upon us. Well, according to innovation, research and advisory firm Stylus it is. They have predicted these new developments in the food market:
2014 could see food labelling become more accurate, and less reliant on eco-unfriendly stickers, through new techniques such as food tattooing or edible QR codes. Originally trialled in a Californian sushi restaurant to allow diners to verify the providence of their seafood, if successful we could see edible QR codes everywhere.
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