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.

WST (Wind Solar Tide) Energy Generating Floats

29 August 2008 at 10:48 | Posted in Energy Farm, Energy Float, Green Energy, Green Initiatives, Inventions, Renewable Energy, Solar Energy, Solar Power, Tidal Energy, Wind Energy, Wind Power | Leave a comment
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[Category: Inventions. If you are new to my blog please read the “About itimes3” page first]

We have an energy crisis. Yet often, large spaces usable for energy generation remain unused for the purpose.

Take water surfaces: in many cases, large bodies of water such as lakes may have some shoreline activity (beaches for sunbathing and a bit of swimming), and perhaps a few recreational sailing boats on them, but remain largely unused for any other purposes: wasted space!

And even if there is commercial shipping, these ships would only use lanes to get from A to B, and not require the whole lake surface.

Enter the WST Float (with WST standing for Wind Solar Tide). This device would be constructed as follows:

A floating device (float) is mass-produced, ideally from recycled hard plastic/PVC, in a colour that blends well into the surrounding environment (dark greens or blues depending on the surrounding landscape). The size of the float will be between perhaps 5×5 meters and 25×25 meters, depending on the local requirement, and does not have to be square but could also be round, rectangular, or oval (boat-shaped).

The body of the float would be hollow to ensure good flotation, and have a honeycomb-like interior (compartmentized, in say 1×1 ft compartments), so that should a leak occur only a very small compartment would flood and the rest of the float would not be affected (this to ensure long life-expectancy with low maintenance: even with multiple holes in it, a float would continue to float and function).

On all sides of each float would be spacers (probably sticks or frames with rubber bumpers, made from recycled tyres, at the end) to keep the floats at a minimum distance from each other (there would need to be a gap of at least a few feet between each float to ensure water oxygenation and proper separation of the floats).

Cheap water sensors could be fitted in each compartment, in order to “report to base” whether that particular compartment has a leak. Floats with too many leaks could then be taken in for recycling or repair based on this automated diagnosis, without someone having to go out and check for leaks.

For stabilisation, the float would have a keel filled with ballast (which could be recycled materials such as mine tailings, concrete from demolished buildings, or scrap metal depending on local availability).

The float would have either two or three energy-generating features:

  • Windmills or wind-grids (see my other post “A New Kind of Wind Energy“). These would be mounted on poles or masts above the surface of the float.
  • Solar cells. The surface of the float (which, depending on local conditions could either be more or less flat, or angled) would be covered in these. Alternatively or additionally, extra solar cells could be mounted as panels on poles (at a level below the windmills, so as not to interfere with them).
  • Tide fans or turbines. These would be mounted on the bottom of the float, under water, and generate electricity by capturing the tide or the water flow, for example in a river. Tide fans may not be useful everywhere, for example in lakes without any water currents they could not be used (however in that case, perhaps commercial fish farms could be constructed underneath the floats, with nets hanging off of them; alternatively, “eco fish farms”, aimed at regenerating depleted fish species for environmental purposes, could be created using the floats, enhancing the floats’ environmental benefits). 

All equipment mounted on the float should be easy to remove/replace, so that any faulty elements could be swapped out within minutes. Mounts should be engineered so that even after years of exposure to the elements, they should be removable without tools or only a basic one such as a hand-operated screwdriver, and there should never be more than one screw to hold each element, if at all possible (particularly, no materials susceptible to any type of corrosion should be used).

Floats positioned in a specific area would be connected together, and one or more of the floats closest to the shore would have a cable going to shore through which all energy from the floats would pass to dry land.

On land, the energy would be processed and pumped into the grid. Alternatively, it could be used to convert water into oxygen and hydrogen, so it can be stored and used later on in fuel cells (this is perhaps a more complex way of dealing with the power).

Each float would have a small, basic computer which would monitor the leak sensors, and the functioning of the components such as windmills and solar cells. This way, malfunctions could be detected remotely.

Likewise, each float would have a power control box which would monitor power and condition it/protect against spikes or other malfunctions, so that the grid of floats would not be affected by a single unit malfunctioning.

Depending on the local conditions, floats could be equipped with a rudder and one or more small electro motors, to keep floats positioned in a certain orientation so as to make best use of the sun and wind. However it may be possible to avoid this by clever design of the float surface elements, particularly the positioning of the solar panels.

Floats could be used on lakes (in large clusters, covering massive areas away from land and invisible to the public to avoid complaints about visual pollution; if sufficient surface is covered, it will prevent the wind from whipping up large waves, so it would also serve to pacify larger lakes). They could be used on rivers (for example lining the banks when they are not used for other purposes, leaving the centre of the river free for shipping) and they could be used in sheltered bays on the coast.

Floats would need to be anchored (either to land, or to the lake, river or seabed); to save costs, a group of floats should be able to use the same anchor. The design of the anchoring system should allow for secure anchoring, but also very easy undoing of the anchoring so that any faulty floats could be swapped out by no more than two men in a small (tug)boat (to keep maintenance costs of the float farm down).

Massive versions of them, specially designed and constructed to withstand the open sea, could conceivably be developed for use off-shore.

Cost will need to be brought down by agressive marketing and global deployment of these floats, so that large factories can be built for their manufacture, which will also be able to use massive amounts of recycled plastics, encouraging plastic recycling. The mass production should enable component costs to be low.

Some of the floats could be equipped with environmental sensors (monitoring wind speed, temperature, water conditions, sunlight intensity, pollutants in water and air, etc.) and report the data back via the computer network of the floats.

As an added bonus, the undersides of floats could be designed in a way, and perhaps covered with materials, that would encourage inhabitation by water life (such as fish, and in the ocean, corals or seaweeds). This would add to biodiversity and help “sell” the concept of the floats to the public in areas where there could be opposition.

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.

Cell Phone Dating Using Bluetooth

26 August 2008 at 17:32 | Posted in Bluetooth, Cell Phone, Cell Phone Dating, Cell Phone Security, Electronic Identification, Inventions, Mobile Phone, Mobile Phone Dating, Mobile Phone Security, Security Access Systems, Social Networking | Leave a comment
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[Category: Inventions. If you are new to my blog please read the “About itimes3” page first]

Observation one: Have you ever had your cell phone’s Bluetooth on when entering a bus or a train, and looked at the Bluetooth devices list? Every time I do this, a whole list of devices pops up on my screen: many people have Bluetooth, and they keep it on at all times.

Observation two: Dating and generally meeting people can be a difficult game. In many cultures, particularly the Western ones (as opposed to Latin and some other cultures), people can easily be lonely because they cannot seem to find the right way to approach others and fear of rejection is culturally more emphasized. In addition, many old people are lonely because they may lose their partner and then do not know how to find new friends. Other examples can easily be added.

Observation three: Almost everyone has a cell phone these days, and almost all cell phones have Bluetooth.

So: what if someone wrote an application that would compare a set of “flags” (software switches that can be set to either “yes” or “no”) in a cell phone with a set of flags in another cell phone.

If a pre-set number of flags match, the owners of both sets (or only one, depending on setup of the system by each user) would be notified.

It would work like this: When I set up the system, a large number of questions is asked and answered (for easier use, the questions could perhaps be answered online or at least on a computer, with the answers transferred to the cell phone, to avoid having to type it all on the small keypad of the phone). The questions could include (first) name, sex, age, area where living, many questions on a wide range of interests (based on drop-down menus, to ensure exact keyword matching), type of relationship wanted (friendship, one-night-stand, serious relationship, or even business relationship, etc.), plus various user-determinable settings.

The system would allow for active or passive “trawling” (for example, I could set my phone to only “listen” on Bluetooth and alert only me to a nearby “match” with my flags, or I could set the phone to also “broadcast” so the other user would also be alerted to a match happening).

Additionally, users could be flagged as “registered” (e.g. identity verified) by for example the cell phone company, which would add a layer of security for a matching user.

This system could be used as an additional layer of convenience for dating in nightclubs and bars, but also in the bus or the supermarket, for example.

Additionally, people could find potential friends with the same interest. This would also be beneficial for older people, who often are alone.

Finally, an adaptation of a system like this could be used for identification and security purposes, with a “locked” set of flags in the phone, in combination with a picture and perhaps other identifying and/or security data, allowing the phone to be used as an access tool (to confirm someone’s eligibility to enter or be somewhere, for example).

NOTE (added 28 August): I just found out that apparently there are already services like this in existence. Don’t have time to check it out right now but you might be able to google for details… As I mention in the “About itimes3” page, I don’t usually check for details and at times an invention or idea I publish may already exist, which is apparently the case with this one.

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.

The Smart Pan in the Integrated Kitchen

22 August 2008 at 21:39 | Posted in Integrated Home, Integrated Kitchen, Inventions, Smart Kitchen, Smart Pan | Leave a comment
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[Category: Inventions. If you are new to my blog please read the “About itimes3” page first]

The other day I had to warm something to 60 degrees in a pan. Right. So how can I do that? I can try to find a thermometer (or buy a specific kitchen thermometer), and then hold it in the pan until the temperature reaches the required level.

But that’s a lot of work, bad for my eyes because I would have to squint at the thing to try and read the level of its thin line of mercury, and time consuming because I have to wait holding the thermometer until the required temperature has been reached.

So why can’t the pan tell me what I need to know? What I need to know depends on what I am preparing, but the required data would have to include some or most of the following:

  • the temperature of the contents, so I can reduce or switch off the heat when required;
  • the volume (how many litres) there is in the pan, so I don’t have to measure things in some awkward way;
  • the salinity of the contents (how much salt is in it), which will enable me to standardize the salinity of food I cook;
  • the acidity of the contents which can be important to achieve certain taste nuances;
  • the sugar content;
  • the fat content;
  • and a whole range of other measurements, depending on requirements and what can be measured reasonably easily and cost-effectively (functionality upgrades could take place by means of firmware updates during the lifetime of the pan).

An LCD display fitted on the side of the pan would tell the user the information required, and buttons would enable “flipping” between different screens. The pan should have the ability to be programmed to sound the alarm when a pre-set value is achieved or exceeded.

Ideally, the electricity required for the display and sensors to operate would be generated from the heat generated during cooking.

Taking this concept further, we come to the integrated kitchen.

In the integrated kitchen, all pans and most other kitchen items and appliances would have the built-in sensors to sense the values mentioned above, but they would wirelessly communicate this with a central computer, a terminal for which would be installed in the kitchen. Depending on their usage, items and appliances could sense other values as well (a bread maker machine would sense different values than a pan, and a fridge or a dishwasher would obviously also sense different things).

The kitchen would have a bar-code scanner (or later, an RFID scanner) and all products brought into the kitchen would be scanned, so the kitchen would at all times be aware of its inventory. Pans and appliances would sense (or be told via scanning) what items were used, and the kitchen would list items to be purchased (and possibly order the items online from the local supermarket once a week or so).

Further more, appliances, pans etc. would communicate with each other. For example, I could set a pan to heat up to 60 degrees and stay at 60 degrees for 30 minutes, and the pan would communicate with the stovetop to maintain the heat at the correct level.

Much more functionality could be added to the integrated kitchen, which in turn would obviously be part of the integrated home (which also would include the smart taps outlined in another blog post).

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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