Archive for December, 2010
I want to highlight an interesting Israelian company called Innowattech (http://www.innowattech.co.il/).
They are working on the production of power from renewable resources of energy and in particular from the movement of trains, cars, airplanes and walking people…
The basis for the system is the patented new breed of piezoelectric generators Innowattech Piezo Electric Generator (IPEG™) that have unique abilities to harvest energy from weight, motion, vibration and temperature changes.
There are specific generators for roadways, railways, runways and pedestrians.
The efficiency seems interesting; 1 kilometer of one way motorway can produce up to 100 KW of peak power and in a lengthwise stretch of railway with 10-20 trains/hour it’s possibile to produce up to 120KWh.
More information is available on the company website http://www.innowattech.co.il/ and here http://support.ats.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6731&news_iv_ctrl=1161
I stumble onto this Technology Review paper, I liked it, and thought of sharing it with you:
In the paper there are a number of interesting “facts” and “thoughts” and I really encourage you to take a look at it.
Here I just want to add my two cents, hoping that Gabriele who is the expert, , wants to comment on it.
Television has conquered the attention of at least 3 generations but the millennium one is now growing with the WEB and they get used to a level of interaction and real time sharing that is not part of the television paradigm.
I do not buy completely into the lean back (television) lean forward (Web browsing) alternative. I guess there is a lot of gray in between. Zapping and multiple window on the television screen is an example of that. Watching a streaming concert on the Apple FrontRow is another example. I bet that Facebook is getting ready to provide live shared entertainment channels for the myriads of Social Networks they have created. Just like today we are sharing, in “virtual real time” our latest photo we will be sharing our live show that we happen to view or will piggy back on the one our friends are watching.
This is going to create a sort of mixed lean back/lean forward paradigm.
Another interesting point is that Television is a Closed environment whilst the Web is an Open one. Put something on the television and you start talking about DRM and prime time. Put the same on the web and you are looking for other people to leverage on that, mashing up more information and creating services for a virtual real time consumption (the “virtual” refers to the fact that in principle as soon as I publish something that something can be seen by potentially everybody but at their own pace).
From the fruition point of view my pick is that we are going to have screens all around our home and in our hand that are functionally equivalent but the way I am going to use them will depend on the context (am I with friends or all alone? Do I need an immersive sensation or not?…) and, of course, my mood (well you might say that is part of the context!).
Independently of the specific I believe that the need of bandwidth will skyrocket to support this multichannel mash ups of content in a Social Network environment. Current CDN are not (probably) the most efficient architecture to support this demand and moving the mash ups to the terminal may generate too much bandwidth demand (filling up the Gbps fibre that will be connecting our home) or be too much processing intensive for our battery on our mobile device. Hence a cloud solution customized to each Social Networks (billion of them!) may be something to be considered.
All in all, the fading boundary of Television and the Web will require a lot of bandwidth, new architectures and will open up significant business opportunities for Network Providers, providing, of course, that they focus on connectivity at the service and content level.
I stumble yesterday on a nice slide show about the evolution of the eBook Reader, something I found interesting and I like to share:
As you’ll see looking at the slides, the idea of an eBook (and an eBook Reader) goes back to the 70ies of the last century with the imagination, and work, of Michael Hart, at that time a student at the University of Illinois, who dreamt of a world where all books can be hosted in a computer in a digital form and made available, on demand, to any reader. It is amazing to think what Michael imagined at that time. The Internet was not born and it was difficult to imagine a computer in any hand to read an eBook.
He did more than just dreaming. He found a sponsorship and started to digitize books. The first one was the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America.
It was the start of the project Gutenberg, a project that is still alive in our days and that has made available almost 100,000 books in digital form. Now we can get those books, and read them, through a number of readers, software applications running on many Operating Systems and many devices. Personally, I use Stanza on the iPad and FreeReader on the Galaxy. If Gutenberg is providing the reading material (for free, and there are plenty of others providing both free and pay-to-read material) what has really started the shift from paper to bits is the device, the eBook reader. Probably the first to appear in the mass market was the Sony, exploiting the eInk technology to provide a paper like image of a page.
The success, however came one year after with the Amazon Kindle, now at its third edition. And, of course, this year might be remembered as the one of the eBook reader explosion thanks to the iPad and the following tablets.
So, what’s next? I guess we should expect two trends of evolution: on the one hand better generic devices able to provide reading pages easy to the eyes, with color. E-Ink technology will get better (faster switching time eventually supporting moving images and clips in the second part of this decade) but LCD technology (tablets) will continue to flank it. Whilst the former is likely to be used mostly for books, the second will absorb the lap-top market and will also be used for books. One of the possible evolution is the usage of smart materials as interface, flexible surfaces mimicking the feeling of paper in our hands.
On the other hand we might expect specific, dedicated devices to support the reading of specific material, be it Wikipedia (there is already a Franklin device for that), schoolbooks, enterprise specific documentation and so on. As the device cost will continue to decrease, I think that an increasing space for these specific devices that will be sold in terms of content will become available.
There has been over the last few years a lot of discussion on the demise of newspapers as more and more information is available in the digital space and a new habits for getting daily news is being created. Quite a wave was generated early this year when the Editor in Chief of the New York Times said he was expecting to terminate the paper version within the next 2/3 years. Many reacted with indignation at this prediction.
The appearance of the iPad in April has further fueled the discussion showing in practice that newspapers can be read on-line with a satisfying experience. And the iPad, in turns, has been the harbinger of an avalanche of other tablets (will the tablet market surpass the lap top market by 2015? Many believes so) but even more important it has shown that once newspapers go digital they morph into something different, richer in information and experience.
The paper version, once brought to a digital form, can show clips, can embed links, can be dynamically updated as news flow in, can be a mash ups of several information sources.
This latter aspect has been taken up by Pulse and Flipboard,
And new ones are arriving in these days. One of these is FLUD,
These news aggregators provide the reading experience of a magazine with the plus of delivering to you what you are interested most, since you have the possibility to indicate where your heart lies. This, however, does not cut out the serendipity of discovering new things you weren’t looking for. They are creating a blended experience where what you expect mixes with something else.
By bringing together sources as different as classic newspapers, news agency, Twitter, Facebook and blogs, RSS, you get exposed to a wide variety of news that magically form your personal unique newspaper.
And you can share and discuss the news by sending it to your friends, tweeting on it, post it to your blog and Facebook. In a seamless way you become an actor in the news-space. This morphing of newspapers into a Social Network with you at the centre is what really makes me tick.
I can expect a real revolution in our interfacing with media and a change of role that, I suspect, will change the way we consume the news and the way we use them. I also expect a change in the way news influence our work, our communications with colleagues and clients.
Welcome to the next life of newspapers, an ecosystem with you at the core and so many actors that each single one vanishes from our perception.
IBM, as they did previously, have released their prediction on the five technology innovations that in the next five years will change the rules of the game. Take a look:
1. Who is the best observer on what is going on? You, of course. It is indeed every one of us that moves around every day, interact with the environment and behaves accordingly. Clearly, we are not precise in our observation but in five years time we will bring along a variety of sensors, embedded in our phones, in our dresses, in our cars and their collective harvesting of data coupled with information derived from our “collective” behavior will provide an amazing wealth of information about the environment.
It doesn’t take sophisticated observation to create a global picture: you notice that a stream is drying up, that mosquitos are appearing and so on. Put all this information together and scientists will have a tremendous data base to analyze. Mesh networks created by the hundreds of thousands of devices will ensure connectivity, since the transmission of these data do not suffer from delay or latency created bby hopping from one device to the next.
2. 3D images will become the usual way for communicate and holographic displays will recreate a sense of being there. On this one let me be skeptical: I believe that for this all decade holography will remain a curiosity and not a mass market hit. 3D will be quite widespread as more television screen will be 3D enabled and more content will be provided in 3D but I do not think that this will be changing our way of communications. Personally, I feel that ultra high resolution screens will do more to change our perception of communications than 3D.
3. A big leap is expected on the energy side, with some technologies able to use the oxygen of the air around us to create electrical energy. Also IBM futurologists expect that the decrease in chips power consumption will allow different ways of harvesting power, like using statics (rubbing a cell phone on your sleeve) to recharge a battery. Although I believe that we will continue to see significant improvement in energy production technology and will have less power hungry devices the overall increase of the digitalization will push for more and more energy need.
4. Still in the area of energy IBM foresee a growth in co-generation; the usage of the heath produced by data centres (estimated to swallow 4% of the overall energy production in Japan by 2015) to heat buildings is just but an example.
5. Smart commuting will be matter of fact in five years with systems that can predict the traffic patterns and guide commuters to the best path form A to B. We already have the potential for capturing traffic information by looking at the movements of cell phones and mapping their trajectory on roads. Analyzing their “habits’ patterns can be found and directions can be provided to individual commuters. In a way, this prediction is quit straightforward since it is based on technologies that are already honed and just need to be put in practice. On the other hand smart commuting requires the adoption by a significant number of commuters before proving its advantages. And this may lead to a very long evolution. On the other hand, once a critical point is reached an avalanche effect may ensue.
The world has shrunk, thanks to telecommunications but it is still, luckily, a wonderful quilt of traditions and culture. So here it is Christmas, as in many other places, but in some other Christmas is not a celebrated holiday.
Everywhere, however, we feel the pleasure of being close to our loved ones and telecommunications can bring virtually close also those separated by geographical distance. And communications is bringing all culture closer to share understanding and the aspiration of peace and well being. Our best wishes from the Future Centre to all of you, wherever you are, whatever your culture for a common dream of friendship.
Christmas is knocking and I want to share with you a product produced by a company in Pennsylvania, Memory Medallion Inc, http://www.memorymedallion.com/.
It is a small token containing a computer that can store up to 320 MB and can communicate with a nearby cell phone releasing the information it contains. The idea is that over your life you can create a web site (or possibly mark the information you keep posting on Facebook) and then you can share this snippets of you once you leave this Earth. On the one hand you may feel inappropriate talking about departing from this world on Christmas eve, on the other and Christmas is about family and remembrance and this is what this device promises to do. Before posting I double check with my daughter and her reaction to this was: “it is beautiful to have the opportunity of keeping your memory alive with your voice and images for the ones you have loved”. Hence, I decided to go ahead and publish it.
Of course, this applications goes in synch with the comments I made yesterday on the amazing dissemination of computers everywhere.
The Memory Medaillon is now on offer for 175$ and it comes with tools to let you record your voice, video clips of yourself and more. It can be placed on a tombstone and people stopping by can access the content using their phone.
It has recently been used for the remembrance of several people who fell under the September 11th twin towers attack.
According to the company a possible use is to create a sort of family tree that gets more and more content over the generations. An option is to create a website and the medallion becomes just a pointer to that website to be browsed by a cell phone.
The application of this idea can be many. Indeed, this sort of medallion may accompany any product to tell the story of its production, the people who manufactured it, possible applications and so on. But these are commercial applications and being Christmas eve I prefer to think at the possibility offered by computers to provide emotions over the years.
Well, I couldn’t. Look at the picture and guess!
They are electronic hooks produced by Pro Troll, and they are worth taking a look at: http://www.protroll.com/
Chips have found a way into the fishing gear: a tiny computer inside the crawler generates electrical signals mimicking the ones emitted by a wounded fish. This awakes the interest of nearby predators that go straight to the bait and of course get hooked. Now, you might say that it is completely unfair resorting to technology to catch fish in a pond, but there you are.
Anyhow, this devices stimulates me to think about the tremendous variety of applications computers might have. According to a figure provided by Intel this year the chip (microprocessor) market will reach 300 Billion $ and of that the portion taken by computers and smart phone (what we would tend to recognize as objects using microprocessors) is estimated between one third and a half. This means that something like 150/200 billion $ have been spent of microprocessors that ended up in something we would not call a computer, like a crawler…
Also, considering that most of these alternative applications of chips are not targeting expensive products one has to infer that in terms of number microchips usage in objects other than computers and smartphone outnumbers them by at least 1-2 orders of magnitude!
Clearly this is a trend that is bound to continue in the future and the penetration of (tiny) intelligence in objects all around us will change our perception of the world. At least, this is my pic!
Big screens have started to appear in shops with clips running to attract the attention of the shoppers. Are they really effective? This is the question being asked by owners and this is something researchers are working on to find a good answer.
A new company, CognoVision http://www.cognovision.com/, is ready to provide it. They are offering video screens with an embedded camera. Their software analyses the images captured by the camera and is able to detect faces and determine the gender and the approximate age. Based on this information the appropriate clip is selected and shown, therefore increasing the probability of engaging the customer.
But it doesn’t end there. The camera will keep watching you as you are watching the clip and the software will be able to detect if you are pleased with what you see and possibly customize in real time the video based on your reactions.
A little bit intrusive? Yes, for sure but in a way advertisement is intrusive and the more effective it is the more it is! Marketeers team up with sociologists and psychologists to dig into our minds and look for ways to etch their message into our brains conditioning our behavior.