E&T news weekly #14 – we choose our favourite engineering and technology news stories from the week

Friday August 22 2014

  Vitali Vitaliev Consumer adoption of 3D printing five to ten years away

Well, it looks like the much-hyped printing of cars, factories and skyscrapers will have to wait for a while. In the meantime, I am told that Dassault Systemes have developed a fully functioning 3D version of human heart which they will be demonstrating to the Press in Paris this autumn. I very much hope E&T gets an invite.

Canadian rail disaster could happen again, says regulator

Last January, while on holidays in Canada, I was very impressed by the Canadian Railway Museum in the outskirts of Montreal where, among other things, I learned about the fascinating history of Canadian railway dining (see my After All blog post). All stays fine on the Canadian railway dining front, so it’s time for the country’s railway authorities to look up from their restaurant car dining menus, to put aside their starchy serviettes and to start paying more attention to the issues of safety on the world’s second-largest country’s railways – the network that had helped to shape modern Canada.

Vitali Vitaliev, features editor


  Tereza Pultarova Safety car first step for Formula E’s wireless charging revolution

Having to put up with the reputation of an underdog in motorsport, Formula E is eager to prove not only the abilities of its all electric racing cars but also the potential it bears for technology development. At the last test event before the inaugural season’s kick-off, the championship’s partner Qualcomm unveiled its wireless charging technology for safety cars promising that, in the not so distant future, fans will see much ambitious wireless charging concepts deployed in the races including charging racing cars while driving.

Tereza Pultarova, online news reporter


  Edd Gent Car batteries recycled to make solar panels

Perovskite solar cells hold major promise as an ultra-cheap alternative to silicon technology, but their production can have some nasty side effects on the environment due to the use of lead. A method for reusing the lead in car batteries, which would otherwise end up in landfill, is a brilliant way of killing two birds with one stone.

Edd Gent, online news reporter


  Aasha Bodhani M2M connections to increase by 21 per cent in 2014

Research from analysts Berg Insight says mobile network connections for M2M communication will increase by 21 per cent this year. This ‘connected management’ is being driven by adoption and demand in Europe and North America – this means companies can collect and analyse data. The analysts say the annual growth rate will reach 22.9 per cent by 2019.

Car batteries recycled to make solar panels

Roughly 90 per cent of the lead recovered from recycling batteries is used to produce new ones, however researchers at MIT have come up with another solution; solar panels. According to the team, lead-acid batteries are most likely to decline, leaving a lot of lead with no obvious purpose. However, tests reveal a single car battery could produce enough solar panels to power 30 households.

Aasha Bodhani, assistant technology features editor


  Jonathan Wilson Wireless charging using resonating crystals

As someone with two recently failed mobile phones and a defunct laptop – all of which are only considered ‘broken’ because the batteries in all three devices no longer respond to charging from the USB cable – the idea of a wireless charging system is like manna from heaven. Sadly, for me, the technology is still at the research stage, so I can’t put off buying a new phone any longer.

Camouflage system mimics cuttlefish skin

News of an electronic camouflage skin that automatically adapts to its surroundings seems so perfect and obvious a solution to the problem of hiding in plain view that I’m surprised it hasn’t been invented before now. Inspired by octopi and cuttlefish, the prototype currently only works in black and white (ideal for zebra enthusiasts), although a full colour spectrum version is next on the agenda for researchers at the University of Houston.

Jonathan Wilson, online managing editor


  James Hayes First large-scale ‘Heartbleed’ cyber-breach reported

Expect to see more targeting of patient record data around the world. Black Hat hackers know that such datasets are among the most desirable in terms of resell value, because they contain plenty of categorised information that could prove lucrative to marketers of medications, healthcare services, and insurers, for example. It is one of the reasons why initiatives like the UK NHS’s ill-fated Care.data programme raised such vociferous concerns – big, publicly-funded healthcare organisations have the resources to properly secure patient data, but what about the third-parties with which that data might be shared?

James Hayes, technology features editor


  dominic-lenton Call to reverse decision to scrap engineering GCSE

Tighter marking of English exams may have made the headlines when GCSE results were released this week. Less well reported was the fact that the number of students who took engineering rose by 73 per cent, from 2,897 last year to just over 5,000. Why has the Government decided to scrap the course, along with electronics and manufacturing, by 2017? A good question, and one that the IET is urging it to consider in light of the skills crisis troubling employers.

New game to find next generation of cyber experts

In a similar vein, GCHQ has developed a new game that sees players attempt to protect a fictitious aerospace company from hackers as part of efforts to find the next generation of cyber-security experts. So the next time you ask your teenager why they waste so much time on computer games and they reply that they’re actually developing skills which could help them find a job one day, they could be telling the truth.

Dominic Lenton, managing editor

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