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An underwater robot for hull cleaning

aprile 23, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Hull BUG

Those who have been sailing at sea know well that the formation of barnacles which grow in the fissures of the hull of a boat and in the submersed part of the vessel can pose a serious threat, especially in terms of cost under the energy-saving point of view, as these formations can slow a boat down by up to 10 per cent, but on the other end, the effort to regain the lost 10 per cent can cost up to 40 per cent more in fuel.

On top of this, you should also calculate the cost, and the waste of time, to take the boats out of water for a thorough cleaning operation. All this might soon be a thing of the past thanks to Hull Bug, an underwater robot which can autonomously perform cleaning of encrusted hulls.

Developed by the US Office of Naval Research, Hull Bug has four wheels and an array of instruments and sensors on board; to get started it is placed in the water, where thanks to a sort of vacuum cleaner it would attach to the bottom of the boat to clean. At this point it starts working on its own without human intervention.

Thanks to its several sensors, it can dodge any obstacles while moving, while a fluorometric device detects the presence of biofilm on the boat. Biofilm is a concentration of microorganisms which works as a base where barnacles and parasites will grow.

At this point, Hull Bug would start its powerful brushes, an cleans the hull from any biofilm, in order to prevent formation of barnacles, rather than removing them when they are already formed. So far, tests have given positive results, and it may not be too long before we see a robot like this in any port.

Pocket video recorder, professional footage at all times

aprile 23, 2010 Technology No Commenti

DVR 806

To take video footage of a professional type, you do not need to tote a heavy video camera, if you have the possibility of carrying with you a small pocket video recorder that you can use in all those situations when a hidden camera pr a pocket video recorder can provide a valuable help.

For open air videos, for a bicycle ride with your friends in summer or a ski ride down a hill in winter, for hidden leisurely footage such as candid camera videos, or professional for police or video surveillance operations, using a pocket video system like DVR 806 can be your best bet.

Although it is more or less as small as a cigarette pack, it can record up to 60 hours of video, with three different resolution levels, which is conveniently stored on its internal hard drive, with a 60 Gb capacity, and can later be comfortably downloaded and played back on a PC thanks to its USB cable.

It features three different recording modes: manual, timer-activated and with an automatic infrared activation sensor. By using this mode, the miniature video recorder will work while you are away, fo0r example to protect you against unwanted guests at home, or if you suspect that something wrong might be going on in the office during your absence.

By connecting it to the power mains, you will have at your disposal a real fixed surveillance camera, which you can use for unlimited recordings (compatibly with capacity of its hard disk and additional memory card). If you use its built-in lithium battery to power it, it will be your perfect companion for your excursions or your sport activities!

A biometric wallet protects credit cards and personal data

aprile 22, 2010 Technology No Commenti


If you need to take your wallet with you at all times, you have to make sure that it is fully protected against unauthorized access or theft, especially if contains not only cash, but credit cards or sensitive data which might be used to give us a bigger trouble than the loss of a few hundred dollar bills, such as for example identity theft and the like.

To protect ourselves against this kind of unfortunate events, without leaving behind the good old wallet and its contents, now we can use Tungsten W, the world first biometric wallet. As you can easily guess by the name, it is made up of a metallic shell in highly resistant tungsten; the wallet can be opened through a small biometric scanner, which will recognize your fingerprint, and only at this point will open it granting access to your cards, documents and cash.

To start using it, you will need to connect it to a computer to configure it by storing the fingerprint which, from that point on, will work as an access key. Along with this, Tungsten W is also equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, to pair it to a mobile device like a phone, which will inform you through an alert as soon as you exceed a certain distance from your wallet, for example if someone is trying to steal it.

The biometric wallet is available in a wide range of versions, not only in tungsten but also in carbon fiber or Kevlar, and in 5 different colors, at a price that ranges from a minimum of approximately 400 dollars to 600 dollars for the Kevlar and carbon fiber version. With this price tag, its content must be really precious to justify such an investment for a wallet…

How to tell an enemy by the eyes

aprile 22, 2010 Technology No Commenti


A research project carried out by Southern Methodist University in Dallas, with funding from the US Dept. of Defense, is working on a new technology for photo and video miniature cameras, which thanks to its high resolution can identify enemies even inside a pitch black cave; this technology, named Panoptes, is also used in the development of an iris scanning system, used to identify people and which can help towards an improvement of security procedures in sensitive places such as airports, military installations etc.

The name Panoptes comes from the mythological giant with 100 eyes, and suits well a technology capable of producing images of extreme clarity thanks to an array of micro electromechanical mirrors, integrated with low-resolution paraboloid-shaped sub-imagers, which are used to zoom on a specific area of interest.

The target of this research project is to produce miniature lenses which can be mounted in tens or hundreds on a soldier’s helmet, connected among them and in turn to a computer that processes the images and manages the overlapping, providing a result of extreme clarity without the weight of a bigger lens.

Furthermore, always by using the Panoptes technology, researchers are working on a system called Smart Iris, capable of scanning someone’s iris, without them having to waste time stopping and staring into a scanner. This system could provide a valuable help to protect potential terrorist targets such as for example an airport: just place it into a doorway or metal detector, and the passenger’s eye will be quickly analyzed, without wasting time and without raising any suspicion, speeding up filtering operations and granting access only to authorized personnel.

Underwater robots, a new research in Korea

aprile 21, 2010 Technology No Commenti


The South Korean Ministry of Transport has allocated funds amounting to approximately 18 million dollars, to be used for financing of a project aimed at development of a range of underwater robots, in various models, which hopefully could prove useful for underwater search operations or as a support for rescue of survivors in case of a shipwreck or a natural disaster.

These robots should be capable of crawling on the sea bed, at a speed of approximately 30 meters per minute, or swimming at 20 meters per minute, and will be equipped with precision cameras and audio equipment, for visual and acoustic detection of any objects of interest on the sea bed or in the water; for example, they can be used for scientific research operations or for monitoring the health and conditions of the sea and its fauna, or to dive deep below the depth that can be reached by human divers in order to locate shipwrecks or other objects being searched.

This kind of robots can show its best in case of tragic events, when a prompt deployment of rescue operators is a vital factor, and use of technology as a support may save several lives, especially if the search takes place at night time or in waters with strong currents, where the search of a wrecked ship and its passengers may take long hours, if not entire days.

Development of these robots should be carried out in two phases: the first one will be the development, before the end of 2012, of an automated vehicle capable of diving to a depth of 200 meters, while the second stage, to be completed within 2015, will be dedicated to upgrading the vehicle until it is able to reach depths of over 6 kilometers below sea level.

Mobile phone spy software

aprile 21, 2010 Technology No Commenti


As many of you surely know, not only through this blog, basically all models of mobile phone, with all operating systems (from Symbian do Windows Mobile, from an iPhone to a BlackBerry) can be turned into a spy cell phone thanks to the installation on the handset of a small but mighty invisible software which allows a third party to remotely monitor the activity of the phone on which it is installed, without raising any suspicion, simply via SMS messages that activate or disable the software functions.

From now on, for those who are not always able to listen in real time to their target’s calls, the spy software features another functionality, which works towards an optimization of surveillance operations.

In fact, as of today, Spy Phones can record the eavesdropped calls, both incoming and outgoing, and not only: once the call is over, the recording audio file will immediately be sent to your email address, for you to comfortably listen to it at a later time, and also to gather evidence which can be used to prove a case of infidelity or corporate espionage.

The audio file is temporarily saved on the phone memory in a dynamic fashion: in fact, should the memory card be full, the software will use the phone memory, and vice versa. As soon as the message is successfully emailed to you, the audio file will be deleted, and no sign of the sent message will ever be found.

As well as others, this function (which is currently available only on Symbian phones) is enabled or disabled simply by sending an SMS with a specific code, which will then be intercepted by the spy software, and not displayed on the phone screen, thus providing maximum privacy to your surveillance operation.

A powerboat or a submarine? Both of them!

aprile 20, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Hyper Sub

For coast guard police forces which might want to add one more valuable tool to their patrolling operations, for leisure and touristic excursions, for submarine scientific research, or even for those who have money to spend and can’t choose between a motorboat or a submarine, the solutions comes as a hybrid between the two, called Hyper Sub.

We are talking about a vehicle which, on the surface of the sea, can reach a maximum speed of 40 knots with an operating range of over 500 nautical miles, and it is also capable of diving underwater all the way down to 250 meters of depth, while carrying 4 passengers plus pilot.
The inside can be configured according to a wide range of possible options, ranging from leisure use (for excursions and diving tours), to scientific research and much more.

For this reason, Hyper-Sub, manufactured in Florida by Marion, will be available in three different models, with different configurations depending on how it is going to be used. When on the surface, it is powered by a twin diesel engine, while under the water, it uses a rechargeable electric engine which can keep it submersed for up to 20 hours depending on the diving speed.

Thanks to its completely transparent canopy, in its Sport configuration, this vehicle is perfect for touristic or leisurely purposes. Other configurations, with a normal non-transparent top, make it more suitable to be used for scientific or surveillance reasons. This difference is also enhanced by the seating, more luxurious and comfortable in the Sport version.

Those who wish to know its price tag, though, will have to white, since at the moment, Marion has not yet started production and sale to the general public of its Hyper Sub.

Sim-Fi, the first SIM card with a WiFi router

aprile 20, 2010 Technology No Commenti


Our mobile phones have literally become handheld computers, and they offer the opportunity of being constantly connected to the Net, so as not to lose contact with our work or our email, not even for a second. Now, aside from connecting to the Internet via GPRS or WiFi, they can become WiFi hotspots themselves, connecting to other wireless-enabled devices available nearby. How is this possible? Thanks to SIM-Fi, the first SIM card with built-in WiFi.

This card, manufactured by Sagem-Orga, one of the world leading producers of SIM cards, can house, in spite of its tiny size, along with the standard telephone technology, also a WiFi chip, which makes you able to use your handset as if it was a router, to connect your computer to the net even where there is no connection or no signal, and mostly to share this connection with your friends’ or colleagues’ computers.

Thanks to the WiFi signal coming from SIM-Fi enable cellphones, there is no more need for Bluetooth, and if you have the right data plan tariff, any people around you using a WLAN-enabled mobile phone will be able to use your WiFi network, without having to spend a fortune on a GPRS connection. In short, your mobile phone will be turned into a WiFi hotspot, accessible to other users simply by authenticating with the network key, or freely is the network is open.

The only actual problem is a practical one, as currently, SimFi is not yet compatible with common mobile phones as its size is a tad bigger than the standard. For this reason, it will take some cooperation from phone manufacturers, who should use bigger slots which can house both SimFi and normal SIMs.

Efficient and cheap solar cells for future clean energy

aprile 17, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Solar Cell

The energy that the Earth receives from the Sun in just one hour would be enough to provide power to the entire planet for a full year. All this amount of energy, clean and renewable, is not used not only because of the dependence on oil that our civilization has acquired over the years, but also because any procedure or system to harness solar power can only store a tiny fraction of the energy received, therefore they are very expensive and relatively uncommon.

For this reason, in Canada, at the Université de Québec, researchers are working on a new technology which finally allowed to create efficient and extremely cheap solar cells.

These solar cells are based on a layer of porous titanium dioxide particles, covered with a molecular dye which absorbs sunlight, basically doing the same job that chlorophyll is doing on the green leaves from our trees. Titanium dioxide is then immersed inside an electrolytic solution which is then covered with a platinum-based catalyst. In a few words, this system would work just like a normal alkaline battery, where titanium dioxide and platinum would act just like electrodes, and the electrolytic solution would be the conducting material.

Previous studies had identified some problems: the solution was extremely corrosive and dark in color, which would limit the passage of light and the efficiency, while the usage of platinum in the process was resulting in a sky-rocketing price; these problems have been solved by using a sort of gel which is transparent and non corrosive, and by replacing platinum with cobalt sulphide, a more efficient material, much less expensive to produce, which provides a much higher stability at a much lower cost.

Research makes lithium batteries live longer

aprile 17, 2010 Technology No Commenti


No one seems to realize the strain that the batteries which power our electronic devices have to withstand, especially while our MP3 players, mobile phones and gizmos become more and more powerful and demanding in terms of power needed to operate them.

Therefore, the life of normal rechargeable lithium-ion batteries is hard, and in order to significantly improve their performance, a research team from Georgia Institute of Technology is working on a new type of electrodes, made up of silicon-based composite materials.

Currently, the batteries’ electrodes are made up of graphite, and generate an electric current by transferring lithium ions between the cathode and the anode. The silicon electrodes can transfer those ions at a speed 10 times higher, thus also increasing tenfold the battery capacity, and of course the duration of a single recharge.

The problem at this stage seems to be stability of this new type of electrodes; in fact, at each charge/discharge phase, the material in the electrodes expands and contracts. If you replace a graphite particle with one of silicon of the same size, the expansion and contraction would soon end up cracking the electrode.

Researchers are working in this direction, using nanoparticles which, along with solving this problem, allow storage of a larger amount of energy in a smaller battery, thus considerably increasing (up to 10 times, as said before) a battery’s capacity and power in the same size.

In a not so distant future, the batteries of our mobile phones, for example, might get smaller and need to be recharged only once every month or two: you will finally have no trouble when you forget your battery charger at home before leaving for your holidays!


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