Posts Tagged ‘E&T’

E&T news weekly #61 – we choose our favourite engineering and technology news stories from the week

September 11, 2015

Friday September 11 2015

Rebecca Northfield  Rebecca Northfield, assistant features editor
Smartphone obsession on the rise for Brits, study reveals

According to the Deloitte Mobile Consumer report, more and more Britons reach for their smartphone when they wake up and check it up to 50 times a day. I hate to admit this, but I think I am one of those people. My smartphone is ingrained into my life and it just has to be within reach, otherwise I feel I’d be missing out on something. If I’m in the living room and my phone is upstairs, I feel a wee bit uneasy. The survey of 4000 people found that one in ten reach for their smartphones as soon as they wake up. It’s been pointed out on multiple occasions that I check my phone too much. Not that I’m defending myself, or all of the people surveyed who turned out to be smartphone fiends, but these modern devices have so much technology in them, it’s impossible to not be addicted. I’m sure that if my grandparents knew how to work my phone, they would be checking it quite a bit. If I have a random thought, or I want to know something, it’s great that I can just check the web so easily and get the answers I need. Also, for someone who doesn’t see my buddies during the week, it feels like I have a connection to the outside world when I have my iPhone on me. Sad, but true. I can check Facebook, text or message my friends efficiently and easily. Games are also good, too. And apps. Apps are fun.

Aasha Bodhani  Aasha Bodhani, industry features editor
Surveillance system lets families monitor care of loved ones

Cases of negligence and even abuse in care homes have been making headlines recently, as families of residents have hidden cameras in rooms to secretly film incidents. This monitoring system is designed to protect vulnerable people with the use of microphones to detect sound and discreet cameras to detect motion. The equipment enables families to watch live feeds via a smart device and flag up unusual activity.

Jonathan Wilson  Jonathan Wilson, online managing editor
Scottish Borders Railway opens Midlothian route after 47-year hiatus

Two contrasting tales from the UK’s railways. North of the border, in Scotchland, the inhabitants of Midlothian are no doubt dancing a merry highland jig and reel at the reopening of the Borders Railway, part of a line that fell victim to the infamous Beeching cuts 47 years ago, which severed the rail connections running on many of the country’s useful branch lines connecting remote rural communities with the larger towns and cities. Now the 30-mile journey from Edinburgh to Tweedbank can be enjoyed once more – an event that was just cause for a celebratory steam engine ride, VIP treatment for locals living near the line and a landmark visit from our favourite long-reigning, hand-waving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.

Euston station revamp completion date pushed to 2033

Meanwhile, in smoggy central London – as far away from the purple heather and clean mountain air of the Scottish Borders as it’s possible to get – comes the announcement that the revamp of Euston station could remain a work in progress until the year 2033. That’s 18 years from now. By then, as far in the future as this date is, I fully expect/hope that we’ll have flying cars and food in pill form, so we’ll have no use for either the high-speed rail platforms that are the cause of the works delay or the unappealingly curling, bafflingly expensive sandwiches no doubt still being served in the buffet cars on board trains departing for points north.

Lorna Sharpe  Lorna Sharpe, sub-editor
Stretchable metal film breakthrough expands possibilities

US researchers have found that a thin film of indium can be bonded onto a plastic substrate and stretched to twice its original length, at which point the plastic failed. That discovery could lead to new progress in printing electronics onto flexible surfaces, because indium is a good deal cheaper than gold, which is the preferred material at present.

Paddington station air pollution worse than roads outside

When I was a small child, most London buildings were black from coal smoke, and the glass canopies over the major railway stations were equally grimy. By then the Clean Air Act of 1956 was already forcing a change in how people heated their homes, and in parallel steam locomotives were being replaced by diesel-powered trains. Nowadays those original diesels are largely confined to heritage railways, but their successors are still running and some of them are contributing to the extremely poor air quality that researchers have found at Paddington station. It probably isn’t an isolated example. Unfortunately, plans to electrify more of our main lines have run into trouble – possibly because a reluctance by previous governments to authorise the investment means that the country lost the skills, equipment and supply chain needed to do the job. The industry recognises the problem and is trying to address it, but capability can’t be produced overnight. In the meantime, electrification of the Midland Main Line and the Leeds-Manchester route have been ‘paused’ so that more effort can go into getting Great Western electrification back on timetable. That one really matters, because the Department for Transport is committed to paying for the new trains to be available regardless of whether or not it’s possible to run them. And of course the longer any project runs on, the longer its staff have to be paid, so the costs rack up relentlessly.

dominic-lenton  Dominic Lenton, managing editor
£5m greener buses competition to curb air pollution

The last time I travelled by bus on a regular basis was way back in the 1970s, so on the rare occasions when I find myself upstairs on a London double-decker these days, I always notice the lack of an all-encompassing fug of cigarette smoke. The welcome speed with which we’ve got used to most places being smoke-free in the UK means my own children find it almost bizarre that it was once socially acceptable to light up on public transport. (No less that this was on a school service.) Now the government’s putting money into encouraing local authorities to find ways of equipping bus fleets with green technology, maybe it won’t be that long before the idea of vehicles belching out fumes of their own will seem just as strange.

Katia Moskvitch  Katia Moskvitch, technology features editor
Kaspersky Lab chips humans at IFA 2015

I went to Europe’s largest consumer electronics show – IFA 2015 – in Berlin last week, and one of the most surprising events was by security company Kaspersky Lab, talking about chipping humans. One person even had a chip inserted into him in front of the audience. While chipping live creatures is not entirely new – people have been putting RFID chips into their pets for years – the first human adopters of bio-chips (approximately the size of a rice grain) began to emerge more recently. The smart implants allow users to control door locks, make bank payments and access gadgets such as a laptop with just the wave of a hand.

China unveils Rainbow 5 mega killer #drone design – an annotated infographic

September 9, 2015

China has conducted the first test flight of its largest unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to date, named CH-5 or Rainbow 5 (really?).

The style and design of Rainbow 5 bears more than a passing resemblance to the US Reaper drone. Cute name, familiar design, it’s still an automated killing machine.

All together now: Up above the streets and houses, Rainbow climbing high…

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

China's Rainbow 5 megadrone

China’s Rainbow 5 megadrone

Starfish-killing robot to save the Great Barrier Reef – yes, you read that correctly – an annotated infographic

September 8, 2015

An autonomous robot designed to search for the invasive crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) and give them a lethal injection of salt, is to be deployed on the Great Barrier Reef. COTS, which prey on coral, have destroyed up to 40 per cent of the reef over the last 30 years.

Robots, salt, BAM! Take that, COTS!

E&T news covered this starfish-killing robot story in more detail.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Starfish-killing robot (not pictured: nervous starfish)

Starfish-killing robot (not pictured: nervous starfish)

#Apple launch event, September 2015 – Hey Siri, are we getting close? – an annotated infographic

September 8, 2015

Ahead of yet another major Apple event, we pontificate on what shiny new delights the Cupertino computing conglomerate might bedazzle us with.

Wednesday’s 09-09-15 launch event (taking date scheduling tips from that other Apple, mayhaps?) will take place at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. As it happens, this is the same venue where the late Steve Jobs unveiled the Apple II computer waaaaay back in 1977. The circle remains unbroken.

This time around, the company has a veritable “slew” of new products (what a terribly unattractive word “slew” is), making this week’s event possibly Apple’s biggest to date, with multiple products receiving substantial upgrades.

New Apple tv, new remote control possibly doubling as a gamepad, new iPads, new iPhones and who knows what else?

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Apple: launching some more of that stuff you like

Apple: launching some more of that stuff you like

E&T news weekly #60 – we choose our favourite engineering and technology news stories from the week

September 4, 2015

Ooh, la la. Back from its French-style, month-long August holiday, our weekly news picks yawns, stretches and comes to life once more.

Friday September 4 2015

Rebecca Northfield  Rebecca Northfield, assistant features editor
Contactless payment jacket fashioned for Barclaycard

A fashion firm has come up with the idea of a jacket that you can use to contactlessly pay for things, because that’s what we all need in our lives. Lyle & Scott, based in London, has worked with Barclaycard and created a fashionable contactless payment jacket for all you busy men out there who can’t be bothered to reach into your bags or pockets to get your card out. What if you got mugged and the person demanded your jacket, because it looked good? They could use it to purchase things before you got the chance to cancel your card/jacket, whilst looking dapper. The jacket – which comes in two colours – is designed so you can tap your sleeve on a card reader when you want to pay for your bits and pieces. Barclaycard’s bPay technology is in the cuffs and the chip in the jacket can be linked to any UK registered Visa or MasterCard credit or debit card for purchases up to £30. It sells for £150 and is “ground-breaking” according to Lyle & Scott. Of course.

Jonathan Wilson  Jonathan Wilson, online managing editor
Silk Road investigator admits diverting $800,000 in bitcoins

One day, perhaps the full story about the Silk Road website will become known, a story populated by kingpins masquerading under pseudonyms such as the Dread Pirate Roberts in one corner and now, we learn, corrupt law-enforcement agents in the other. Investigating agent Shaun Bridges has pleaded guilty to siphoning off $800,000 worth of bitcoins from the site, diverting them in to his own bank account, while a colleague, Carl Force, has admitted charges of extortion, money laundering and obstruction of justice. As with any juicy mystery, always follow the money to uncover the truth.

Nissan invests £100m in Juke production at Sunderland

Having known people who worked at Nissan’s Sunderland manufacturing plant, I can appreciate how important the factory is to the economy and well-being of the local population. To hear that the Japanese motor company has committed a further £100m to build its next-generation Juke crossover vehicles at the plant is simply great news.

Lorna Sharpe  Lorna Sharpe, sub-editor
‘See-through’ trailer tech removes blind spots

This sounds really useful for people who have to tow horse boxes or caravans. Researchers at Land Rover have been demonstrating a ‘transparent trailer’ system at this year’s Burghley Horse Trials that combines video feeds from the test vehicle’s standard reversing camera and wing-mirror cameras with an additional feed from a wireless camera on the back of the trailer, so what the driver sees in the rear-view mirror is an image of the road behind with just a faint outline of the trailer, as if it really was see-through.

Network Rail reveals new ‘workshop on wheels’

A new fleet of ‘mobile maintenance trains’ (MMTs) looks set to make life a lot easier for the people who repair our railway network, and also for everyone who uses it. The trains will carry the maintenance teams and all their equipment and materials to where they are needed and then provide a protected and sheltered area while the work is carried out, progressing slowly along the track as required. It means that there’ll be no need to close adjacent lines, greatly reducing disruption for passengers and freight operators.

Aasha Bodhani  Aasha Bodhani, industry features editor
Starfish-killing robot to protect Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef’s coral reef ecosystems can be saved, thanks to Australian researchers who have developed a robot to kill the venomous crown-of-thorns sea star. The COTSbot can stay in water for up to eight hours and kill more than 200 sea stars with a single shot of salt. Its performance will be trialled next month.

dominic-lenton  Dominic Lenton, managing editor
NHS health records available online next year

Big public-sector IT projects don’t have a great track record, so I won’t be the only person wondering whether the government is getting ahead of itself by announcing that we’ll be able to able to access some aspects of our NHS records on mobile devices within a year, with more comprehensive information available by 2018. That’s a brave commitment, particularly when the Care Quality Commission is only just embarking of a review of data security. The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is confident that something called ‘intelligent transparency’ will ensure everything stays confidential. Privacy advocates and organisations like the BMA have already expressed reservations, particularly as users will be able to add their own information. How would you feel about someone who’d managed to hack into your NHS record being able to do that?

Vitali Vitaliev  Vitali Vitaliev, features editor
Starfish-killing robot to protect Great Barrier Reef

This news story brought back memories of my Great Barrier Reef scuba diving session in July 1991, when the Melbourne Age newspaper, for which I then worked as a senior writer, dispatched me on an assignment to Queensland to report on how “banana-benders” (an affectionate Cockney-style Aussie vernacular for “Queenslanders”) spend their leisure. Scuba diving, alongside bungee jumping, white-water rafting and paragliding, was high on their holiday agenda, so after a quick training session in a swimming pool, I put on my heavy gear and – accompanied by an instructor – jumped into the emerald waters of the Great Barrier Reef. The underwater world was colourful and utterly fascinating, although I had to spend most of my energy trying to keep vertical in my gear. At some point, I noticed (from the corner of my eye) a large quickly moving shadow on my right, but had no time to explore what was behind it, for the instructor started making frantic upwards gestures with his thumb – a signal to get back to the surface immediately.
“Did you see it??” he shouted the moment we took off our diving masks.
“What??” I asked gasping for air frantically.
“The killer shark on your right!”
It gives me creeps even now to recall that incident. I was lucky of course, but reading the story about the star-fish killing robot, I couldn’t help thinking that a shark-killing one would probably be more appropriate. Well, if not “shark-killing”, then a “shark-scaring” one perhaps? Just a thought, you know.

#DrinkableBook could save lives by purifying water page by page – an annotated infographic

August 19, 2015

Each pull-out page of the “Drinkable Book” contains nanoparticles of silver that can kill waterborne bacteria and purify up to 100 litres of water. In trials, the paper successfully removed more than 99 per cent of bacteria.

The research is being presented at this week’s American Chemical Society’s national meeting.

E&T news covered the Drinkable Book story earlier this week.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

For those with a thirst for knowledge

For those with a thirst for knowledge

Connected homes become the next #IoT and #wearables domestic battleground – an annotated infographic

August 12, 2015

The “Internet of Things” is the next major technology battle, pitting the likes of Google’s Nest against Apple’s HomeKit for dominance of the smart home.

We remain cheerfully dubious about the genuinely beneficial merits of the ‘smart home’. We’ve never once returned to our reassuringly stupid homes and bemoaned their lack of intelligence, so in what ways will a ‘smarter’ home truly improve our lives? Convince us, boffins!

Naturally, E&T magazine is still keeping a close eye on all things IoT. If things that talk to other things to make some things happen is your bag, you might very well enjoy our Internet of Things news and features page, which neatly gathers together all our IoT coverage in one dynamic place.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Smart home: dumb idea

Smart home: dumb idea

Google’s Alphabet complicates the simplification – an annotated infographic

August 12, 2015

Google has restructured to create a new holding company called Alphabet, separating its core web advertising business from newer ventures like driverless cars.

The planned structure resembles that employed by General Electric, with a central unit handling corporate-wide activities such as finance and relatively independent business units focused on specific areas.

Analysts have interpreted the move as an attempt to focus on some of its more ambitious projects in areas such as wearable devices, driverless cars, home automation and Internet connectivity.

The irony of this somewhat underwhelming announcement (it must be August for this to be such big news) is that one of the world’s biggest Web companies and technological tastemakers and leaders failed to check whether (a) the domain name was available (it isn’t) and that the Twitter handle @Alphabet was available (it isn’t).

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Easy as A, B, err... G?

Easy as A, B, err… G?

Japan’s nuclear industry set for revival after #Fukushima – an annotated infographic

August 10, 2015

Japan is preparing to restart its fleet of mothballed nuclear reactors under a new safety regime introduced in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima accident.

24 out of Japan’s 43 operable reactors have applied for restart permits. The first one to be approved is the Sendai plant on the southern island of Kyushu, which could be back online as soon as August 10.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is keen to revive the nuclear plants to reduce Japan’s reliance on expensive fossil fuel imports, which have driven up electricity prices and increased the country’s trade deficit.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Japan's nuclear reboot

Japan’s nuclear reboot

Lexus Slide hoverboard demonstrated on video – an annotated infographic

August 6, 2015

Lexus is fine-tuning its levitating skateboard, the Lexus Hoverboard, in Barcelona, and has released a video showcasing the full scale of the device’s abilities.

The smoke-emitting hoverboard, relying on superconducting magnets cooled to minus 197 degrees Celsius with liquid nitrogen, could be seen put to test by accomplished skateboarders in a palm tree dotted skateboard park.

E&T news reported on the Lexus hoverboard story earlier today. We’ve got the cool videos of it up there, as well. Check it out.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Back to the future

Back to the future


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