Category Archives: energy

e-Ink Displays – Underestimated Technology for Rough Industrial and Outdoor Interfaces

e-ink display in rough outdoor usage scenario

e-ink display in rough outdoor usage scenario, image source: http://www.eink.com

Since the first commercial appearance of e-Ink Displays around the year 2008, a large collection of cheap e-book readers, such as the Sony PRS505 or Amazon’s Kindle, were successfully introduced on the consumer market. As the e-Ink technology became mature in this field of application, millions of e-book readers are in active use today and the amount of sold e-books is nearly the same level as of traditional books.

E-Ink technology was first mentioned in 1997 based on research started at the MIT Media Lab. Joseph Jacobson and Barrett Comiskey are listed as inventors on the original patent filed in 1996.
E-Ink displays offer some great advantages over alternative display technology, such as extremely low power usage, incredible high contrast and the ability to preserve the static image for an unlimited amount of time without the use of any energy at all. E-Ink displays on the other hand do not offer much multimedia capabilities as they are mostly operating on grayscale, or very simple single color modes. Also their slow reaction times prevent e-Ink displays to show any videos.

Beside the widespread use of e-Ink displays in e-Ink ebook (or even as prototypical Smartphone display) reading devices, their use within industrial applications and rough production or outdoor scenarios is still underestimated. As e-Ink displays offer perfect contrast and preserve the displayed image over an unlimited amount of time, these displays could be the perfect choice for machine interfaces.
Following examples show the use of e-Ink displays in various interesting applications, such as static information on pillboxes, showing information directly on a mountain bike or even to directly show information on a snowboard.

e-Ink display on a pill box

e-Ink display on a pill box, image source: http://www.eink.com

e-ink display on a snowboard

e-ink display on a snowboard: image source: http://www.eink.com

Watch a short film explaining the basic concepts of e-Ink technology:

electree+ the green and renewable energy bonsai tree

electree+ green solar charge bonsai tree

electree+ green solar charge bonsai tree, image source: Kickstarter.com

electree+, a recent Kickstarter project, plans to build a really stylish solar bonsai tree for your home or office table, that can charge your smart mobile devices. It’s tiny solar leaves collect the power of the sun and directly route it into your iPhone. The electree+ harvests solar energy through 27 high-quality amorphous-silicon square solar panels, each ~3.7″ wide. Its branches extend vertically to an apex of ~16″ high. Energy is stored in a 14,000mAh internal battery capable of recharging an iPhone5 over nine times, a Galaxy S3 ~seven times, or an iPad2 twice without light exposure

Part sculpture, part appliance, the electree+ challenges preconceptions about the role of artwork by dissolving the barrier between aesthetic and pragmatic.

Onyx Smartphone with e-Ink Display

Onyx e-Ink Android Smartphone

Onyx e-Ink Android Smartphone, image source: blog.the-ebook-reader.com

The Chinese company Onyx, which is mainly known by their Onyx-Boox ebook readers, announced these days to publish an Android smartphone that integrates an e-Ink touch display. To use e-Ink displays has several advantages as well as some major negative aspects too. As many e-Ink based ebook readers already proved, e-Ink displays offer great readability in direct sunlight. The perfect contrast of e-Ink displays is not comparable with traditional displays. Also the fact that e-Ink displays can show and persist scenes over days without using energy is a really cool feature that helps to run the Onyx smartphone for at least a week without reloading. Negative aspects of e-Ink displays are the low update frequencies and very reduced color capabilities at best, which makes it hard or even impossible to use e-Inks for multimedia applications. This Onyx phone is definitely not the best choice for multimedia evangelists but it could prove a valuable design for outdoor purposes, passionate e-book readers, travelers or elderly people with debility of sight.

Philips Hue Connected Light Bulbs

Philips and Apple’s ambilight technology appeared on the market already some years ago and despite it’s incredible cool design Philips and Apple are going a little bit further by introducing Hue light bulbs. Hue light bulbs are directly connected and can be controlled by your mobile iPhone or iPad. The user is able to create light settings based on favourite photos, or to choose from expert light recipes to help you relax or concentrate, or even set timers to help you wake up and pace your day. According to it’s direct control and its flexible lighning settings there will surely be countless application possibilities for this new Philips Hue bulbs in a makers home. All you need to start connecting your home’s lightning scenes is to buy a Philips Apple Hue Starter Kit which comes with a bridge and three bulbs and costs 199$ within the Apple store.

Philips Apple Hue Light

LEGO Renewable Energy Education Kit

LEGO’s revolutionary robotic and microcontroller education kit Lego Mindstorms NXT,  allows kids to do their first experiments with moving robots by controlling 3 servos and a collection of useful sensors. The kit includes a light sensor, noise sensor, a mechanic bumper and best of all an ultrasonic distance sensor, that works like a charm. You can find my own design for a Lego NTX  controlled telepresence robot here.

I recently found out that LEGO published a new education kit for renewable energy that sounds really interesting for teaching kids how wind turbines and solar panels work. The LEGO Renewable Energy Education kit includes a solar panel, turbine blades, a motor/generator, LED lights, an extension wire, a LEGO Energy Meter and full-colour building instructions for six real-life LEGO models to build.

As an additional feature owners of the LEGO Mindstorms NXT kit are able to add the components of the Renewable Energy kit as sort of sensors and data loggers. Connected to the Mindstorms NXT brick, the energy meter works as a sensor and can be used for both programming and data logging.

eMobility by wirelessly transmit Electricity

The Toyohashi University of Technology demonstrated recently a wireless power transmission technology using electric field coupling with automobile tires, in order to power electric cars through around 10cm of concrete road blocks. As one of the most important disadvantages of electric cars at the moment is their limited range, this wireless power transmission could be a major step towards electric mobility in the future. At the moment this technology is able to light up a 40 Watt light bulb, but Takashi Ohira, an electrical engineering professor at the Toyohashi University, works on improving the amount of energy that is transmitted.

image source: http://techon.nikkeibp.co.jp

The charging system has already been demonstrated to work, and relies on relatively cheap parts to setup. In order for it to be used on real roads the power transmission needs to be increased 100-fold, which is achievable. Ohira also says that the thickness of the concrete can be increased to 20cm and the charging will still occur. The fact that the whole system is protected by a thick layer of concrete also ensures it’s going tovery durable regardless of weather conditions or heavy use of a road.

Moving over to such a system would require major investment from governments due to the amount of road resurfacing that is required. However, if it was planned alongside already scheduled road maintenance, the costs and disruption could be kept to a minimum.

Read more at Tech-On!

3D Printing and digital Fabrication in Providence

image source: http://blog.makezine.com

Makezine just announced the first regular meeting of 3DPPVD, a monthly meeting for people who are fabricating things with MakerBot, RepRap, other 3D printers. The  3DPPVD enables the expert to meet and discuss about all forms of digital fabrication. Their first meeting will be on Wednesday July 11th at AS220 Labs (AS220 Mercantile Block, 131 Washington St (Entrance on Lucie Way), Providence, Ri) from 7pm until they kick them out.

Future Dash EnergyBuddy

The core of EnergyBuddy is a low-cost and easy to install stylish gateway that connects to the home network. It operates with or without a smart meter and brings home energy consumption to life with vivid dashboards on PCs and mobile apps

image source: FutureDash.com

The Cali-based startup FutureDash presents The EnergyBuddy, which was first unveiled as a prototype at CES and now going toward the final release date. FutureDash is a complete home energy-tracking system, which uses sensors in your electricity grid in order to monitor your houshold energy consumption. Starting at $99, it keeps tabs on users’ energy consumption with a square-shaped gadget that connects to your network via WiFi or Ethernet. The square glows red, yellow or green depending on how much electricity you’re using, and the user is able to specify the typical footprint profiles.

Their motto is: ‘Increased energy awareness leads to increased energy conservation.’

The rise and fall of Nikola Tesla

Combining projection mapping and a pop-up book, Marco Tempest tells the visually arresting story of Nikola Tesla, who is called ‘the greatest geek who ever lived’ — from his triumphant invention of alternating current to his penniless last days.

A magician and illusionist for the 21st century, Marco Tempest blends cutting-edge technology with the flair and showmanship of Houdini.

LOXONE – A simple solution for smart home automation

Loxone Electronics GmbHThe LOXONE miniserver is the centerpiece for a very simple and intuitive home automation system, which can be used to retrofit existing home electricity installations. It allows you to control all things in and around your home. Ranging from simple blind control to intelligent and cost-efficient zoned heating systems.

The LOXONE system is conveniently installed in your consumer unit and linked to the home network. It monitors various inputs, such as switches, motion detectors, door contacts, smart phones and is able to control all your actuator devices, like blinds, lighting, heating.