Posts Tagged ‘ Innovation ’

Pacemakers powered by the heart

[tweetmeme] Back in 1899 we realized that by infusion of electrical pulse to the Heart in asystole caused a ventricular contraction and that a heart rhythm of 60-70 beats per minute could be evoked by impulses applied at spacings equal to 60-70/minute. What did we do with this information we created the Pacemaker, the pacemaker for the heart actually helps the heart in its normal function with a gentle helping hand for those who have week hearts. According to World Health Organisation data, 16.7 million people die each year owing to heart attacks, and pacemakers can help a lot of these patients.

It was only by the 1950’s that we were able to produce an implantable pacemaker. The problem of batteries and their charging and discharging is something that the patients that use them have to deal with. This has been an issue for which there have been only temporary solutions. Longer battery life, modulation in the working based on how much assistance is required etc is something that people are still experimenting with to get a long lasting pacemaker.

British scientists have successfully experimented to develop a heart-powered pacemaker. Until now, a pacemaker used the electrical impulses delivered by the electrodes from the heart’s contracting muscles to regulate the heartbeat, but the pacemakers and defibrillators of tomorrow could generate power from the heart itself.

At first glance, this idea seems somewhat impossible, like using the movement of an engine’s pistons to power a car and was made possible by British scientists who used a microgenrator in their experiment to successfully produce enough electricity from the heart to run the pacemaker. The microgenerator used is made of two individual liquid-filled balloons, which are placed at different locations within the heart, but remain connected to a silicone tube consisting of a moving magnet. The heartbeats press the balloons alternatively, forcing the fluid in it to move the magnet past the coil in the silicone tube, producing electricity in the process.

The team of scientists believes that the introduction of the heart-powered technology could enhance the utility of the pacemaker’s of today, as the usage of generated energy could be made to recharge the batteries of the pacemaker. The pacemakers could also generate energy through the flow and movement of the blood, heat differentials or physiological pressures, apart from the tested induction version. Using this energy to recharge pacemakers or defibrillator batteries a will make them last longer, and so increase the intervals between the invasive surgical procedures needed to replace them. Heart implants typically communicate details about their performance to other medical equipment via a wireless link, so the new generator could also allow them to transmit more data.

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Nokia again with Self Charging Phones

[tweetmeme] A few days back I wrote about Nokia Research center working on a prototype technology that would allow cell phones to charge using the radio airwaves that so many radio  transmitters like wifi, radio and GSM use.

Nokia is a genuine game player when it comes to modernizing mobile communication. When just everything is being designed to run on alternative form of energy, it’s fitting that even the mobile phones are set on route. For this, the cellphone maker has filed a US patent application for a phone that can work continuously without requiring to be plugged into a wall socket for a recharge.

The patent is for a self charging phone, which would harvest energy from its owner’s motion. This will be possible courtesy built-in piezoelectric generators that would be placed to help generate electricity from kinetic energy. The phone will have all the heavier components, such as the radio transmitter circuit and battery, supported on a sturdy frame. The frame will be able to move along two sets of rails. Piezoelectric crystals sit on the end of each rail and generate a current whenever the cellphone is moved. So as the user walks, or otherwise moves the phone, electricity is generated to recharge the onboard battery.

A lot of people actually are these days talking about how Nokia is loosing its grip on the cellphone market and the high end innovation is no longer coming from Nokia. However, with technologies like these there seems to be a ray of hope for Nokia to walk back into the hearts of the skeptics. The fact that the iPhone and other high end phones still cost more than they do in the United States in most of the world will definitely give Nokia the time they need. What do you think ?

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Whats so tech about a Window ?

[tweetmeme] Well for starters, it’s no ordinary window. Phillips in their quest for simplicity and providing innovation for the “end Users” as they call all their customers have come up with various demos of what they want to be implementing. I did write about one of this technology earlier, i.e. movable skin tattoos; but getting back to the windows.

I am not sure if words can justify how good this technology might be in hotels and the cool factor for people living there. So check out the video below:

Phillips has this to add:

The hotel industry is dominated by large chains that provided consistent service, but often lack a personal touch. Luckily, the rise of private, theme-oriented hotels is ushering in a new age of hospitality, one in which guests control virtually every aspect of their stay. New applications of technology will empower customers and provide them with better, more comfortable surroundings in which to relax and re-energize after a long journey. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if travel across time zones was stimulating, rather than draining, fun rather than tiresome? Imagine what it would be like if your hotel was not just a temporary roof over your head, but a journey of the senses. Imagine being able to stimulate your senses with sound, light and imagery, day and night. Imagine a room whose very uniqueness leaves you refreshed, energized and ready for the new day.

I can think of something to add to its applications, All of us look for a window with a view, now imagine a scenario where you can have a Niagara falls view or a Burj Khalifa view or a beach sunset view right in your home. Well that would be pretty cool right ? I mean you would not need to invest millions of dollars in getting a perfect view home, but can recreate it within your existing home, by investing in this technology.

Augmented reality ? yes of course it can add-on information from the outdoor world overlay-ed on a layer over the ambient window, providing information like weather latest news etc. In fact it could even replace your TV with some modifications, let your imagination go wild with this one 😉

Nokia charging phone with thin air …

[tweetmeme] We all have had Nokia Phones at some time, and we always have loved them for their robust nature along with their ease of use. A lot of people mention that with the new technologies in the world, Nokia has sort of lost its relevance. I think on the other hand Nokia is looking at different markets than the giant that it has become, iPhone and the Phone that aspires to be the Giant, the Motorola Droid, or the Google Nexus One.

As long as technology is moving on, so is the need for more juice in the batteries of the phones. More requirement for the power means that there will be more advancements required in batteries; or charging for the batteries. What if you dont really have to charge them at all, I mean physically. Ofcourse there are ways, like kinetic energy transformation, solar energy etc. But here’s another concept; Like Nokia I have always been wondering about how much energy is in the air all around us, I am not talking about the energy of people; but more to do with energy of wireless radio systems. Be it FM transmitting radio, GSM signals, Wi-Fi Signals or terrestrial radio systems. What if we could tap into that power to enable mobile phones to pick up the charging of the batteries from there. Completely wireless, and completely practical.

I guess what needs to be worked out is how long it will take to tap this power and how long can you charge the phone with this. Well Nokia is at it again, their innovation well not really aimed at high end phones but mostly innovation like these. Nokia Research center is working on a solution that will help the cause of wireless charging.

Nokia

A new prototype charging system from the company is able to power itself on nothing more than ambient radiowaves – the weak TV, radio and mobile phone signals that permanently surround us. The power harvested is small but it is almost enough to power a mobile in standby mode indefinitely without ever needing to plug it into the mains, according to one of the researchers who developed the device at the Nokia Research Centre in Cambridge, UK. The concept is being worked upon by different fronts, old crystal radio sets and more recently modern radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, increasingly used in shipping and as antitheft devices, are powered purely by radiowaves.

The difference with Nokia’s prototype is that instead of harvesting tiny amounts of power (a few microwatts) from dedicated transmitters, Nokia claims it is able to scavenge relatively large amounts of power — around a thousand times as much — from signals coming from miles away. Individually the energy available in each of these signals is miniscule. But by harvesting radiowaves across a wide range of frequencies it all adds up. Such wireless transfer of energy was first demonstrated by Nikola Tesla in 1893, who was so taken with the idea he attempted to build an intercontinental transmission tower to send power wirelessly across the Atlantic. Nokia’s device is somewhat less ambitious and is made possible thanks to a wide-band antenna and two very simple circuits. The antenna and the receiver circuit are designed to pick up a wide range of frequencies — from 500 megahertz to 10 gigahertz — and convert the electromagnetic waves into an electrical current, while the second circuit is designed to feed this current to the battery to recharge it.

Wireless charging is not intended as a sole energy source, but rather to be used in conjunction with other energy harvesting technologies, such as handset casings embedded with solar cell materials. According to Technology Review magazine, the phone could be on the market in three to five years.

In the meantime, there are other companies who are working on similar concepts  for charging devices wirelessly using the ambient radio waves. At CES 2010, RCA introduced something even better that’s going to be available way sooner: a dongle that tops up your mobile device’s battery via WiFi signals. Notice I didn’t say that it only tops up your cell phone battery; according to RCA reps, this little fella will work with just about all of your mobile devices.

The attachment is efficient enough that it actually provides a noticeable boost to your battery, and given enough time it will charge it to the max. Other similar gizmos have provided only a weak top-up charge at best, so this is a huge improvement. And what’s even better is that the device will be available for around $40 in the summer of 2010. Soon, as long as you’re in an urban environment or around a WiFi router, worrying about your phone’s charge will be the last thing on your mind.

The future applications of the technology are exciting as well. In 2011, RCA expects to release batteries with the WiFi charging capability built right in. There’s no word yet on how much those will cost, but does it matter? The prospect of never having to plug your phone in again will probably be enough to have them flying off of the shelves. Video Included.

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Traffic Lights …. Is there a way to improve it ?

[tweetmeme] There is an old saying, “If it is not broken don’t try to fix it !”. We all have been seeing the humble 3 colored traffic lights since we were kids. Infact On December 10 1868, the first traffic lights were installed outside the British Houses of Parliament in London, by the railway engineer J. P. Knight. They resembled railway signals of the time, with semaphore arms and red and green gas lamps for night use. The gas lantern was turned with a lever at its base so that the appropriate light faced traffic. Unfortunately, it exploded on 2 January 1869, injuring or killing the policeman who was operating it.

A lot of people have contributed to making the Traffic Lights the way it is today. Automatic control of interconnected traffic lights was introduced March 1922 in Houston, Texas. Actually more history of the traffic Lights can be seen at the Wikipedia page. That is not what I am writing about. I am actually trying to show that every breakthrough is a collective effort that combines and tweaks already existing ideas and technology in novel ways. So whats the breakthrough effort in the traffic lights, well first off … Bharat Electronics Limited in India, yes BEL in India, came up with a new concept of the traffic lights back in 2001. The traffic lights use solar cells, countdown timers, LED displays, programmable logic controllers and a dual power supply. The PV cells offer an alternative to conventional power, and generate enough daily energy to run the system for three days. The power requirement is 10 percent of conventional signals resulting in substantial energy savings of up to 60,000 Rupees per year for a single junction.

Well this was a great innovation that spread throughout the country as wildfire. But now more innovations are set to hit the traffic signal like you have never seen before. But hopefully they will reduce distraction and increase efficiency. So here are some examples:

The Virtual Wall conceived by Hanyoung Lee is designed to heighten driver and pedestrian awareness and to encourage both to follow crosswalk rules. The virtual wall which is made of plasma laser beams, shows virtual pedestrians jaywalking and ignoring traffic rules of pedestrian safety.

Yanko design, one of the most recognized design forums in the world, has also produced a re innovation of the timed traffic lights, yes, they have taken the concept of BEL and driven it to a bit more aesthetic / interesting way. Stanković promotes this stoplight as an eco solution in the following ways: If you’ve got the amount of time you’ve got to stop in front of you, you can shut your engine off, wait, be calm, and turn it back on again when the time is almost up. This not only lessens the amount of gas you use sitting still, but it lessens the amount of crazy madness you have wondering if the stoplight is stuck, or just really, really long.
Or even just adding the solar panels to the traffic signal and improve the aesthetics of the kinda ugly traffic signals. Well here are some interesting designs.
The inherent inefficiency of the three-light traffic signal is clearly demonstrated in this proposal for a two-light LED system, which produces the same three colors in one enclosure by combining red and green.
All of the above just goes to prove that there is nothing that cant really be improved on, unless we improve on things or attempt to improve on things, we cannot really push the envelope of existing innovations or existing products and services.
More information about the above signals here:

Why Kindle when you can PI, Kindle Killer from India

Indian entrepreneurs clearly have been on the back seat when it comes to innovation and products, don’t get me wrong. We are amazing at making the same for others, like Google Earth, Tridium from Honeywell and other path breaking innovations that the world currently enjoys. But like I have been saying, it’s our inability to produce successfully and monetize ingenious products branded and labeled as ‘Made In India’ that is the worry. That has not deterred us from trying though. In my previous post about Indian Innovation I did mention of Discovery Channel covering a few innovations from India. However, these do not seem to be the ones that are commercially successful. Of a lot of people I have been waiting for that device or software that could challenge the world’s best and come out surviving. And I think my wait is nearing its end…. My post today is a salute to an innovation that is coming out of India, which will take on the Bull by the horns and hope to succeed in taming it, or so to speak.

Vishal Mehta, a name we are all going to hear a lot more in the coming days, with an Engineering Degree from Cornell, an MBA from MIT-Sloan, settled life in Seattle, and experience working for giants like Dell, Amazon etc deceided one day to leave it all and move back to Ahmedabad. He wanted to start his own online retail venture. With Infibeam.com Vishal realized that dream. Infibeam is an Online retailer that sells everything from flowers, jewellery, books to electronic goods, and has a repository of more than one Lakh Books (1,00,000). But this post is not about the website itself. NDTV Gadgets covered the launch of PI, an e-book reader that looks like the Amazon Kindle, has the same e-Ink screen that the Kindle sports, and has a rights architecture than is more open than the Kindle. The Infibeam Pi, which can now be ordered online and will start shipping in February, is priced at Rs 10,000. About Rs 8,000 cheaper than its American counterpart The Amazon Kindle.

What makes the PI even more attractive to the Subcontinent is its inbuilt support for 13 Indian Languages, giving access to more than One Lakh Boks from the Infibeam repository. The Pi can also be used to read any documents (word or pdf, for instance) you have. This opens up interesting uses for the device. A test preparation firm can load their proprietary content on this device and give it to students, without worrying that the material will get passed around. Entire Syllabus can be loaded into it for a Engineering student making carrying huge reference books a thing of the past. The device can also be used by chartered accountants, lawyers or doctors who needs instant searchable access to a large amount of information. The Pi can store about 600 ebooks in its internal memory. It also has space for a 4GB card—that means about 3,000 ebooks can be carried around. You like to listen to music while reading? No problem, Pi can play music as well.

Mehta is in talks with a number of newspapers and magazines in several Indian languages; and expects to close deals with some publishers soon. But at this stage, newspapers need to be downloaded and then transferred to the Pi. The real deal will be when newspapers can be downloaded to the device every morning. If you spent a lot of time in training your dog to fetch the newspaper every morning, the trick will soon be redundant.

The only downside for it at the moment, is that the reader has no wireless connectivity, however. “It’s pointless in India, there is no 3G,” Mehta says, adding that subsequent iterations of the device will likely have wireless connectivity. On the Kindle, wireless connectivity can only be used to browse the Amazon bookstore and Wikipedia. “When we have wireless connectivity, we probably won’t restrict what users can browse,” Mehta says. “Our essential philosophy is to be as open as possible.” The Pi has a micro USB port to connect to a PC. Users will need to create an account with Infibeam.com, register the device and then download the ebooks. The ebooks can be read on the PC as well as on the Pi. The ebooks typically cost 5-20% less than the hard copy versions, but in some cases, especially with bestsellers, digital rights are expensive and it’s cheaper to buy the physical books.

For more details and detailed Specifications head over to the PI website.

Indian Innovation

India and Innovation have the first 2 characters the same, but in reality there is huge gap between both. I was just watching the Bollywood movie “Guru” based on the life of Dhirubai Ambani, who started off as a small time worker with Arab merchants in the 1950s and moved to Mumbai in 1958 to start his own business in spices. After making modest profits, he moved into textiles and opened his mill near Ahmedabad. Dhirubhai founded Reliance Industries in 1958. After that it was a saga of expansions and successes; By 2007 the combined fortune of the family (sons Anil and Mukesh) was 60 billion dollars, making the Ambani’s the second richest family in the world.

So what happened to the rest of them ? Since then there have not been too many businessmen or innovators that have come out of India, there was of course the occasional Mr. Narayan Murthy and Mr. Azim Premji, who took 15 years to build an IT empire but there have not been too many innovations. I guess there is one question that people keep asking within the IT community – “Why we don’t hear Google/Twitter like stories from India?” After all India is the global superpower in computing these days or at least thats what we like to say.  We have always been a service oriented company and not product based. Why don’t we have a Office package from India, or a Programing language from India ? I guess its because deep down we Indians are people who like security in jobs and so we do not venture into the unknown of business, innovation and startups. One of my favorite blogs at the moment, pluggd.in writes this :

For India to find its place in the sun in the years to come, R&D based excellence – or, innovation based solutions – is mandatory. That if India’s destiny lay in just being a low cost supplier of the world’s goods and services, then the tryst with that destiny would be short -lived. But if India’s destiny lies in being an international leader in the supply of goods and services then it has no choice but to embrace innovation and R&D based excellence.

Over the past 57 years, India’s share in world trade has shrunk from over 2% to about 0.6% today. Of India’s top items of merchandise export are in traditional commodity items like textiles, gems and jewelry, leather, chemicals, engineering goods, minerals, and agroproducts. The value-added by India in the commodity items is minimal and hence prone to significant international price pressures. Due to the lack of investments and innovation along the entire value-chain, from design to marketing to technology to the business model itself, these industries capture just a tiny share of their global markets. These industries have grown in large part due to the natural advantages enjoyed by India of which an abundant supply of low cost labour is a significant part. In the world of tomorrow, innovation has to take centre-stage if these industries are to have positions of dominance on the world stage.

Non-traditional businesses like IT services and pharmaceuticals have grown significantly in the last decade and are now recognized as having “arrived” on the global stage. Both these businesses are knowledge driven and employ a significantly different profile of employees than the traditional businesses. It is therefore imperative that with their arrival on the global stage, with their access to world class talent and capital, cost & quality led advantages, and with high global demand, they do not become complacent and lose their leading positions much like the traditional businesses have done.

With over 300,000 engineers graduating each year, India is sitting on a human capital goldmine that most countries can only dream about. However, the issue of global leadership isn’t one that’s only about numbers. After all, with only 7000 engineers graduating each year, Israel with 6.5m people has over 100 innovative companies listed on Nasdaq! And India with over 250m head of cattle – the world’s largest – is not even a player in the global dairy business!

Things are not all bad though, Pluggd.in reports on the new Startups that are getting churned out of  India. In fact this is also being highlighted by Discovery channel who is showcasing a few of the innovations coming out of India. Small but still Innovative.

Pomogranate Seed seperator

Mobile Operated Switches for remote operation

Mini Wind powered Mobile Charger Unit

Tree climbing Apparatus / Mini Washing Machine / Modified Scooter / Amphibious Bicycle

There are more videos at the MissionPacific channel of Youtube. I am not sure if many people know about these innovations in the country, and about how many venture capitalists / innovators who are willing to take up some of these devices for production in the huge market that is India.