The Power Pylon Windmill

5 September 2008 at 0:13 | Posted in Green Energy, Green Initiatives, Innovations, Wind Energy, Wind Power | Leave a comment
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[Category: Innovations. If you are new to my blog please read the “About itimes3” page first]

Around the world, massive numbers of tall power pylons wind their way through the landscape, carrying the cables that deliver the power from power stations to cities and towns.

The problem with erecting tall structures such as power pylons is that there is often opposition against them, usually based on the “visual pollution” they cause.

However once they are approved and erected, they are there and their usage might as well be maximized.

Power pylons are often built across wide open landscapes such as plains, or in mountainous areas, and in these locations there is often plenty of wind.

So what I would like to suggest is that in future, in locations where there is sufficient wind, power pylons be fitted with a medium-sized windmill at the top. This may require some reinforcement of the pylon, but if the size of the windmill is kept within the design limits of the pylon, additional costs should be limited.

Alternatively, a new pylon design could be developed that would enable the fitting of a larger windmill at the top, for use in locations where the wind quality warrants the deployment of the new type of pylon which would obviously somewhat more expensive than the standard type, the principle of which has been in use since the early days of electricity.

A handy thing about fitting windmills to power pylons is that the power could be fed straight into the grid on the pylon.

If you like this idea and you work in a type of industry where this is relevant, I would be happy to discuss in more detail, answer questions or assist in other ways. For details and contact information please see the “About itimes3” page.

George Spark

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All usage of this site is entirely at users risk.

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Smart Power Points in the Integrated Home

3 September 2008 at 10:56 | Posted in Green Initiatives, Innovations, Integrated Home, Power Management, Power Monitoring, Smart Power Switch | Leave a comment
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[Category: Innovations. If you are new to my blog please read the “About itimes3” page first]

This is another one in the “Integrated Home” series – so far there have been the posts on Smart Water Taps, Sinks and Showers and The Smart Pan in the Integrated Kitchen.

When I switch on a light at home, or I plug my laptop into the mains to recharge, there is no easy way to know how much power I am using. Sometime next month, when the power bill drops into my email inbox, I know what I spent in the past, but what if I want to know what I spend when I am in the process of spending it?

And apart from the expenditure side of things, it might also be good to know what electrical appliances in my home use more power than average, or keep using power when apparently switched off – we all want to “go green” these days and it is annoying that we do not have the option to see what we actually use on a day to day basis.

I know that it is possible to buy power meters that plug into a power outlet between the outlet and the appliance, but those are of limited use only, because they only tell the story of that particular power point.

What I would like to see is smart power points and power switches around the home. Every single power point or power switch has a small LCD display, indicating the basics and other useful information:

  • whether the power point is operating OK
  • The number or IP address of the power point (for indentification)
  • The power group in the home that the point belongs to
  • The percentage of safely available power that is being used in that power group (depending on how many amps can be drawn from that group)
  • The power drawn by that power switch or power point at that point in time
  • The cost of that power per minute, per hour and per 24 hours 

All power points and switches are linked into the central computer in the integrated home, which keeps track of the usage and cost of power used at each power point, and should enable detailed and deep analysis of the power usage in the home in different ways, so that a complete picture of power usage per power point is available at any time.

The power cost can be set at the central computer, or in countries where once can change its mains power provider at the flick of a switch (such as in parts of New Zealand), the computer should also link into the switch that controls the provider, and update power cost information from this switch.

If you like this idea and you work in a type of industry where this is relevant, I would be happy to discuss in more detail, answer questions or assist in other ways. For details and contact information please see the “About itimes3” page.

George Spark

Disclaimer: Any trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.
All usage of this site is entirely at users risk.

The Memory Doorbell

1 September 2008 at 11:14 | Posted in Building Security, Innovations, Intercom Systems, Memory Doorbell, Security, Security Access Systems | Leave a comment
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[Category: Innovations. If you are new to my blog please read the “About itimes3” page first]

Today I was on the phone with someone at a courier service: they claimed they had tried to deliver a package last week, but I did not think anyone ever rang my doorbell. Although it could have been while I was away, but I had no way of verifying this.

I live in an apartment, and the doorbell is a video intercom, as is common in apartments. This is nice, because I can see who is there when the doorbell rings, but it is not a very smart device, because if someone rings the doorbell when I am not there, there is no way for me to know, unless the person tells me afterwards.

In some other places I have been, the video intercom is linked with the TV set (you can tune one channel to the video intercom) and the TV will switch on when the doorbell rings and show the person standing there.

This is nice, and conceivably I could record this event, but the recording facility is not part of the manufacturer setup so I would have to rig this up myself somehow which would be time consuming, costly, difficult and interfere with using my recording device for other purposes.

So I was wondering, why does the video intercom not have a recording device built in, much like a telephone answer machine?

So that when I get home after work, the device display says something like “3 events” and then I can playback the footage from the intercom.

Obviously the quality of the recording will need to be high enoughs so that the person is recognizable even without talking to them, or ideally, the concept of the video intercom would need to be changed somewhat, in the sense that it will need to have a built in “voice sentinel” that challenges the visitors in a way that does not reveal whether the occupant is home or not.

This could be done in the following way:

  • Visitor rings doorbell downstairs at apartment bell board.
  • Voice of sentinel erupts from speaker saying something along the lines of: “Welcome to the ABC Apartments. Please state your name and the purpose of your visit”.
  • Visitor states name and purpose of visit (this has already been patched through to the apartment in realtime).
  • Sentinel waits to see if door release is activated from apartment. If nothing happens within say 30 seconds, the sentinel comes back on the speaker saying: “Sorry there was not reply from the apartment just now. Do you wish to leave a message?”
  • Visitor leaves message if desired and leaves.

With this system, if the inhabitant of the apartment is away or does not want to answer the doorbell, there will be a recording that can be played back later.

Added on 18 September: an even better system would be one that would call my cell phone when someone rings the doorbell, and would patch through the camera so I can see live from anywhere in the world who is there. Again, this is a system I could rig up myself with some effort, however it would be nice if it were installed by default in new buildings…

If you like this idea and you work in a type of industry where this is relevant, I would be happy to discuss in more detail, answer questions or assist in other ways. For details and contact information please see the “About itimes3” page.

George Spark

Disclaimer: Any trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.
All usage of this site is entirely at users risk.

New Types of Airplanes

26 August 2008 at 17:26 | Posted in Airline Innovation, Airliners, Airlines, Budget Airlines, Innovations, Interior Design, Travel | Leave a comment
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[Category: Innovations. If you are new to my blog please read the “About itimes3” page first]

The concept of the modern jet airliner was probably invented sometime in the 1950’s, when the Boeing 707 was introduced. If you look at any other planes that hit the market since then, not much has changed. All planes look roughly the same, and operate in the same way. Sure, the Boeing 747 has a partial top deck, and the Airbus A380 has a full one, but it is still a round tube on the outside with rows of seats on the inside, and things all operate the same.

The look and feel of airliners did not change. And neither did the way we travel – this was introduced in the 1920’s or 1930’s, obviously based on the configuration of trains, trams and buses: sitting behind each other in neat rows, with seats close together to use the floor space in the most economical manner possible.

With the rise of passenger numbers world-wide, and the increasing importance of air travel globally, it seems amazing that the airline industry has not come up with better ways to travel halfway around the world than sitting in a seat for 16 hours or so, watching the back of another seat (at least, in economy class).

Perhaps it is not really surprising, as there are only two big players in the market (Airbus and Boeing) and so effective competition and innovation is perhaps less than what it would be if there were say 20 major aircraft manufacturers.

Yet it is time that we start thinking beyond the same old concept, in order to make air travel more comfortable in the long term, increase its attractiveness, even for economy passengers.

Seats in planes are close together because that way the airline gets best return on the available space. But seats are not comfortable on longer trips, and reclining them is not an option as it intrudes on co-passengers space, in the current configuration of the typical airliner.

So let’s say we have the same space, but we want to use it in a way to allow more space to recline, even lay down. To start with, we can make some observations:

If you have ever travelled in a Boeing 747-100 (the first series; the last ones were taken out of service with most airlines around 10 years ago I think), you probably remember the magnificent “headroom” this plane had. The ceiling was very high and it gave an enormous impression of space.

Later models of the Boeing 747 (such as the 300 and the 400) have much less headroom. The space above was closed off, possibly to reduce the air-conditioning required or for similar reasons. However the space is still there.

There are other planes with a lot of headroom, such as the Airbus Beluga (which follows the same design concept as the Aero Spacelines “Super Guppy” that preceded it).

So – if planes were designed not with a floor in the middle of a round tube, but more creatively, taller, with different floors, even partial ones, that could have innovatively designed, light-weight “beds” stacked above each other, or seats that would tilt people back to a degree allowing for more space.

In some cities in the world (notably in Japan) cars are stacked in car parkings. A similar concept could be used in planes, where passengers could be stacked in fully reclining seats – for example, if someone wanted to recline, the seat would be lifted off the floor into the air, reclined, and stacked there. Up to three levels of stacking could be realistic, depending on the type of plane, its shape and the row configuration.

Obviously research would need to be done into the best combination of shape (of the plane) and ways to use the internal space. But I believe there is room for significant creativity, which will pay off because air travel is so massive now, and will become bigger still.

Other design concepts could be studied too, such as catamaran-type planes (with two or more connected hulls) which would allow for more design options, delta-wings or concepts derived from military designs such as the B2 bomber, which would allow odd-shaped aircraft to fly reliably.

The question remains: are current airliners of the best possible design, or can this be improved, particularly to improve passenger comfort and options on long-haul flights, without increasing manufacturing and fit-out cost of the plane to a significant degree? It won’t be simple and will be a big change, but it will need to be done to further improve the quality and value proposition of air travel during this century.

If you like this idea and you work in a type of industry where this is relevant, I would be happy to discuss in more detail, answer questions or assist in other ways. For details and contact information please see the “About itimes3” page.

George Spark

Disclaimer: Any trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.
All usage of this site is entirely at users risk.

Furniture with Motorized Access

22 August 2008 at 21:31 | Posted in Furniture, Innovations, Motorized furniture, Voice Control Furniture | Leave a comment
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[Category: Innovations. If you are new to my blog please read the “About itimes3” page first]

Well this one clearly belongs in the category “lazy bum items” plus it is a very obvious one, however I list it here because every time I go to a furniture store, be it a more basic one like Ikea or something really fancy, I look in vain for items of this type. So I have to assume they do not exist, at least not as a mainstream article.

The item I am talking about is the motorized chest of drawers, cupboard, etc.

In this age of remote controls and electronic everythings, I am not happy that when I want to open a drawer in my chest of drawers, I still have to bend down and pull the thing out, which is not handy.

If the chest of drawers had a set of buttons at the top (or the side, for a taller model), and the drawers had electric motors, I could just press the button corresponding to the drawer I wanted to open (or close) and I would not have to bend down anymore and pull or push the thing.

Fancier models could be equipped with voice control, and could for example only obey the voice of their owner, and lock the drawers until the owner calls for them to be unlocked and opened.

The furniture would need to be equipped with sensors that detect any objects sticking out, or other anomalies, which would stop the motor and sound an alarm.

Other furniture such as cupboards could be equipped with electric (roller) doors etc.

Not only would this type of electrically motorized furniture make life easier (and lazier), it is handy because you can use both hands to carry things you want to place in the drawer or cupboard, rather than having to either use only one hand, or put down the item(s) while you manually open the drawer or cupboard.

Furthermore, it would be a good thing for older people with mobility problems, or the disabled.

If you like this idea and you work in a type of industry where this is relevant, I would be happy to discuss in more detail, answer questions or assist in other ways. For details and contact information please see the “About itimes3” page.

George Spark

Disclaimer: Any trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.
All usage of this site is entirely at users risk.

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