A New Form of Wind Energy

14 August 2008 at 11:56 | Posted in Green Energy, Green Initiatives, Inventions, Renewable 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]

In many parts of the world clusters of massive white windmills have sprung up in the past two decades, changing the look of the land and generating electricity.

This is mostly positive of course, however there is something strange about this phenomenon: it appears the windmills are getting bigger all the time.

Obviously, this is good for the energy companies: they can afford these big windmills, and the bigger the mills are, the more electricity they generate.

However wind is available almost everywhere. Around your house, around your office, in every city street, and almost everywhere else too.

For obvious reasons, we cannot install massive windmills on our roofs. Even the smaller ones, which some “green” folks have in their garden or in the mast of their boat to help generate electricty are not necessarily useful for every situation.

However with wind available almost everywhere, it would be nice if we had a solution that can be more ubiquitously deployed, like on every house and every office tower.

This solution would be a system with grids of smaller elements that generate power from wind energy. These individual elements would be small casings, not bigger than 30cm x 30cm (1ft x 1ft), each containing either a windmill or a wind “vane” (more about the latter later), a dynamo-type device to generate the actual power, and wiring and connectors to connect to other such casings within the grid.

It may be possible to create very small elements, and the smaller the element the more easily a grid of them could be deployed.

The elements would all simply “click” together into the grid (or at most require one screw), and should an element fail, it would be a matter of minutes or less to swap it out with a working one.

Grids of these power generating elements could be attached to for example the corners of office and apartment towers, starting at one or two stories above the ground and going all the way up, and extending out several meters from each building corner.

Smaller grids could be deployed on the roofs and corners of houses, in gardens, on light posts in the street and elsewhere as stand-alone setups, and various other usage locations could be imagined.

The key to the usefulness of the system would be the ability to quickly swap out faulty elements, which would also be low-cost due to mass production and standardization. Recycled plastics and metals could be used in manufacturing to give the product an ever greener edge.

Coming back to the wind “vane” mentioned above, this is a more unusual suggestion, in which the windmill concept would be replaced by a type of computer-designed “blade” or vane which would flutter up and down in the wind and generate electricity that way. The design of the curving of the vane would depend on local wind condition averages. If this were a viable alternative to windmills, it could potentially have benefits in the area of wear and noise reduction (any windmills attached to buildings would anyway need to be engineered for low noise emission).

Each grid of windmills would output its power into a control box which would then feed it into battery-type storage (or use a fuel cell system for conversion to and from storage), or alternatively be “standardised” and fed into the building or the power grid.

Using this system, power could be generated everywhere in the city, and not just be dependent on large power companies erecting massive windmills which can only be deployed in special remote locations, and are too expensive for the average household or company to deploy.

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.

The LCD Electronic Mirror

27 July 2008 at 0:47 | Posted in Electronic mirror, Inventions, LCD mirror, Mirror | Leave a comment
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[Category: Inventions. If you are new to my blog please read the “About itimes3” page first]

This morning I looked in the mirror and was wondering what I would look like with a different haircut. This is not normally something I wonder a lot about, but this time I did and I was frustrated that I could not see myself with that new haircut in the mirror, right there and then.

Now I know that there are software programs and websites that do this kind of thing, you can snap a photo of yourself and upload it and then you can play around with different haircuts. But that’s really for girls and I’m a guy and I’m busy and I can’t be bothered with that kind of time consuming¬†software, uploads, manipulations on screen, mucking around with unwieldy software or websites. This kind of thing should be easy and quick. It is time for a more profound change to be implemented in virtually every home on the planet!

When I was in school I remember a teacher showing us pupils an image of an Egyptian lady looking at herself in a handheld mirror. Someone carved this image in stone some three thousand years B.C.

For some reason I still remember seeing that image, and it is probably because it struck me that today we use mirrors in exactly the same way, and they are made almost exactly the same. The technology of the mirror has not changed in the past 5000 years or so.

However, with large LCD panels dropping in price rapidly, this is probably about to change, if someone in a relevant industry out there takes up the following idea ūüėČ

What would be required is a good quality LCD panel of the size and dimensions of a (wall-mounted) mirror (depending on personal preference that can be a normal “over the bathroom sink” mirror or a full-length one).

In addition to that, at least one camera but it would be best to position a number of cameras along the edges of the entire panel, and generate a computer-corrected composite image of all the cameras. This image will then be projected onto the LCD panel, thus creating the electronic mirror.

So far, nothing really new: instead of seeing our image in a traditional mirror in an amazingly high resolution, we see our image on a flat panel LCD display in a slightly lesser, but still very acceptable, resolution (until LCD displays – or their successors – catch up sometime in the next decade or two).

But here is where we can enhance the situation considerably: obviously, a computer will be built into the back or the frame of the LCD panel, and we will have either an on-mirror touch-screen control panel that can be called up by for example pressing a button on the frame of the panel, or a programmable touch-pad wireless remote control (think iPod Touch like device in terms of appearance and user interface).

Either of these interfaces will enable us to look at ourselves in the “mirror” and manipulate the image or extract information as required. Many different uses and enhancements will obviously be invented and added, but here are a few¬†examples that would immediately prove the electronic mirror’s worth over the traditional mirror:

  • Health analysis using infrared. The mirror could be programmed with health analysis software and provide advice based on infrared skin temperature readings, done with an infrared device mounted in its frame. It could detect fevers and skin conditions or skin heat patterns indicative of health problems, and report on those.
  • Skin cancer warning analysis. A full-length electronic mirror could be used to “scan” a user’s entire body and keep detailed images of any skin anomalies and moles. The user repeats the scan every few months for example, and the mirror reports on any moles or blemishes that have changed shape or grown etc.
  • Hair and clothes advice. Add-on packages to the mirror (in the form of for example Internet downloads into the mirror) could provide hairstyle and clothes imaging, so the user can see what different hairstyles and colours, as well as different clothes, look like on her or him. Once a choice is made, advice could be given on which merchant or online store can supply the desired haircut or clothes (and other devices, such as accessories). Immediate online ordering using the mirror could be made available.
  • Skin-tone analysis technology. Much like the more recent digital photo cameras can detect faces and even smiles on faces, the electronic mirror will be able to detect this and be able to analyze and follow a user’s skin tone and “health image” once this user is programmed into the device. The mirror can be programmed to “alarm” if the person looks too white, for example, and suggest changes in lifestyle or simply cosmetics to “fix” the issue.
  • Cosmetics advice. The electronic mirror could run software (which already exists) and project the effect of using certain brands and types of cosmetics, and provide advice. The mirror could be connected to a cosmetics printer (several of which are in development in Japan right now) and thus once the user is happy with the result in the mirror, decide to make it happen in reality using the cosmetics printer.
  • Measurements and check-ups. The electronic mirror would be able to measure the person in front of it (assuming full-height mirror) and calculate additional details such as body measurements at different heights and possibly even weight and body mass index (BMI) after a full scan of the person. It keeps track of the measurements as required and can project historic measurements onto itself to show the user.
  • Zoom, image manipulation, etc. The electronic mirror should enable the user to zoom in and out to parts of the image, distort and colour-change the image, invert it etc. – anything that may be required for designer, artistic, fun or other purposes.
  • Communications and output. The electronic mirror can obviously communicate with any other relevant devices such as printers, WLAN access points, bluetooth devices etc. as required to import and export image and other data.
  • Converged functionality. The electronic mirror, perhaps through optional upgrades, should enable usage as a photo and film camera, an Internet display, TV screen, computer screen, eletronic photo frame, eletronic art display, and anything else that can conceivably be added to its functionality.

I believe that within the next few years the cost of an LCD panel will come down to approximately the cost of a quality glass mirror of the same size. The required additional electronics (cameras, sensors, computer, WLAN receiver/transmitter) will add an acceptable amount to the cost, and overall, a decent-sized electronic mirror of above description should be affordable to almost anyone within several years from now.

All the technology required is readily available right now, it just needs to be combined into the right package, and prices of all components are coming down rapidly. Electronic mirror: your time has come!

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.

Floating Mini Sonar Ball

26 July 2008 at 0:59 | Posted in Floating Mini Sonar Ball, Inventions | Leave a comment
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[Category: Inventions. If you are new to my blog please read the “About itimes3” page first]

Recently we had flowers in the house in a big, non-transparent vase. The flowers drank a lot of water, we forgot to fill up the vase and they dried out suddenly.

This made me think: what if there were a tiny device in the vase, floating on the water, that would “scan” for the water level and beep for example every hour if the water were below a certain threshold.

The device could be made as a floating ball, with a diameter of around a centimeter and a half or smaller, which would stay “same side up” at all times due to a small ballast weight at its bottom.

It would be equipped with a tiny sensor using sonar or similar technology to “scan” for the bottom of the liquid it is suspended in, and start giving off beeps once the level of liquid is below a certain threshold.

The ball would be constructed of two halves, with a scale printed on one half, and the halves turned against each other to set a liquid level in inches or centimeters at which to start sounding the alarm. There would also be an “off” position to set the ball to when not in use.

In case of an error, such as the ball getting stuck (between flower stems for example) or not pointing in the right direction, a special alarm could sound such as two or three rapid beeps.

The device would be powered by a small “button” battery, the likes of which are found in tiny devices such as blinking party decorations, musical postcards, etc.

Variants of the device could be made that would not beep but instead flash a bright LED light – these for example could be used in transparent bottles to alert people to purchase new ones or refills (liquor bottles in bars and restaurants or the home, medicine bottles, etc. – many other uses could no doubt be found).

Another variant could be equipped with a tiny transmitter (rather than a beeper or a flashing LED) that could transmit a signal over relatively short distance to a receiver which in turn would then issue an alert.

Due to the low equipment cost (plastic ball, some small electronics and a tiny battery) these balls could be mass produced and once development costs are recouped could be sold cheaply and in bulk. Balls could be made in different colours, including multi-colour and transparent, depending on their use. They could be branded with small logos.

Balls with different scan-intervals could be sold (some would scan once a day, some twice, some once an hour, and some could scan more frequently depending on type of usage; the downside of balls scanning more frequently would be a lower battery life).

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 DRM Stick

25 July 2008 at 0:44 | Posted in DRM (Digital Rights Management), Inventions | Leave a comment
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[Category: Inventions. If you are new to my blog please read the “About itimes3” page first]

If for example you buy music at the iTunes store you cannot play it on some devices because they use a different DRM technology, and the same story is repeated when you buy digital content at other outlets. A few years ago I invented a solution which I believe is viable, although it will require cooperation between all publishers of content and all manufacturers of devices to play the content (e.g. all consumer electronics companies as well as computer manufacturers).

It will also require the creation of a standards body/organization to act as a point of contact between the industry players, as well as between the industry and the consumer. Due to these requirements, and the sheer size of the undertaking, I have not taken this invention further and decided to post it here now that I have the blog online. Similar inventions may exist or may not – I have not done research. Obviously, as you will see after reading the entire text, the invention will need to be worked out in more detail.

The solution is this: a small device containing a microchip along the lines of a mobile phone SIM-card (however in a different shape: shaped like a small stick most likely, about two centimeters long and half a centimeter wide; a few millimeters thick). Instead of buying a SIM-card at a mobile phone outlet, you buy this DRMstick (perhaps to be called “drumstick” in daily use) at any consumer appliance/electronics store, computer outlet, department store, etc. When you buy it, you get a card with five identical sticks sealed to it in a tamper-evident way, and instructions on how to use the system printed on the card. There will be a way to personalize the sticks after purchase so you can tell them apart from those of friends and family members (colour bands supplied, or using an online application to print off labels at time of registration – see below).

The stick will fit in a slot (DRM Slot), to be designed for it, which will be present in each new appliance that hits the market (much like a memory card reader on a digital camera, printer or laptop, this slot will be present on every device on the market including TV’s, computers, car stereo’s, home theatre systems, MP3 player, cellphone, etc.). The software to read the sticks will be part of the firmware of these devices (which should be upgradeable).

Upon purchasing, the owner of the set of five DRMsticks pops one of them into the DRM Slot on his or her computer and “registers” the stick online with the central database.

Once registered, music and other digital content is, at the time of purchase, “matched” to the DRMstick present in the device used to purchase the content and “locked” to this particular set of five DRMsticks (the set of sticks the owner purchased, which should be globally unique). The locking mechanism most likely uses an encryption algorithm that uses the unique electronic signature of the DRMstick as the key to encrypt the content (plus additional safety features a hacker cannot know, such as some data that may have been entered by the owner at time of registration or other not publicly available information). Bit length of the key should be sufficient to thwart brute-force attacks (perhaps 512 or 1024).

The sticks can be freely moved between any devices the owner owns, or any other devices (say he or she goes to a party and wants to play content there). During normal use, the owner will probably leave several sticks in place in devices he or she often uses: one will stay in the car stereo, another in the computer, yet another in the home theatre system, for example. The remaining one or two could then be used to “roam” between devices.

The system is to be fitted with a checking routine that should someone try to play content without the (correct) DRMstick present, a reminder window will pop up (or for audio devices, a reminder message played) stating the owner of the content (as entered during registration), so that the appropriate DRMstick can be found and entered into the device to enable the content to be played.

The DRMstick should be fitted with a small hole (the way digital cameras and some cellphones have) to attach a strap, so that the DRMstick is easier to find when not inside a device.

There should be a system that can ensure replacement DRMsticks to be provided to the rightful owner in case of loss of a number of sticks from the original set. There would be a limit to this, for example three sets of sticks in total, with the third set not being available until for example three years after the original set was purchased.

The system could be enhanced by making the DRMstick “smart” and enabling its chip to be updated over the internet, remotely disabled in case of theft of devices, etc. etc. The central administrative body would need a well designed setup to allow most actions and requirements to be executed by computers, with only the minimum human intervention, to reduce overheads.

Another feature could allow protected content to be copied to a device such as an external harddisk or a USB key and be played for a certain maximum period (such as 24 or 48 hours) without a DRMstick being required, which could be useful for presentations, parties, etc. The number of times this could be executed would need to be restricted to a specific number of times per timeframe in order to avoid abuse.

All the above details to be fine-tuned depending on eventual requirements.

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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