Climate Crisis: Population Growth in Coming Years

trafficWhen it comes to populations and environmental problems, cities are at the very heart of the issue. Not only are they where the majority of humanity lives, a reality which will only get worse as time goes on, they are also the source of most of our pollution, waste, and land use. People require space to live and work, as well as food, water and

Last year, the world’s population increased to 7 billion, which represents a seven-fold increase in the space of the last two centuries. What’s more, the proportion of people living in urban centers (as opposed to rural) shot up from 3% to almost half of the world’s people. This rate of population growth and redistribution is unprecedented, and is not likely to slow down anytime soon.

urbanworld_50Consider the following series of infographics which were released by Unicef with the help of the design studio Periscopic. Titled “An Urban World”, they illustrate the issues of population growth and distribution. This interactive, HTML5 visualization of the world covers the years of 1950-2050. But rather than showing our geographic boundaries, every country* is depicted only by their population living in urban environments.

As you can see, each country is represented by a circle that depicts the number of people living in urban environments. As these populations grow, the circles get bigger. And as urban populations get more dense, the circles shift from green to blue to yellow to fuchsia. Immediately, a glaring fact is made clear: the problem is getting worse and at an alarming rate.

urbanworld_2000In addition, there are several nuggets of info which are staggering and particularly worrisome. For example, by 2050, both China and India will have about a billion people living in cities alone. In addition, since the 1990s, more than 75% of the U.S. population has lived in cities. At one time, the US was an outlier in this regard, but found ourselves joined over the next two decades by France, Spain, the U.K., Mexico, Korea, Australia, and Brazil.

But of course, this growth need not be a bad thing. When all is said and done, humanity has a choice. One the one hand, these megacities can take the form of smartly scaled communities of loosely populated expanses and efficient agriculture. On the other, they could easily take the form of urban slums and underdeveloped countrysides that are stricken by poverty and filthy.

urbanworld_2050It’s a complex issue, no doubt about it, especially when you consider the flip side to the whole equation. As the saying goes, every new life means a new mouth to feed, but also a pair of working hands. What’s more, studies have shown that people living in cities tend to be far more energy efficient, and that energy surplus is usually directed toward more and more technological growth and innovation.

Seen in this light, the massive cities of the future could be hubs for the ongoing development of new energies and creative living solutions. And with more people living in large, connected, interdependent environments, the more business startups, ideas, and contributions were likely to get. Part of the reason we have seen so much progress in solar, piezoelectric motors, and bio-electricity is because of this trend. More growth will conversely mean more clean energy.

overpopulation Quite the paradox, really. Who knew people could be both the cause and solution to the world’s worst problem! In the meantime, feel free to head on over to the Unicef site and watch this interactive infographic. Just press play, and watch the cities of the world swell at the edges, competing for room on the page as they compete for room on this planet.

Also, be sure to take a gander at this infographic from BBC Future that demonstrates the current population of the world’s major cities per square meter, the projected population per square meter by 2050, and the livability rating of the city in question. They even provide some context at the bottom by showing the size of relative spaces – from prison cells to Olympic swimming pools, and comparing that to the average space an urban dweller enjoys.

city_spaces
Sources:
bbc.com, fastcodesign.com
, unicef.org

News 2050: Towers, Hypersonic Jets, Digital Eyes

BrightFuture Came across these in a recent research stint. It’s from BBC Future’s “What if?” section and is segment that deals with the coming decades, entitled News 2050. In a series of mock newscasts, they address likely scenarios from the future, looking at everything from emerging technology to environmental, social and political issues.

Here’s a sampling of what they’ve covered so far:

The world’s first 10,000 meter tower:

Hypersonic flights take-off:

Digital Eye Unveiled:


Pretty cool huh? And fun and educational. I’ll be looking for more of these segments from now on…

The Future of Cities and Urban Planning

future-city-1With the development of vertical farms, carbon capture technology, clean energy and arcologies, the future of city life and urban planning is likely to be much different than it does today. Using current trends, there are a number of people who are determined to gain some understanding of what that might look like. One such group is Arup, a design and engineering firm that produced a mockup that visualizes what urban environments will look like in 2050.

Based on the world as it is today, certain facts about the future seem relatively certain. For starters, three-quarters of the population will live in cities, or 6.75 billion of the projected 9 billion global total. In addition, everyone will have grown up with the Internet, and its successors, and city residents will have access to less natural resources than they do today, making regeneration and efficiency more of a priority.

Add to this several emerging technologies, and our urban environments are likely to look something like the building mockup below. As you can see, it has its own energy systems (“micro-wind,” “solar PV paint,” and “algae facade” for producing biofuels). There is an integrated layer for meat, poultry, fish, and vegetable farming, a “building membrane” that converts CO2 to oxygen, heat recovery surfaces, materials that phase change and repair themselves, integration with the rest of the city, and much more.

future_urban_planning

Most futuristic of all is the fact that the structure is completely modular and designed to be shifted about (by robots, of course). The building has three layer types, with different life-spans. At the bottom is a permanent layer – with a 10 to 20-year lifespan – which includes the “facade and primary fit-out walls, finishes, or on-floor mechanical plant” – and a third layer that can incorporate rapid changes, such as new IT equipment.

As Arup’s Josef Hargrave described the building when unveiling the design:

[A]ble to make informed and calculated decisions based on their surrounding environment… [a] living and breathing [structure] able to support the cities and people of tomorrow.

In short, the building is designed with personal needs in mind, based on information gleamed from a person’s behaviors, stated preferences, and even genetic information.

aircleaning_skyscraper3But what is even more interesting is how these buildings will be constructed. As countless developments are made in the field of robotics, biotechnology and nanotechnology, both the materials used and the processes involved are likely to be radically different. The rigid construction that we are used to is likely to give way to buildings which are far more flexible, adaptive, and – best of all – built by robots, drones, tiny machines and bacteria cultures.

Once again, this change is due mainly to the pressures that are being placed on urban environments, and not just technological advances. As our world becomes even more densely populated, greater proportions of people live in urban environments, and resources become more constrained, the way we build our cities must offer optimum efficiency with minimal impact.

nanomachineryTowards this end, innovations in additive manufacturing, synthetic biology, swarm robotics, and architecture suggest a future scenario when buildings may be designed using libraries of biological templates and constructed with biosynthetic materials able to sense and adapt to their conditions.

What this means is that cities could be grown, or assembled at the atomic level, forming buildings that are either living creatures themselves, or composed of self-replicated machines that can adapt and change as needed. Might sound like science fiction, but countless firms and labs are working towards this very thing every day.

It has already been demonstrated that single cells are capable of being programmed to carry out computational operations, and that DNA strains are capable of being arranged to carry out specialized functions. Given the rapid progress in the field of biotech and biomimetics (technology that imitates biology), a future where the built environment imitates organic life seems just around the corner.

biofabrication For example, at Harvard there is a biotech research outfit known as Robobees that is working on a concept known as “programming group dynamics”. Like corals, beehives, and termite colonies, there’s a scalar effect gained from coordinating large numbers of simple agents to perform complex goals. Towards this end, Robobees has been working towards the creation of robotic insects that exhibit the swarming behaviors of bees.

Mike Rubenstein leads another Harvard lab, known as Kilobot, which is dedicated to creating a “low cost scalable robot system for demonstrating collective behaviors.” His lab, along with the work of researcher’s like Nancy Lynch at MIT, are laying the frameworks for asynchronous distributed networks and multi-agent coordination, aka swarm robotics, that would also be capable of erecting large structures thanks to centralized, hive-mind programming.

nanorobot1

In addition to MIT, Caltech, and various academic research departments, there are also scores of private firms and DIY labs looking to make things happen. For example, the companies Autodesk Research and Organovo recently announced a partnership where they will be combining their resources – modelling the microscopic organic world and building bioprinters – to begin biofabricating everything from drugs to nanomachines.

And then there are outfits like the Columbia Living Architecture Lab, a group that explores ways to integrate biology into architecture. Their recent work investigates bacterial manufacturing, the genetic modification of bacteria to create durable materials. Envisioning a future where bacterial colonies are designed to print novel materials at scale, they see buildings wrapped in seamless, responsive, bio-electronic envelopes.

ESA_moonbaseAnd let’s not forget 3D printing, a possibility which is being explored by NASA and the European Space Agency as the means to create a settlement on the Moon. In the case of the ESA, they have partnered with roboticist Enrico Dini, who created a 3-D printer large enough to print houses from sand. Using his concept, the ESA hopes to do the same thing using regolith – aka. moon dust – to build structures on Earth’s only satellite.

All of these projects are brewing in university and corporate labs, but it’s likely that there are far more of them sprouting in DIY labs and skunkworks all across the globe. And in the end, each of them is dedicated to the efficiency of natural systems, and their realization through biomimetic technology. And given that the future is likely to be characterized by resources shortages, environmental degradation and the need for security, it is likely to assume that all of these areas of study are likely to produce some very interesting scenarios.

As I’ve said many times before, the future is likely to be a very interesting place, thanks to the convergence of both Climate Change and technological change. With so many advances promising a future of post-scarcity, post-mortality, a means of production and a level of control over our environment which is nothing short of mind-boggling – and a history of environmental degradation and resource depletion that promises shortages, scarcity, and some frightening prospects – our living spaces are likely to change drastically.

The 21st century is going to be a very interesting time, people. Let’s just hope we make it out alive!

Sources: fastcoexist.com, (2)

The Future is Here: Blood Monitoring Implants!

nanorobot1

The realm of nanotechnology, which once seemed like the stuff of science fiction, is getting closer to realization with every passing year. And with all the innovations taking place in tiny-scale manufacturing, molecular research, and DNA structures, we could be looking at an age where tiny machines regulate our health, construct buildings, assemble atomic structures, and even contain enough hardware to run complex calculations.

One such innovation was announced back in March by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, where researchers created the world’s smallest medical implant capable of monitoring critical chemicals in the blood. Measuring a mere 14mm in length, the device is capable of measuring up to five indicators, like proteins, glucose, lactate, ATP, and then transmit this information to a smartphone via Bluetooth.

implantable-sensor-640x353

In short, it is capable of providing valuable information that may help track and prevent heart attacks and monitor for indications of harmful conditions, like diabetes. Each sensor is coated with an enzyme that reacts with blood-borne chemicals to generate a detectable signal, and is paired with a wearable battery that provides the 100 milliwatts of power that the device requires by wireless inductive charging through the skin.

For patient monitoring, such a device has so many useful applications that it is likely to become indispensable, once introduced. In cancer treatment for example, numerous blood tests are often required to calibrate treatments according the to the patient’s particular ability to break down and excrete drugs. And since these parameters often change due the patient’s reaction to said treatments, anything that can provide up-to-the-minute monitoring will spare the patient countless invasive tests.

nanotech-2

In addition, in cases of heart attacks, the signs are visible in the hours before the event occurs. This occurs when fatigued or oxygen-starved muscle begins to break down, releasing fragments of the heart-specific smooth muscle protein known as troponin. If this protein can be detected before disruption of the heart rhythm begins, or the actual attack, lifesaving preemptive treatment can be initiated sooner.

At the moment, the sensors are limited by the number of sensors they hold. But there is no theoretical limit to how any sensors each implant can hold. In the future, such a device could be equipped with electronics that could monitor for strokes, blood clots, high cholesterol, cancer cells, HIV, parasites, viruses, and even the common cold (assuming such a thing continues to exist!) Just think about it.

You’re going about your daily activities when suddenly, you get a ringtone that alerts you that you’re about to experience a serious a health concern. Or maybe that the heavy lunch you just ate raised the level of LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream to an unwanted level. Tell me, on a scale of one to ten, how cool would that be?

Source: Extremetech.com

Towards a Cleaner Future: The Molten Salt Reactor

nuclear-power

What if you heard that there was such a thing as a 500 Megawatt reactor that was clean, safe, cheap, and made to order? Well, considering that 500 MWs is the close to the annual output of a dirty coal power station, you might think it sounded too good to be true. But that’s the nature of technological innovations and revolutions, which the nuclear industry has been in dire need of in recent years.

While it is true that the widespread use of nuclear energy could see to humanity’s needs through to the indefinite future, the cost of assembling and maintaining so many facilities is highly prohibitive. What’s more, in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, nuclear power has suffered a severe image problem, spurred on by lobbyists from other industries who insist that their products are safer and cheaper to maintain, and not prone to meltdowns!

Nuclear MOX plant : recycling nuclear waste : Submerged Spent Fuel Elements with Blue Glow

As a result of all this, the stage now seems set for a major breakthrough, and researchers at MIT and Transatomic’s own Russ Wilcox seems to be stepping up to provide it. Last year, Wilcox said in an interview with Forbes that it was “a fabulous time to do a leapfrog move”. Sounded like a bold statement at the time, but recently, Transatomic went a step further and claimed it was mobilizing its capital to make the leap happen.

Basically, the plan calls for the creation of a new breed of nuclear reactor, one which is miniaturized and still produces a significant amount of mega-wattage. Such efforts have been mounted in the past, mainly in response to the fact that scaling reactors upwards has never resulted in increased production. In each case, however, the resulting output was quite small, usually on the order of 200 MW.

???????????????????????????????

Enter into this the Transatomic’s Molten Salt Reactor (MSR), a design that is capable of producing half the power of a large-scale reactor, but in a much smaller package. In addition, MSRs possess a number of advantages, not the least of which are safety and cost. For starters, they rely on coolants like flouride or chloride salts instead of light or heavy water, which negates the need to pressurize the system and instantly reduces the dangers associated with super-heated, pressurized liquids.

What’s more, having the fuel-coolant mixture at a reasonable pressure also allows the mixture to expand, which ensures that if overheating does take place, the medium will simply expand to the point that the fuel atoms too far apart to continue a nuclear reaction. This is what is called a “passive safety system”, one that kicks in automatically and does not require a full-scale shutdown in the event that something goes wrong.

moltensalt_reactor1

Last, but not least, is the addition of the so-called freeze plug – an actively cooled barrier that melts in the event of a power failure, leading all nuclear material to automatically drain into a reinforced holding tank. These reactors are “walk away safe,” meaning that in the event of a power failure, accident, or general strike, the worst that could happen is a loss of service. In a post-Fukushima industry such disaster-proof measures simply must be the future of nuclear power.

Then, there is the costs factor. Transatomic claims their reactor will be capable of pumping out 500 megawatts for a total initial cost of about $1.7 billion, compared to 1000 megawatts for an estimated $7 billion. That’s about half the cost per megawatt, and the new reactor would also be small enough to be built in a central factory and then shipped to its destination, rather than requiring a multi-year construction project to build the plant and reactor on site.

The project has raised $1 million dollars of investment so far, and Transatomic appears to be putting all their eggs in this one basket. Their researchers also claim their design is production-ready and they are just waiting for orders to come in. And given the current energy crisis, it’s not likely to be long before government and industry comes knocking!

Source: Extremetech.com

Towards a Cleaner Future: Generating Electricity with Steps

pavegen1

This years Boston Marathon was the site of a terrible tragedy, as runners reaching the finish line were met with the worst terrorist attack on American soil since September 11th took place. Not only was this gruesome attack an injustice of immense proportions, it also overshadowed an important story that took place overseas, one which also involved a marathon and a potential breakthrough for renewable energy.

Here, the runners and spectators who waited at the finish line were also privy to something unexpected. But in this case, it involved a series of rubber panels which turned the runners steps into actual electricity. Known as Pavegen, a material invented by 27 year-old Laurence Kemball Cook and composed of recycled tires, this demonstration was the largest test to date of the experimental technology. And though the results were modest, they do present a frightening amount of potential for clean, renewable energy.

pavegen4

Essentially, a single step on a Pavegen pad is said to generate up to 8 watts of electricity per second. Based on that, and at a speed of one step a second, it would take a single pedestrian 40 minutes to charge a smartphone. However, a small army of pedestrians could generate considerably more – say for example, 50,000+ people taking part in a marathon.

Here too, the results fell short of their intended goal. Schneider Electric – who commissioned the project – held a contest on Facebook and said if they generated over 7 kilowatt-hours of energy, they would make a donation to Habitat for Humanity. As it turned out, all those runners generated more like two-thirds of that: 4.7 kilowatt-hours. Still, the potential is there.

pavegen5

Already the Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys in Kent, England, has contracted with Pavegen to become the site of the first permanent installation of the material. And as the video below demonstrates, it has the ability to at least generate enough power to keep the lights on in a building where hundreds of people take thousands of steps daily.

Given time and some improvement in the yield of the pads, this technology could very well take its place alongside solar, wind, and other renewable sources of power that will bring electricity to the cities of the future. Imagine it if you will, entire sidewalks composed of electricity-generating material, turning every step its pedestrians take into clean energy. I for one think that’s the stuff of bona fide science fiction story (it’s mine, you can’t have it!).

And be sure to check out this promotional video from Pavegen who filmed their floor at work in Simon Langton:


Source:
fastcoexist.com

Judgement Day Update: The Tool-Using Robot Hand

darparobot

As if robotics weren’t advancing fast enough, what with robotic astronauts or androids that can be 3D printed, it seems that DARPA has developed a robotic hand that can perform complex, dextrous tasks. But to make matters worse, this particular robot can be cheaply produced. Up until now, cost has remained a factor in the creation of robotic limbs that are capable of matching human skill. But from now on, we could very well be seeing robots replacing skilled labor on all fronts!

As we’re all no doubt aware, one of the key differences between humans and other mammals is the use of tools. These not only allowed our earliest ancestors the ability to alter their environment and overcome their disadvantages when faced with larger, deadlier creatures. They also allowed homo sapiens as a species to gain the upper hand against other species of hominids, those who’s brains and hands were not as developed as our own.

darparobot1

So what happens when a robot is capable of matching a human being when it comes to a complicated task – say, like changing a tire – and at a cost most businesses can afford? To add insult to injury, the robot was able to conduct this task using tools specifically designed for a human being. But of course, the purpose was not to demonstrate that a robot could replace a human worker, but that it was possible to create more dextrous prosthetics for the sake of replacing lost limbs.

Ordinarily, such machinery would run a person a good $10,000, but DARPA’s new design is estimated at a comparatively modest $3000. This was made possible by the use of consumer-grade tech in the construction process, such as cameras from cellphones. And in addition to being able to work with tools, the robot can perform more intricate maneuvers, such as handling an object as small as a set of tweezers.

LS3-AlphaDog6reduced

However, DARPA was also quick to point out that the robot shown in the video featured below is actually an older model. Since its creation, they have set their sights on loftier goals than simple tool use, such as a robot that can identify and defuse Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Much like many of their robotic projects, such as the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), this is part of DARPA’s commitment to developing robots that will assist future generations in the US army.

So if you’re a member of a pit crew, you can rest easy for now. You’re job is safe… for the moment. But if you’re a member of a bomb squad, you might be facing some robotic competition in the near future. Who knows, maybe that’s a good thing. No one likes to be replaced, but if you’re facing a ticking bomb, I think most people would be happier if the robot handled it!

And in the meantime, check out the video of the robotic hand in action:

Source: Extremetech.com

The Future is Here: Using 3D Printing and DNA to Recreate Faces

strangervisions-1In what is either one of the most novel or frightening stories involving 3D printing and genetic research, it seems that an artist named Heather Dewey-Hagborg has been using the technology to recreate the faces of litterbugs. This may sound like something out of a dystopian novel – using a high-tech scenario to identify perpetrators of tiny crimes – but in fact, it is the basis of her latest art project.

It’s known as Stranger Visions, a series of 3D printed portraits based on DNA samples taken from objects found on the streets of Brooklyn. Using samples of discarded gum and litter collected from the streets, a her work with a DIY biology lab in Brooklyn called Genspace – where she met a number of biologists who taught her everything she now knows about molecular biology and DNA – she was able to reconstruct what the strangers looked like and then printed the phenotypes out as a series of 3D portraits.

According to Dewey-Hagborg, the inspiration for this project came to her while waiting for a therapy session, when she noticed a framed print on the wall that contained a small hair inside the cracked glass. After wondering who the hair belonged to, and what the person looked like, she became keenly aware of the genetic trail left by every person in their daily life, and began to question what physical characteristics could be identified through the DNA left behind on a piece of gum or cigarette butt.

strangervisions-3In a recent interview, Dewey-Hagborg explained the rather interesting and technical process behind her art:

So I extract the DNA in the lab and then I amplify certain regions of it using a technique called PCR – Polymerase Chain Reaction. This allows me to study certain regions of the genome that tend to vary person to person, what are called SNPs or Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms.

I send the results of my PCR reactions off to a lab for sequencing and what I get back are basically text files filled with sequences of As, Ts, Cs, and Gs, the nucleotides that compose DNA. I align these using a bioinformatics program and determine what allele is present for a particular SNP on each sample.

strangervisions-5

Then I feed this information into a custom computer program I wrote which takes all these values which code for physical genetic traits and parameterizes a 3d model of a face to represent them. For example gender, ancestry, eye color, hair color, freckles, lighter or darker skin, and certain facial features like nose width and distance between eyes are some of the features I am in the process of studying.

I add some finishing touches to the model in 3d software and then export it for printing on a 3d printer. I use a Zcorp printer which prints in full color using a powder type material, kind of like sand and glue.

The resulting portraits are bizarre approximations of anonymous people who unknowingly left their genetic material on a random city street. Naturally, there are plenty of people who wonder how accurate her approximations are. Well, according to Dewey-Hagborg, the portraits bear a “family resemblance” to the subject, and at this time, no person has never recognized themselves in any of her exhibitions. Yet…

strangervisions-4And of course, there are limitations with this sort of phenotype-DNA identification. For starters, it is virtually impossible to determine the age of a person from their DNA alone. In addition, facial features like scars and hair growth cannot be gauged, so Dewey-Hagborg casts each portrait as if the person were around 25 years of age.

And yet, I cannot help but feel that there is some awesome and terrible potential in what Dewey-Hagborg has created here. While her artistic vision had to do with the subject of identity and anonymity in our society, there is potential here for something truly advanced and invasive. Already it has been considered that DNA identification could be the way of the future, where everyone’s identity is kept in a massive database that can either be used to track them or eliminate as suspects in criminal cases.

But in cases where the person’s DNA is not yet on file, police would no longer need to rely on sketch artists to identify potential perps. Instead, they could just reconstruct their appearances based on a single strand of DNA, and use existing software to correct for age, hair color, facial hair, scars, etc, and then share the resulting images with the public via a public database or press releases.

strangervisions-2And as Dewey-Hagborg’s own project shows, the potential for public exposure and identification is huge. With a sophisticated enough process and a quick turnover rate, cities could identity entire armies of litterbugs, polluters, petty criminals and even more dangerous offenders, like pedophiles and stalkers, and publicly shame them by posting their faces for all to see.

But of course, I am forced to acknowledge that Dewey-Hagborg conducted this entire project using a DIY genetics lab and through her own ardent collection process. Whereas some would see here an opportunity for Big Brother to mess with our lives, others would see further potential for a democratic, open process where local communities are able to take genetics and identification into their own hands.

Like I said, the implications and potential being shown here are both awesome and scary!

Source: thisiscolossal.com

The Future is Here: The Li-Fi Network

lifi_internet1Scientists have been looking at optics for some time as a means of enhancing the usual means of data processing. In terms of computing, it means that using optical components – which use photons rather than electrons to transmit information – could lead to computers that can run exponentially faster than those that use traditional electronics. But a group of German scientists have taken that a step farther, proposing an internet that runs on the same principles.

Using conventional LED bulbs in a laboratory setting, researchers at the Fraunhofer Henrich Hertz Institute (HHI) in Germany successfully transmitted data at 3Gbps using conventional. In a real-world setting, the same system was capable of transmitting data at rate of 500Mbps, roughly a dozen to hundreds of times what a conventional WiFi network is capable of transmitting.

optical_computer1The concept of visible light communications (VLC), or LiFi as it is sometimes known, has received a lot of attention in recent years, mostly due to the growing prevalence of LED technology. Much like other solid-state electronics, LEDs can be controlled as any other electronic component can. By extension, a VLC network can be created along the same lines as a WiFi one, using terahertz radiation (light) instead of microwaves and an LED bulb instead of an oscillating a WiFi transmitter, and photodetectors instead of antennas.

Compared to WiFi, the LiFi concept comes with a slew of advantages. First of all, it can turn any LED lamp into a network connection, and since it operates at such high frequencies, is well beyond the range of the current regulatory licensing framework. For the same reason, LiFi can be used in areas where extensive RF (radio-frequency) interference is common, such as on airplanes, in airports and hospitals. The Fraunhofer researchers even claim that VLC improves privacy, since the signal is directed from one box to another and not made up waves that can be easily picked up on by a third party.

Optical_ComputerBut of course, there is still much research and development that needs to be done. As it stands, the Fraunhoer research is limited in terms of how much information can be sent and how much distance it can travel. In order to compete with conventional WiFi, a system that uses optics to transmit information will have to be able to demonstrate the ability to pack a significant amount of bandwidth into a signal that can reach in excess of 100 m.

Nevertheless, there are numerous startups that are making headway, and many more researchers who are adapting optical components for computers as we speak. As a result, it shouldn’t be long before signs like this are appearing everywhere in your neighborhood…

lifi-internet

Source: Extremetech.com

The Future is Here: The Hybrid Tank!

hybrid_IFVIt’s a strange thing when military planners and environmentalists find themselves seeing to eye to eye. And yet, the latest crop of proposals being considered by the Pentagon to replace their aging vehicles includes a design for a hybrid tank. Designed to replace the venerable M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle, the GFV (Ground Fighting Vehicle) is a gas-electric hybrid that will save the army on gas and reduce their impact on the environment.

In truth, the GFV is but one of several clean energy alternatives that is being considered by the Pentagon. As far as they are concerned, the next-generation of military hardware will need to take advantage of advances made in solar, electric, hybrid and other technologies. But of course, this is not motivated out of a desire to save the environment, but to save on fuel costs.

hybrid_IFVsideWith peak oil supplies diminishing worldwide and the only remaining sources confined to geopolitcally unstable regions, the current high-cost of gasoline is only likely to get worse in the near future. What’s more, the Pentagon and every other army in the developed world understands the dangers of Climate Change, with most scenarios taking into account dwindling fuel supplies and wars being fought for what little will be left. Little wonder then why they would consider cutting their consumption!

As for the GFV, the design calls for a large, highly modifiable ground combat vehicle that grew out of years of military and defense contractor studies. Designed by BAE Systems, the engine is the result of collaboration with a number of firms who helped adapt the design of a civilian hybrid gas-electric engine. Compared to competing designs, it presents a number of advantages.

hybrid_IFVfrontIf BAE’s proposal is adopted by the military, the Defense Department is expected to save approximately 20% on its fuel costs, compared to an alternate GCV vehicle design that uses traditional propulsion. Additional advantages include the ability to switch to pure electric mode for short periods of time, the elimination of significant heat traces from the battlefield, and the ability to operate more quietly at night.

In a recent interview, BAE Systems’ Mark Signorelli further indicated the advantages of the design:

There are also 40% fewer moving parts with higher reliability, requiring less maintenance and decreasing vehicle lifetime cost. Vehicle acceleration, handling and dash speed are improved even over fuel hungry turbine systems. Finally, the system’s ability to provide large amounts of electrical power accommodates the integration of future communications and weapons technology for the next 30 to 40 years.

What’s more, the GFV is capable of undergoing extensive modification, which is a strength in and of itself. With just a few added accessories, the vehicle can work as a tank, hence why it is named a Ground Fighting Vehicle (GFV) and not an Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), which is specifically designed to transport and defend infantry.

hybrid_IFVfleetThe vehicle can also be augmented with electric armor, jammers, and experimental energy weapons thanks to the in-vehicle electric power source. Most of these weapons are currently being developed by the military and are expected to be making the rounds in the not-too-distant future. As such, BAE also stressed that their vehicles could be operational for decades to come without becoming obsolete.

So telling when the decision will be made, thanks to the vagaries of politics and the military-industrial complex. However, the scuttlebutt indicates that the odds of the BAE design being adopted are good, and the company spokespeople indicated that the first GFV’s could be rolling off the line by 2020 and fielded by 2022. I guess Prius owners will have new reasons to brag!

Source: fastcoexist.com