Tag Archives: Smart Technologies

Human motion will Power the Internet of Things, say energy harvesting engineers

Most people generate enough power to continuously transmit data at a rate of 1 Kb/s, say researchers who have audited the harvestable energy from human motion.

The Internet of Things is the imagined network of data links that will emerge when everyday objects are fitted with tiny identifying devices.

The idea is that every parcel in a post office would transmit its position, origin and destination so that it can be tracked and routed more efficiently, that every product on a supermarket shelf would transmit its contents, price, shelf life and so on, that your smartphone would interrogate the contents of your fridge and cupboards every time you walk into the kitchen to warn you when the milk is running low.

Each of these things will enhance our businesses and lifestyles in a small way. But taken together, this Internet of Things will entirely transform the way we interact with the world around us.

But there’s a problem: these tiny identifying devices require a power source. Batteries are expensive and impractical so computer scientists are hoping to harvest the necessary energy from the environment, in particular from lights and from human motion.The question is how much energy is available in this way. That’s relatively straightforward to answer for indoor lights (about 50-100 microwatts per cm^2). But the energy available from human motion is much harder to assess.

That’s caught the interest of Maria Gorlatova and team at Columbia University in New York who have measured the inertial energy available from the activity of 40 individuals over periods up to 9 days. To do this they attached to each person inertial energy harvesting devices, essentially a mass attached to a spring, that recorded their motion.

“To the best of our knowledge, the dataset that we analyze is the first publicly available acceleration dataset collected for a large number of participants,” they say.

They also measured the power available from the movement of objects such as doors, drawers and pencils to see how much might be harvested here.

The results are often surprising and sometimes counter-intuitive. Here’s a list of their main findings:

  • Periodic motion is energy rich. So writing with a pencil generates more power (10-15 microwatts) than the acceleration associated with a 3-hour flight flight including take off, landing and turbulence, which never generated more than 5 microwatts.
  • Humans are passive most of the time. About 95 per cent of the total harvestable energy they produce is generated during less than 7 per cent of the day.
  • Walking generates the same amount of power as indoor lighting (about 150 microwatts). Running generates around 800 microwatts.
  • Purposeful shaking generates up to 3,500 microwatts, 30 times more than walking.
  • Even though it requires less exertion, walking downstairs generates more power than going upstairs because of the higher accelerations involved.
  • Taller people generate about 20 per cent more power than shorter people.
  • The difference between people’s power output depends largely on the amount of walking they do. Sensor placement on the body makes little difference.
  • Most people generate enough power to continuously transmit data at the rate of about 1 Kb/s (more than 5 microwatts).

That’s an interesting set of results. Engineers are already designing algorithms to manage the way energy is harvested, stored and then used. Gorlatova and co say this kind of work will help to make these as efficient as possible.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1307.0044: Movers and Shakers: Kinetic Energy Harvesting for the Internet of Things

Telefónica: new M2M innovations

Telefónica Digital has unveiled some of the innovations its researchers have been working on in the field of Machine to Machine (M2M) communications. It’s latest concept “Thinking Things” connects almost all devices wirelessly to the internet, enabling physical objects to be controlled remotely via a web page.

The Thinking Things concept exists of a physical module containing core communications and logic, energy via a battery or AC module, and a variety of sensors and actuators.

According to Telefónica, modules are connected together and then connected to the device they will control. The company gave the example of plugging in modules into a lamp to enable remote control of home lighting. Once connected, a new web page is created for the new device providing web-based access to control the functions of the physical modules.

All the web functions are offered through an API, so developers can build their own applications on top of the platform. The final element of Thinking Things will be a data services ecosystem. This will offer access to metadata from Telefónica’s network, leading to the development of tailored services and the ability to commercialise them.


Barcelona: SmartCity Centre of Excellence in the 22@ district

The Mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias, has signed an agreement with the Chairman of Schneider Electric España, Julio Rodríguez Izquierdo, to create the first SmartCity Centre of Excellence in the 22@ district.

With this initiative, the Council aims to turn Barcelona into a world smart city benchmark, boasting applications for smart mobility, energy-efficiency enhancement (managing water, distribution networks and buildings) and citizen relations with the authorities.

Rodríguez Izquierdo accordingly explained that his company and the City Council would be co-developing a smart-mobility plan for Barcelona.

“For some time now the Council has been at the forefront of this Smart City commitment, a concept that will raise the level of well-being for people”, explained Trias.

For his part, the Deputy Mayor for Urban Habitat, Antoni Vives, explained that the agreement would be creating “a future prospect for the good of the city’s future”.

The centre will operate as a technology knowledge and development cluster, focused on smart city management. One of its main objectives will be to promote a collaboration framework with university centres, institutions and businesses, to launch research lines and encourage the incorporation of highly qualified university staff. Therefore, there will be subsidised programmes and exchanges promoting specialist training.

The agreement also commits both sides to the joint promotion of the City Protocol initiative, a global city-model standard that will allow varying levels of excellence to be assessed.

We from Connected Liverpool are very impressed with this initiative. It proves how    forward-thinking Barcelona really is. We’ll keep you informed….

TelecomTV at Connected Liverpool

Today was a very exciting day for Connected Liverpool. This morning at 9 a.m. sharp, CEO Lee Omar and Innovation Lead Jordy van Kuijk met up for breakfast with a strongly motivated two headed team from TelecomTV.

One of them, Guy Daniels, explained their ambition to showcase how ICT can offer practical solutions to vertical sectors and communities, through text, photos and video and that they are keen to track the progress of a community-based service, from first steps through to full roll-out. Connected Liverpool perfectly matches this criteria providing all that was necessary to arrange an informal catchup in Liverpool this morning.

After breakfast, both our CEO and Innovation Lead were interviewed and filmed to comment on Connected Liverpool’s strong aspirations to transform Liverpool into the UK’s first Smart City.

Innovation Lead Jordy van Kuijk was interviewed first at our studio in the Baltic Triangle and was asked such questions as: “What is a smart city?”, “What is a city operating platform?”, “Why does Liverpool have to become smarter within the eight areas of the Visitor Economy, the Knowledge Economy, Low Carbon, Employment – Skills & Entrepreneurship, Health & Wellbeing, Housing and Neighbourhoods, SuperPort and Transport?”, and “How will smart applications, the Internet of Things and the Machine to Machine market contribute to this?”.

CEO Lee Omar was interviewed and filmed in “The Light” at the Royal Liver Building, one of the Rights and Humanity conference rooms. Lee commented on his aspirations to provide better citizen services to the Liverpool City Region residents and to provide equal opportunities to all communities within the region. Additionally he explained: “At this point we are halfway our consultation phase meaning we are speaking to as many stakeholders as possible in the various areas. At this point I couldn’t tell you where we will be within 4 months from now, but I can tell you that I aim to create one coherent cross-departmental strategy that suits us all and enables us to revitalise our city region.”

After the interviews, the TelecomTV team took off to take some nice shots of the City Region including pictures of L1 and the Albert Docks.

We’ll keep you informed!!


Talking Cars

"Talking" vehicles graphic

On the roads of Ann Arbor, Michigan, hundreds of vehicles are fitted with kit that lets them ‘talk’ to each other. The pilot was initiated by the US Department of Transport and will continue for one year and will connect about 3,000 vehicles in total.

The aim of the pilot is to test technology designed to alert drivers to dangerous situations in an effort to reduce the number of accidents on the roads. At the end of the trial, the data gathered should be used to force law changes regarding the required safety equipment.

In 2011, more than 32,000 people died on the US’s roads due to crashes. The government suggests that 80% of the number of accidents did not involve drugs or alcohol meaning that technology could create a step-change towards safer transport.

The companies Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen have all provided vehicles to be used. Nearly 500 trucks and buses are already equipped with the communication devices which rely on technology similar to wi-fi. By the start of October that number is set to rise to about 2,800.

The actual kit will let vehicles send data to each other and selected parts of the city’s infrastructure.

Drivers will be warned if:

  • There is a risk they could crash into another vehicle at crossings where their view is restricted.
  • If another vehicle is changing lanes in their blind spot.
  • If there is a danger of a rear-end collision because the car in front of them has braked suddenly.

Drivers will be warned of dangers they might not be able to see to reduce the risk of a collision.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s David Strickland, this technology has the potential to be the ultimate game-changer in roadway safety. However, it still remains a challenge to implement the technology in the real world, he said.

Collision alert graphicAlternatives to the technologies involved in the project are already on the market. For example, Bosch offers an ultrasonic sensor which registers objects three metres to a car’s side which the driver may not be able to see. Nissan has also introduced a car-mounted radar which monitors the road ahead and applies the brakes if it thinks a collision is imminent. In Europe Volvo is working on an alternative wireless technology in which cars “follow” a lead vehicle, mimicking its actions and forming a convoy.

Even though these technologies have great potential to improve road safety, the amount of time it will take before we see it become widespread will depend on both whether the technology is viable and how quickly governments are likely to demand that vehicles implement it. At least 30 to 40 years away we would say.