Tag Archives: future

Safeguarding the UK’s future water supply- pirates aside

Keeping our future water supply secure- except maybe from pirates.

It might sound silly that on this little island of ours- surrounded by water- we could find ourselves running out of fresh water in as little as 40 years, but as things are, this may well be our reality. It is estimated that by 2050, the UK will have shortages in our water supply of up to 10,000 million litres a day. Innovations in technology and services will be necessary if we want to avoid this grim prospect.

Ten small/mid-sized companies in the UK stand at the ready to deliver feasibility projects designed to help businesses keep our future water supply covered. If successful, these innovative projects could be applied both here and abroad.

With business investment, the total cost of these projects is just over £1 million, with an excess of £500,000 in funding from the Technology Strategy Board, and a potential £100,000 by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), with contributions from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) as well.

The aim of these projects is to give businesses the means to develop the preliminary ideas necessary for the creation of innovative new technologies. These may then become larger projects with the potential to create the new markets of the future.

It is estimated that around 1.6 billion people currently live in countries where scarcity of water is a serious issue, making it a clear and weighty environmental issue for the world as a whole.

The Technology Strategy Board intends for this new venture to find solutions for safeguarding our future water supply, but also create a market opportunity by funding companies that can find new, profitable ways of using the water sources we have at present, more efficiently.

The challenge has been set- every company that is successful will be charged with creating new technologies and processes that can either save or recycle 1,000 million litres of water a day.

Of the intended projects, a couple of particular interest are those of Xeros, and Aquamesh:-

-Aquamesh will be using their knowledge of the mining industry to create a low energy sensor network for farmers, which should significantly reduce the amount of water used in irrigation, and potentially increase the yield of crops.

-Xeros, most recently in the limelight for their innovative new washing machine which use virtually no water. Xeros will be working with the leather industry to find a way of cleaning leather without consuming vast amounts of fresh water, and reduce the polluting toxins in the huge billion pound industry.

Smart alternative energy sources

The whole world is looking for alternative energy sources since traditional sources are getting exhausted, are polluting the world, or for other reasons. The world is already using renewable energy sources like solar panels,  wind turbines and biofuels.  These are becoming more and more popular and so widely used that they can’t be called alternative sources anymore. And what we want to talk about now are some truly alternative fuels that are being developed. The following technologies show some promises for the future as renewable energy sources but it must be said that most of them aren’t ready yet for commercial use.

How efficient would it be if human energy can be used to power personal devices. That’s where a lot of research is going to for the moment. There already are some inventions that allow you to create energy just by wearing something. For example a knee brace that can convert the kinetic energy of the moving leg into useable electricity. Or a backpack that can create energy from the motion of walking. And a very good example of a smart, new technology is the newly built Westfield Stratford City Mall that’s built for the London Olympics. The paving stones of this mall absorb kinetic energy from peoples footsteps and can create energy out of this.

Some other energy sources that are being developed are small generators that can create electricity from viruses or a t-shirt battery which will be able to store enough energy to power small electronic devices. But all these technologies are still in the early stages of development. So it will probably take years before they can be used in a large scale. However, there are some alternative electricity generating systems that are already, or almost in production.

An example is hydrogen, which has been considered a potential energy source from sometime now. Another great example is a robotic jellyfish, created by scientists at Virginia Tec. This robotic jellyfish can take hydrogen from the water to create the power it needs. So this effectively gives it an unlimited power source. Researchers at Harvard also recently created a hydrogen fuel cell which can create energy from hydrogen and store it like a battery. The prototype can now store about three and a half minutes worth of power but the researchers have the next couple of years to think about ways to increase this.

Technologies that will help shape Smart Cities.

There are a lot of technologies which we already use today that will probably also be (more) relevant in the future. Today’s technologies will evolve to be more powerful and they will integrate more with each other and with the city.

Smartphones allow us to communicate anytime and anywhere. They contain a lot of sensors like cameras, gyros, accelerometers, GPS, compasses and so on. In the future, the number, accuracy and performance of these sensors will grow and the combination of sensors will give users a powerful sense of their surroundings. With your smartphone, you will be able to interact with the digital and physical world. There are some ideas that personal mobile computers will become fashion statements. You will be able to wear them like a watch, headset or glasses so you’ll be able to interact visual and audible with the city and its surroundings. These will be technologies of the future of smart technologies.

Another change that will occur in already existing technology is the 3G and 4G networks that now provide acceptable but intermittent connections at an ok speed. Deployment of the cell towers in the future will be faster and more organic. There will be so many devices in the cities of the future that even remote neighborhoods will be able to enjoy solid wireless access to the cloud. The idea is that smartphones won’t have signal strength indicators since wireless access to the cloud will be pervasive and ultrafast all the time.

Cloud computing in the future will contain all of our personal information. The applications (like Google Drive now) will be available at anytime and everywhere. You should be able to edit a text document on the train or adjust sales proposals at a clients office.

In the future, eye-tracking and voice recognition technologies will be combined with augmented reality. These futuristic information glasses will transmit objects that you’re viewing and words you’re speaking to your smartphone which will interpret, find and compute your intent and transmit the results back to you. Augmented reality will be used to project images onto the lenses of these glasses.

Social networks will also become more integrated with other digital components of our lives. They will be integrated with our calendars, address books, GPS,… So for example when you go to a meeting you can be presented with recent and relevant posts that the person you’re meeting made on Facebook.

There are a lot more technologies that are already used today that will become more important in the future. They will probably appear in a new and innovative way so they meet the standards of Smart Cities. Beside all of these existing technologies, new technologies are already being made.

Smart Cities and Communities European Innovation Partnership (SCC)

One of the greatest challenges facing the EU in the future will be that cities have to start adapting to smart intelligent and sustainable environments. That’s why the European Commission launched a Smart Cities and Communities European Innovation Partnership (SCC). The main reasons why the Commission launched the SCC is to gather resources from energy, transport and the IT sector and they also want to boost the development of smart technologies in cities. They’ve set aside €365 million in EU funds for these types of urban technology solutions for 2013.

Cities have to grow into Smart Cities and they have to start developing and using innovative smart technologies. But cities face limitation in the development of these technologies due to high technological risks, difficulties over certain returns on investments or regulatory difficulties.

Günther Oettinger, Energy Commissioner, pointed out that innovations are needed in Europe to drive competitiveness and he said that innovation is the best means of addressing energy efficiency. The new technologies, like high efficiency heating and cooling systems, smart metering, real-time energy management and zero-energy buildings, that already exist need to be spread more among all the European cities and the SCC will help with this.

Siim Kallas, Commission Vice-President responsible for transport, added that European cities suffer a lot from road accidents, poor air quality and noise. He said it’s important to work towards CO2 free cities and to get there, more advanced research and innovation is needed. And Neelie Kroes, Commission Vice-President responsible for digital agenda, added that cities need to rethink how to reduce congestion and increase energy efficiency in the urban environment. He said it’s the ICT that puts the “smart” in Smart Cities and this challenges other industries.

Some of the major challenges that the SCC will tackle are for example the congestion. Nearly 75% of European citizens live in cities and they consumer about 70% of EU’s energy, this costs Europe about 1% of its GDP every year. So the smart urban technologies need to tackle challenges like this.

The innovative Expo 2015 Smart City of the future (video)

The innovative Expo 2015 Smart City of the future will turn every visit into a unique experience. Smart City visitors will have real time support throughout their journey to the site: electronic tickets, biometric identification, innovative electronic devices, special electronic walls, augmented and immersive reality, visitors’ avatar, foldable tablets and much more!