Author Archives: Nicholas Brown

About Nicholas Brown

Nicholas Brown, a writer on Cleantechnica and Gas 2, has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, geography, and much more. He is also interested in developing energy-efficient technologies. Follow him on Twitter: @Kompulsa. Like Kompulsa's Facebook page at:

If only braking was as simple as pressing a pedal. The uncertain outcome of a pedal depression is nerve-racking and dangerous. This, combined with the issue of distraction makes braking an enormous issue. In response to that, Ford and other automobile manufacturers are introducing automatic braking in the future.

Ford Fusion Automated Research Vehicle. Image Credit: Kompulsa / Nicholas Brown.

Ford Fusion Automated Research Vehicle.
Image Credit: Kompulsa / Nicholas Brown.

Ford just announced technology which provides 'pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection'. This technology uses a windshield-mounted camera to match shapes against a database of pedestrian shapes to help it distinguish between pedestrians and objects.

The technology's next step of operation is to estimate the probability of a collision and alert the driver. If the driver doesn't respond, the car will start to depress the brake pads in order to decrease the gap between them and the discs, and then it will stop accelerating and start braking automatically.

There is the age-old question of whether or not the purpose of safety technology is defeated by encouraging people to be more careless. That sounds unlikely, but I would personally prefer if there was a system like this was in place to reduce the numerous accidents caused by inattention and carelessness.

Ford's first vehicle to implement this technology is the 2015 Mondeo. It will be available in Europe this year.

Apart from that, according to Stan Schroeder of Mashable:

This isn't the first time we've seen collision-detection technology. The 2014 Lexus LS touted a complete stop at up to 24 mph if it detected a pedestrian. And Volvo has promised complete stops at up to 22 mph since early 2010.

You can consider pre-collision technology the precursor to self-driving car technology. Self-driving vehicle technology is on its way. Ford and Google have been proving its capabilities with outright self-driving cars (Google), and automated vehicles such as the Ford Fusion I saw at the Detroit Auto Show.

Dyson, a company known for their fans and vacuum cleaners has created a humidifier which disinfects the water using ultraviolet (UV) lamp technology.

They said that traditional humidifiers are 'germ cannons' because they don't purify water before releasing it in the air.

Is this a major issue? While I haven't examined water on a molecular level, I don't think this is a major issue at all, because it is just as clean as the water you drink (which isn't that dirty).

However, if you want pristine water vapour, Dyson can offer that (no one wants to be blasted with life-threatening bacteria). However, their humidifier appears to use the Dyson bladeless fan technology which is prohibitively expensive (They start at $300 USD for the 10" model).

Since traditional fans cost a tiny fraction of that of a Dyson fan ($40 for a 16" one vs $300 for a 10" Dyson), and UV lamps are also well under $100 USD, manufacturers may respond with low-cost disinfecting humidifiers that work just as well as the Dyson.

A humidifier is one of the simplest and cheapest electrical appliances to ever exist. All they do is wet a material and pass air through it. So if you aren't a fan of Dyson's high-end products, I would recommend waiting for the cheaper alternatives to be commercialized.

According to Mashable:

Dyson says there were 643 prototypes, and it cost more that $60 million to develop the device. No word on retail price, but if Dyson's Air Multiplier fans are any indication, you are not going to find this humidifier in any bargain-discount sections.

If you are in the U.S., don't expect to get your hands on a Dyson humidifier in time for winter. The device does not hit stateside until fall 2015.

I know that some of us like to DIY (including myself). If you are suffering from dry skin, nosebleeds, or other complications due to low humidity in the winter, a simple way to help heat the room and humidify the air is to boil water in it.

Source: Mashable.

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AT&T has launched a campaign to discourage people from texting while driving using the hashtag #ItCanWait. It encourages drivers to send #x to anyone they are currently texting before they start driving. The #x indicates they are about to drive so they'll stop texting them until further notice.

Demi Lovato did an advertisement with AT&T to promote the #X for the #ItCanWait campaign, demonstrating how easy it is to send #x to pause conversations.

Video Credit: AT&T on YouTube.

As she said: No text is worth a life! Texting while driving causes thousands of accidents per year in the United States. According to the IIHS, people who are talking on cellphones (whether via text or voice) while driving are four times more likely to be injured in an accident.

The worst issue at play here is operation of the phone. Texting requires your full attention because you have to look down at your phone and operate it. Drivers who were dialing numbers and texting got into far more accidents than those who were simply talking. Not to say that talking while driving is acceptable either.

The #X #ItCanWait campaign is directly at teenagers especially. The young generations use smartphones very heavily.

Sadly, the IIHS reported that bans on the use of cellphones while driving had little to no effect on accident rates, indicating that people don't take this seriously enough. This proves the necessity of the campaign.

They said:

Despite any effects on phone use and texting, there is little evidence so far that banning hand-held phone use or texting reduces crashes. A 2009 analysis found that hand-held bans had no effect on insurance collision claim rates. Researchers compared rates of claims for crash damage in three states and the District of Columbia before and after hand-held phone use bans went into effect and found no significant change in claim rates for two jurisdictions relative to comparison states and small, but significant, increases in claim rates in the other two.

Apple's first phablet, the iPhone 6 Plus is one way to get a larger screen without buying a tablet, and you can fit it in your pocket. However, Apple hasn't given up on tablets. They have now made the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 3 available for preorder.

As was the case with netbooks, tablets, pocket PCs, laptops, and many other devices, one can't suit everyone.

The iPad screens are bigger and better for viewing movies, playing games, and shared activities with your siblings or friends, but they must be carried in your hand, a backpack, or another case you can wear.

The iPad Air 2 price starts at $500 for the 16 GB model with Wi-Fi only, $600 for 64 GB, and $700 for 128 GB. The LTE versions of all the iPad Air 2 models cost an additional $30. They come in silver, gold, and space gray. The iPad Air 2 is equipped with Touch ID, a fingerprint recognition system.

You can preorder them on Apple's website.

If you're interested in the smaller, more affordable iPad Mini 3, these start at $400 for the 16GB model, $500 for the 64 GB model, and $600 for the 128 GB model.

 An Old Problem That Still Hasn't Been Resolved

The iPads support the most common MP3 and lossless WAV file formats. However Apple hasn't implemented support for the Ogg or FLAC file formats.

MP3 files are often twice the size of (and slightly lower quality than) Ogg Vorbis files (these end with the extension .ogg). Ogg isn't a new format. It is already supported on nearly all tablets and phones, including Android and Blackberry.

FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) is a lossless audio format which is 40% smaller than WAV files. It enables audiophiles to enjoy the best sound quality and save a great deal of space.

There is no catch to using Ogg or FLAC.

You can preorder the iPad Mini 3 on Apple's website.

Source: Mashable.

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Over the years, there have been several attempts to build extra-environmentally friendly solar farms, incorporating traditional farming with its 21st century cousins — sheep and free-range poultry ranging in between and underneath solar panels, grazing and generally keeping things tidy.

In the same tradition as these farms, Primrose Solar has selected Solarcentury to help build a solar farm to the highest environmental standards in Portsmouth, using a holistic approach to the construction and operation.

Solar farm with wildflowers Image Credit: Solarcentury

We don’t normally cover small project announcements — the Portsmouth solar farm, to be located on the Southwick Estate in Fareham, is coming in at only 48 MW.

However, from my days covering global warming and climate change through to today, where I cover mostly investment and analysis, I have always had a penchant for the “extra-effort,” so to speak.

The Southwick solar farm will generate 48 MW of solar power, which is enough to power approximately 11,000 homes, and is expected to begin construction this month.

But in addition to adhering to the usual STA 10 commitments, Solarcentury will be taking it a step further, “piloting an environmentally stringent onsite waste and energy management programme,” while in turn, Primrose Solar will take “an industry-leading approach to biodiversity and ecological enhancements at the site.”

Primrose Solar is already working with Wychwood Biodiversity to carry out a full ecological survey and initiate the creation of a habitat management plan for the site. According to Solarcentury’s press release:

Wildflowers will be sown using native seed mix to help reverse declining pollinator species such as bees and butterflies whose habitats have been decimated by intensive farming practices in recent decades. In autumn and winter, sheep will be grazed among the panels, so the land will be used for food production as well as producing clean solar electricity.

“Our responsible approach to building solar farms, together with Primrose Solar’s continued investment over the lifetime of the project, is really going to make Southwick solar farm an environmentally robust site,” said Frans van den Heuvel, Solarcentury’s CEO.

“Our waste and energy management programme will see a number of new initiatives employed during the build that we’re looking to roll out across all of our future sites.”

Looking beyond the agricultural aspects of the project, during construction, Solarcentury will be relying on solar-powered and biodiesel generators, onsite food provision to minimise lunchtime driving, recycling as much as possible (including the food and canteen waste), on-site composting toilet facilities, car sharing, and a CCTV setup running on hydrogen fuel cells.

“We are excited about setting a new environmental standard for building Southwick solar farm, working together with Solarcentury, a perfect choice for the build because of our shared values,” said Giles Clark, CEO Primrose Solar.

“And this is just the start. We’re in this for the long term. For the next 25 years, Primrose wants to be a ‘good neighbour’: supporting the local community and working with the landowner to demonstrate responsible stewardship of the land for the lifetime of the solar farm.”

Source: Cleantechnica. Reproduced with permission.

Wearable technology doesn't have to be the same shape or size of a watch. Yet many companies are trying so hard make them resemble traditional watches. Analog watches are built the way that they are because that is what suits them best. I think agrees.

He is now selling a wearable phone shaped like a bracelet called the Puls (possibly under his product line). It is not a smartwatch, and it does not require a phone, which is reminiscent of the Timex Ironman One GPS which doesn't require one either.

The Puls has 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, Wi-Fi, 3G, GPS, and the other basics. The Puls has a large, curved screen, which may make it easier to type text messages and dial numbers.

The Puls would have looked too chunky if it was designed like a traditional smartwatch, hence the curved, bracelet design.

According to VentureBeat:

'In addition to texting and calling, the Puls can also track location and steps, since the device will be connected through a cellular network (no word on pricing related to mobile connectivity). So, it also has a (limited) fitness application for runners.

The most unusual aspect of the device is its ability to take calls without holding it up to your mouth. I conducted a phone call with my hands by my side; I could hear the call crystal clear through the speaker and, more impressively, the caller could hear me talk at a normal volume.' says that 'consumption' will eventually shifted to tablets, while communications tasks will be taken over by other devices like the Puls.

The Impact Of The Puls And Similar Devices On Privacy

That is a possibility. However, I think most people are unlikely to start wearing earphones all the time just in case of a phone call, because a wrist phone won't offer you the privacy that a handset does.

You can speak at a lower volume during phone calls, and no one else can hear the other person on the line.

When you receive text messages, they may show up on your wrist so people beside you can see them. Strangers will also see who is calling and hear them clearly. A step forward for convenience, and a step backward for privacy.

Source: VentureBeat.

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There are many activity tracking devices on the market, but they serve different purposes and people. Some of the most basic, and oldest ones include stopwatches and calorie counters. Some are designed for swimmers, however, the founder of Xmetrics found them all to be too inconvenient.

Massimiliano Rosolino Putting An Xmetrics Tracker on his head. Image obtained with thanks from Xmetrics.

Massimiliano Rosolino Putting An Xmetrics Tracker on his head.
Image obtained with thanks from Xmetrics.

Xmetrics is a wearable technology for swimmers' heads that has a 9-axis mechanical sensor which provides the swimmer with services similar to what a coach would, such as speed measurement. It also provides the swimmer with audible feedback.

Video: Eli Regalado on YouTube.

'It’s like having your own coach whispering in your ear to keep you focused', according to Xmetrics founder Andrea Rinaldo.

'With this device, a swimmer will make his or her stroke count, will get a real-time audio feedback on performance, biological feedback and enjoy a design which is made for comfort and convenience,' adds Rinaldo while explaining the benefits that the users of this device will derive from its usage.

Image obtained with thanks from Xmetrics.

Image obtained with thanks from Xmetrics.

There are other similar technologies on the market such as the Garmin Swim Watch with Garmin Connect for $150, which can display speed, time, distance, strokes, and more. However, the Garmin Swim Watch doesn't serve quite the same purpose, as the Garmin tells them afterwards (which is perfectly fine as well).

If you're willing to spend more to get feedback underwater, you can check out the Xmetrics Indiegogo campaign.

Other features include wireless data upload capability so you can analyze and track your progress on your iPhone, Windows, or Android smartphone via their app.

Financial Benefits Of Swim Watches Like The Xmetrics And Garmin Swim Watch

The greatest financial benefit by far of electronic coach technology is that you won't have to hire a coach if you don't want to.

The downside is that typically, nothing is more inspiring than a real person. Of course, you can only achieve that level of inspiration if you find the right coach.

Source: Xmetrics Indiegogo Campaign (linked above).

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I've been monitoring and writing about battery technology advancements for years, and was let down so many times. This time, a li-ion battery technology that can be recharged to 70% in 2 minutes has been developed, and it can theoretically last 20 years!

NTU's Assoc Professor Chen Xiaodong with research fellow Tang Yuxin and PhD student Deng Jiyang. Image obtained with thanks from NTU.

NTU's Assoc Professor Chen Xiaodong with research fellow Tang Yuxin and PhD student Deng Jiyang.
Image obtained with thanks from NTU.

This technology is facilitated by the use of a titanium dioxide-based gel in the anode, unlike conventional lithium-ion batteries which often contain graphite anodes. Titanium dioxide is an abundant, cheap, and non-toxic material. That is a step in the right direction for battery manufacturing.

According to NTU,

Naturally found in spherical shape, the NTU team has found a way to transform the titanium dioxide into tiny nanotubes, which is a thousand times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. This speeds up the chemical reactions taking place in the new battery, allowing for superfast charging.

The previous advancements usually had a significant flaw, or just didn't make it to the market, or at least not yet. For example: MIT's battery that charges in 20 seconds, and is cheaper than the others.

That was one of few technologies which didn't appear to have any serious flaws. It would be a game changer if it was commercialized.

It could have a great impact on the electric vehicle industry. A key issue affecting electric vehicle adoption is battery charge time. If electric vehicles could recharge quickly enough, they would not need much range. Range is currently an issue because people won't want to sit in a public place for hours waiting for their vehicles to charge.

People rarely drive more than 30 miles at a time, and even if they wanted to do a 400-mile trip in a car that has only 80 miles of range, they could recharge it for 2 minutes every 80 miles (or ever 30-60 minutes). While that isn't difficult, if you think it is, most people won't have to do it anyway.

Some think that electric vehicles must amount to the 300-500 mile range that gasoline-powered vehicles have, but this isn't necessary. Gas tanks are cheap enough to just make them bigger. Most people's gas tanks can last longer than a week, so they don't even bother to refill them daily.

Apart from that, electric vehicles have the other benefit of recharging at home overnight daily so the user won't have to go to a gas station, and they will have their full range every day, unlike gas-powered vehicle users which can't have that luxury.

This Battery Technology's Impact On Electric Planes

The electric plane industry hasn't taken off yet, and is struggling to do so. However, i'm sure that electric planes could benefit from a reduced recharge time. Planes will sometimes need to top up between flights, and time is of the essence in the airline industry.

The ability to recharge to 70% in two minutes might help the airline industry take another big step towards the electrification of planes.

This technology was developed by a team of researchers including Prof Chen Xiaodong, Tang Yuxin and PhD student Deng Jiyang at Nanyang Technology University (NTU) in Singapore.

Source: NTU.

Follow me on Twitter: @Kompulsa.

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Samsung has introduced a new 60 GHz Wi-Fi technology that can achieve speeds up to 4.6 Gbps.

They said it can download a 1 GB movie in 3 seconds (or less) if an excellent Internet connection is used.

As the Daily Digest News writer Craig Manning said:

Of course, Samsung also notes something that just about anyone who has ever used the internet already knows: real-life Wi-Fi speeds do not always live up to what hardware is actually capable of. In order to take advantage of the full potential of the new super-speed Wi-Fi band, users will have to have a “best case scenario” where their router, modem, internet service provider, and all other items are working perfectly.

Samsung hopes to implement this new Wi-Fi technology in devices, starting in 2015.

Factors Which Can Affect Performance, Regardless of How Fast Wi-Fi Technology Gets

Your Internet Connection

It is important to remember that a Wi-Fi network is not an Internet connection, but a wireless local network that enables you to connect to a modem.

Your Internet download speeds are mostly dependent on your Internet connection, because Internet connections are normally much slower than Wi-FI networks.

Wi-Fi Signal Strength

You could have the fastest Wi-Fi network and Internet connection in the world, and still experience poor performance.

Venturing too far away from your router can weaken your W-Fi signal and result in a patchy, unreliable connection. Ensure that you minimize any possible signal obstructions (including walls), and of course: Place your router closest to the area that you spend most of your time.

Will This New Wi-Fi Band Affect 4G Usage Rates?

Here are some factors to consider:

  • People who spend most of their time at home especially will enjoy this, and even deem 4G unnecessary.
  • People who spend most of their time at home and in offices with decent Wi-Fi connections may not need 4G.

Note: A lowercase 'b' denotes a bit, and an uppercase 'B' denotes a byte. A byte is 8 bits. Therefore, a Gb is a gigabit, and a GB is a gigabyte.

Main source: Daily Digest News.

Follow me on Twitter: @Kompulsa.

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Sony's Xperia Z3v has a 4K camera, which is awfully high for a smartphone camera, but bear in mind that 4K just means that its video resolution is up to 3840 x 2160 pixels (some are a little below that, but not far). 4K, HD, and megapixel (MP) ratings are not a measure of quality, just resolution.

The rear camera is 20 MP, and the front one is 2.2 MP. As part of their focus on making this a high-resolution phone overall, Sony also implemented support for high-res audio.

According to Pete Pachal from Mashable:

The rear camera is an impressive 20 megapixels, and it has a varied bag of tricks: There's a time-lapse mode that lets you pick the part of clip that you want slowed down. It's only 120 frames per second — not as good as the iPhone 6's 240fps slo-mo mode — but the flexibility is nice to have. The phone also lets you combine pics from the rear camera and the 2.2MP front camera in creative ways, like putting one person's face on someone else's body.

Sony Could Have Made The Z3v Even More Competitive

If I was Sony, I would have focused more on the overall camera quality of the Z3v than resolution. The areas in which all smartphones fail include, but are not limited to:

  • Screen brightness is never adequate outdoors without significant shading.
  • Horrible speakers.
  • The inability to block out loud ambient distractions during phone calls.

Here is where Sony nailed it:

PS4 RemotePlay: Playstation 4 players can stream gameplay from their console in real time to the Xperia Z3v. Players can also stream gameplay simultaneously to their TV and the Z3v.

Water resistance was a good idea in my opinion. Water resistant watches are standard now because people have them on their wrists most of the time when outdoors. People now have their phones in their hands so often (too often, if you ask me) that they are bound to get a little wet at some point, or have to put them away every time it drizzles.

Source: Mashable.

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