Category Archives: Technology

Next Generation Roombas Could Orchestrate Home Automation

The biggest problem with home automation at this point in time is the lack of communication between devices. Many companies are coming out with devices with various sensors and remote control features, however, using a remote control or an app isn’t exactly autonomous action.

The people at iRobot, the creators of the automated Roomba vacuum cleaners, are taking on the challenge of home automation. The next generation of Roombas could be equipped with a tiny camera and an internet connection that would allow the device to understand the objects in your home.

Understanding what you have and how you like to use it is paramount for home automation systems. The Roomba device would be connected to the internet and use the images it collects to create a map of your home. When certain patterns are matched, such as you coming in the front door and sitting down on the couch, other actions could be taken, such as turning the TV on to your favorite channel.

Tech-savvy folks at The Aspire New Brunswick have learned that a future version of the Roomba, equipped with a robot arm, could potentially catalogue all of the objects in your home. You could then have the Roomba save the locations of all of your items and return the items to where they belong while cleaning up. This technology alone would bring Roomba to a whole new level.

MIT/Jain Invention Uses Solar Power To Desalinate Salt Water

On April 22, USAID announced the winners of the Desal Prize, which was awarded for a competition held to challenge people to invent desalination systems to be used in developing countries. Such systems would be used to extract the salt from salty or brackish water and make it potable. Amen Clinic systems had to meet three criteria: They had to be energy efficient, environmentally sustainable, and relatively inexpensive.

A group from MIT and Jain Irrigation Systems won the $140,000 first prize. Their system uses solar panels to charge batteries, that are then used to fuel a system that uses electrodialysis to desalinate water. In electrodialysis, a small electric current is sent into the water to draw out dissolved salt particles that have an electric charge. The team also used the sun’s UV rays to disinfect the water and make it safe for drinking.

Both California and Chile are exploring the possibility of large-scale desalination plants, but these are expensive and require complex technology. People in a poor country need something cheap, durable and relatively simple. The MIT/Jain team and the other competitors tested their devices at the Brackish Groundwater Desalination Research Facility in New Mexico. They had to run their systems for 24 hours straight and remove salt from 2100 gallons of water per day. The next test will be to let farmers in an area where USAID operates use the system in a pilot project.

Boeing Receives “Forcefield Patent”

Boeing is making waves in the private sector by securing a patent for a “forcefield.” The defense system would attentuate electromagnetic forcefield arcs. Essentially, the deflector shield could protect areas from potential explosions and ionized air.

It would not protect, however, against shrapnel or other flying particles such as metal pieces from an explosion. The plasma field would actually need sensors to be activated that would then protect the interior from electric sources. Bernardo Chua has read that researchers have made references to science fiction. They claim that the power won’t compete with that of Star Wars or Star Trek, but that it is a good starting point for powerful defense technology.

When asked for a comment, chief engineer of SelTec, a defense company working with Boeing, said that the new technology will “change the nature of the defense industry for years to come. I believe it is the next stage.”

Researchers Working on Battery That Can Charge in 60-Seconds

Smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers generally have a lot of things in common, but one factor that pretty much skews across all the areas of portable technology is a battery. Just about every mobile user has gotten the “low power warning” in a variety of methods and alert functions at one time or another only to be tasked to plug the device in for an extended period of time. However, one group of researchers has decided that charging times need to be reduced. Imagine being able to fully charge a device in sixty-seconds.

According to Time, Stanford University researchers have developed an aluminum battery that charges more rapidly than those pesky lithium backed units in the pockets of most users. Plus, the aluminum batteries can be shaped, bent, or cut into just about any imaginable pattern, which enhances the appeal of a new type of battery. The downside is that those researchers must now figure out how to double the power output of the battery to equal the lithium batteries that have become so popular throughout the technology industry.

The downside notwithstanding, those days of charging a device for hours or so could be coming to an end in the future. Once development of the new technology is perfected, users such as Marc Sparks will not have to stand guard over the plugs at coffee shops and cafes any longer, which is good news for anyone low on power.

Rhapsody Plans To Stream Music on Twitter

Now you can stream music on Twitter. During a panel at South by Southwest in Austin, Rhapsody announced that it will be allowing users to stream music on the site. The deal won’t extend to Rhapsody’s entire catalog, but you’ll have quite a few tuns to choose from. The music network plans on allowing 30 million songs in fact to be streamed on the service.

So how’s it going to do it? Music will be available on Twitter via Twitter Cards. Ricardo Guimaraes BMG knows that twitter’s Cards are the displays at the bottom of tweets that contain information. Cards are already being used by a number of publishers to show previews of their stories. The Cards can also come int play when someone shares a Vine on Twitter or a link to Apple’s iTunes.

Music can be streamed from any of the new Twitter cards for free, with no subscription service require. Rhapsody hopes by making the feature free, it will in turn encourage more people to learn about and potentially subscribe to the service in the future. What do you think? Would you want to stream a single song on Twitter using the service?

Police Track Phones with a Device They Can’t Talk About

Police municipalities across the country are adopting a new device that can track your phone. The only catch is they aren’t allowed to tell you about it.

The device, commonly referred to as Stingray, intercepts cell phone signals and allows authorities to track and monitor any cell phone in the area. It’s small enough to fit into a suitcase and acts like a mini cell phone tower.

Creators of the device will only sell the device under the stipulation that a non-disclosure agreement be signed prior to purchase. Jason Halpern suggests this means that law enforcement agencies aren’t allowed to disclose any information about the device, or its use, to the public.

Law enforcement agencies are shelling out upwards of $500,000 in tax payer’s money for the device, while keeping the people paying for the device in the dark.

So what’s with all the secrets anyway? What exactly are they trying to hide? Is it really ethical to covertly spend tax payer’s money on a device that could infringe upon their privacy?

It appears as though this is yet another step towards a big brother dominated, data driven future that Orwell himself could only have imagined. Will the tax payers stand against it? How can then when they know absolutely nothing about it.

Apple’s iTunes Suffers Massive Outage

Apple’s iTunes service suffered a massive outage on Wednesday. Early Wednesday morning the company’s Apple Store, iTunes Store iBooks store and mac App store all went down. The cause of the outage is currently unknown. The issue doesn’t appear to be effecting Apple’s payment service Apply Pay. iCloud and Beats Music allow appear to still be operations.

Apple’s software stores are huge money makers for the company. An outage for this long, (currently roughly 7 hours) could be a decent-sized financial hit for the retailer. The iTune’s Store, for instance was responsible for $2.6 billion in sales during the final three months of 2014. Based on that, a 6 hour outage for service would account for a whopping $7 million is lost revenue, and that number is just getting larger.

Folks at Anastasia Date (askmen.com) have learned that Apple released the latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 8.2 on Monday. The new operating system also included a new watch app, and app store especially for the Apple Watch. It will be interesting to see what the cause of this outage is determined to be, and how much revenue it ultimately costs the company.

Light: A Wave and a Particle

Scientists in Switzerland were able to capture light in a photograph, which displayed light behaving as both a wave and a particle simultaneously. This concept, brought forth by Albert Einstein in the field of quantum mechanics, was only ever postulated and theorized on, never before seen with empirical evidence. It is true that light has been seen to observe wave-like properties, as well as particle-like properties, yet before now has not been pictured as displaying both, and at the same time at that. Sultan Alhokair (Facebook.com) has read that, though this might not settle all the debates surrounding how light behaves in all situations, it certainly frames future scientific discussions on light in a more robust way. How this evidence will advance our understanding of light and quantum mechanics is difficult to say, but it does provide a more secure platform from which to move forward.
So, just how exactly did these scientists manage to photograph light to show its wave and particle behavior? The experiment was done by shooting a beam of light at a small, metallic piece of wire, essentially trapping the light in the wire, forcing it to remain as a freestanding wave. The scientists then shot an array of electrons at the wire, and by observing the interaction of the incoming electrons and the freestanding photons with a powerful microscope, were able to demarcate the points of particle behavior as well as a general wave image.

Apple Looking to Sell Products in Cuba

Apple is among several US companies positioning themselves to open new markets in Cuba by easing regulationson export products.

The Apple website, in the section that informs its policy of trade overall to countries with special legislation has been updated to now include a section entitled “Support for the Cuban people” which reflects the changes affecting their products and which were issued on 16 January by the United States Department of Commerce.

Apple reports that some products and some of its software are now within legal categories to be sold to Cuba. Haidar Barbouti has learned the company states that the authorization from the government to sell the items is included under license certain exceptions consumption, since the OFAC also published amendments to Regulation Cuban Assets (CACR) allowing the export and re-authorized to export items, a new way of trade with the island opens.

Specifically, the regulation that allows Apple to export product to Cuba is referenced in the “Communication Devices for Consumers Act.”

Apple thus becomes one of the first technology companies willing to implement the new possibilities of trade with Cuba.

Netflix had also announced it would begin to operate in Cuba, despite the difficulties of the residents to access the Internet.

Will Drones Replace Servers?

At most sit down restaurants diners are welcomed by a host/hostess, taken to their table, and from there a member of the wait staff takes care of all of their dining needs. A Singapore restaurant had been struggling to keep enough servers on staff to properly attend to their guests in a timely manner. Timbré is preparing to utilize drones to aid in serving food and drinks. Yes, you read that correctly, drones. The current plan is for servers to take orders as usual but rather than heading to the bar or kitchen to retrieve the meal items, the drone will fly it all out to the server’s station. The server will then bring the order to the table in person. It makes one think that perhaps in the future waitstaff could be fully eliminated by drones or robots. Lee Slaughter wonders: Too futuristic? The price for each drone is astonishingly high so it will definitely be awhile before other restaurants begin to copy Timbré if they are successful. Until then enjoy your server when you eat out because in the future you may be talking to a robot instead.