- Meeting energy needs renewably in the Developing Nations has a set of challenges that are unique to these regions of the world – including poor access to a centralized power grid and, equally as important, less economic means to purchase these new technologies. Many of the energy solutions that people in the Developing Nations rely upon can be damaging to their healthy, for instance the use of kerosene lamps and charcoal stoves which have been linked to a wide array of respiratory complications. One promising advance to reduce reliance on dirty kerosene lamps and other soot-emitting light sources are solar-powered LED lights. Sun is available 365 days a year (at least outside of the Arctic regions) even in rain storms; and given the extremely lower power demands of LEDs, this technology makes sense for the developing world. While the upfront costs maybe higher than a kerosene lamp, once the renewable LED lamp is purchased, there are no additional, regular expenditures to purchase a fuel source. One company that is leading the way with this technology is Flexiway Solar Solutions who even has programs to support NGOs looking to enrich lives with this day-extending technology. Imagine the extra productivity of a family who has access to light 24-hours a day to study for an upcoming exam, to weave a rug for the market tomorrow or to care for a sick daughter. Several other intriguing ideas for those in the Developing Nations include the SOLARKIOSK which allows for mobile, self-contained, solar-powered marketplaces to be set up even in the remotest villages; and solar cookers which are not a new idea but continued to be championed by honorable organizations such as Solar Cookers International that has already helped 30,000 families in Africa gain access to this clean cooking technology.
- If you are interested in designing online mapping applications and you work with a government or community organization, then Google is sponsoring a contest you should check out. The Google Places API Developer Challenge runs until October 31st and the winner wins a VIP trip to Google I/O 2013 where they will feature your winning app. With Google Places, developers can create customized geographic searches, online maps and even allow users to check-in at their favorite locations. The City of San Francisco has an excellent online database of maps driven by Google Places, for example this crime map.
- I guess it was only a matter of time before Twitter went spatial and it looks like the transition is underway. Starting on July 19th, companies with a global or regional reach can create geo-targeted ads that only appear for users in those areas. British Airways, Coca Cola and Wendy’s were part of the beta testers and the service is now available to all Twitter users. This targeted Tweet service also seems applicable to those social organizations that are active on Twitter as they could create customized messages about events that are tweeted to the geographically-appropriate followers at the correct time.
- First we discover the God Particle, now scientists at the University of Birmingham show they can predict where you will be the next day! By studying the geographic movements of 200 participants, some of them part of each other’s social network (i.e. they have exchanged phone numbers in the past), the team of researchers was able to predict their location 24 hours later within 20-meters. When they removed data on the location of your social network in this spatial analysis, the accuracy dropped significantly to ~1,000 meters. Imagine the implications this study could have on location based serves as companies can now serve up ads based on your expected location tomorrow – talk about planting a mental seed!
- As the world’s human population continues to grow, we will need to find alternative sources of water to keep up with our demand for this precious natural resource. Also consider that half of the world’s population lives within 120 miles of a coast; and that these same people are within 120 miles of an essentially never-ending source of water, i.e. the oceans. For many years, scientist have struggled to find a low-cost, efficient means to convert salty oceans waters into pure drinking water – and perhaps the hunt for this technology has finally made some major strides forward with the discovery of Graphene. A one-atom thick sheet of carbon molecules packed in a tight honeycomb structure, Graphene is the duct tape of the atomic world as we continue to find applications for it. When scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology drilled one-nanometer diameter holes across a sheet of graphene and treated the exposed edges with various molecules, they found that water passively reacted with the surface, passing through it as drinkable water. This marks a major stride forward in the desalination process as the current technology of-choice, called reverse osmosis, depends on high pressure (i.e. huge amounts of energy) to purify water; while the treated graphene sheets require no additional pressure to achieve the same end. With lower power demands, graphene-based desalination systems could be small-scale mobile units, powered by the sun – thus opening up this technology to a slew of rural application not possible with reverse osmosis and its huge energy demands.
Brock Adam McCarty