Kevin Lepton

I am the writer, editor and publisher behind this future technology blog and I predict you will keep reading to see what is coming right around that metaphorical corner.

Apr 232016

The Internet of Things (IoT) has gained a lot of traction in the recent years, which isn’t really surprising since the technology that supports it has rapidly developed. Over the years, IoT has grabbed the attention of not just tech enthusiasts but also of ordinary people who want to save time and money, enjoy more comfort, and make their lives better.

If you’re interested in IoT, here are some of the recent trends that you should know about:


Smart homes

Many homeowners have become interested in modernizing their homes through IoT technology, which can greatly help in maintaining safety and security and increasing convenience and comfort. Retail giant Amazon, for example, has introduced its virtual assistant Alexa and released open software called the Smart Home Skill API. This API will creates a standard that manufacturers of smart lights, switches, and thermostats should follow, ensuring that their devices can easily be controlled by consumers through Alexa.

Some real estate developers are even taking the game a step further by constructing smart homes. Developer Qingjian, for example, is set to build The Visionaire, an executive condominium in Singapore that will come with built-in smart lock systems and smart household appliances.

However, the IoT for homes has recently come under fire when Nest (the popular home automation company that’s owned by Alphabet, which also owns Google) announced that it will shut down the Revolv smart home hub in May 2016. Nest acquired Revolv in 2014 and immediately stopped selling the hub, and it notified users in February that it would shut down the cloud service that supports the Revolv hub. Many users expressed outrage over this, pointing out how people can shell out big bucks over “smart” home devices — only to find that the gadgets no longer work after a few months or years.


Modern healthcare

The Internet of Things has revolutionized healthcare in different ways. On a personal level, wearables that are powered by IoT technology allow users to track the number of steps they take, the number of miles they run, and the amount of calories they burn when performing a certain activity. These devices also allow users to monitor their sleeping patterns and see how long and how well they sleep. People can then use these information to swap bad habits with good ones and take steps to improve their health and fitness.

IoT technology can also help healthcare providers by making it easy for them to monitor their patients and ensure they’re in good shape. Smart pocket electrocardiograms, for instance, allow patients to take ECGs anytime and anywhere and share these information with their doctors in real time. “Smart” patient badges allow healthcare staff to track their patients’ activity levels and prevent patients from wandering out of the facility, while “smart” staff badges allow hospital employees to easily communicate with one another and maintain smooth work flow.


Final Thoughts

IoT technology is here to stay, and it’s safe to assume that it will keep on getting better as time passes by. It’s up to people to integrate it in their daily lives and to businesses and organizations to use it in their line of work.




Mar 292016

IBM has recently announced that Honda R&D is analyzing and monitoring data via more than 160 sensors in Formula One cars using the Internet of Things (IoT) technology of IBM Watson. This means that crews and drivers can now apply data and analytics in real-time to improve fuel efficiency, streamline performance and enable drivers to make racing decisions based on this information.

The racing world, which is known for split-second reactions by drivers that can make or break the race, has been bringing entertainment to people around the world for almost a century now, where engineers are retrieving data after each race, such as fuel flow and timing, to adjust their strategies for the next race.

But with this new technology, F1 racing has evolved to one that is highly driven by data, where drivers are always being connected and teams being able to analyze the fast vehicles and driver data, and adjust racing strategies in real-time, a critical factor that can help them win races.

Also, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), a body that governs F1 racing, published new regulations in 2014 requiring all these machines to use hybrid engines and to limit fuel consumption during races, which encourage racing teams to focus on developing more energy-efficient technologies for these cars.

To help mark their return to F1 racing and reach a new milestones in efficiency for both consumer and race cars, Honda R&D developed a new technology, known as power units, to analyze data from hybrid engines, check residual fuel levels efficiently and quickly, and to estimate the possibility of mechanical problems. The company has made it happen using the IBM Watson IoT technology to generate data from the cars, including pressure levels, power levels and temperature, directly to the cloud for real-time analysis.

“Honda R&D is thrilled to work with IBM to mark its return to F1 racing, applying advanced IoT technologies to help ensure our drivers and teams are constantly connected,” said the chief engineer and manager of the Power Unit Development Division of Honda R&D, Satoru Nada. “We are bringing excitement to fans worldwide around the performance of our vehicles and drivers, with the power of data and real-time analytics becoming a critical factor in winning races.”

Now, F1 cars from Honda will be able to recover or save energy to use later during the race for more power. While a race takes place, data is being streamed to the cloud and shared with the racing team and the pit crew, who are equipped with mobile technology. The data is being analyzed in real-time by Honda R&D’s facility in Japan and the McLaren Honda F1 team in the UK. Data and analysis are then going to be transmitted using IBM Streams, as the race is taking place, allowing the teams to adjust basic metrics and improve vehicle performance. Plus, Honda’s research team will also be able to build cutting-edge performance models to measure energy recovery of the power units, ensuring their longevity.

Harriet Green, the general manager for commerce and education of Watson IoT, said, “We are excited to team with Honda to provide sophisticated cognitive IoT capabilities and analytics to combine data directly from the F1 racing vehicles with other sources, allowing Honda to not only enhance its vehicles that are built for speed, but to also be more friendly to our environment.”




Feb 162016

Organic photovoltaic solar cells (OPV) such as polymer solar cells are promising but not quite ready for commercial production. Their significantly lower device efficiency and operational lifetime compared with conventional silicon cells posed challenges for mass production.


Continuous Innovation at Heliatek

Nevertheless, researchers continue to work out improvements on the basic OPV design, undeterred by the efficiency and lifetime issues of the OPV. German solar technology firm Heliatek did not stop innovating OPV for its solar-powered car despite the discouraging 3% efficiency of the OPV that time, around 2003.

In 2012, the German company claimed world-record of 10.7% conversion efficiency for its OPV, and promised to reach the 15% to 20% efficiency of inorganic solar cells. A year after, Optics Org reported that Heliatek had “pushed the conversion efficiency of its organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells to 12%,” which is equivalent to at least 15% in conventional semiconductor-based cells.

Fast forward to 2016, three years after, the German solar technology company announced a new record of 13.2% conversion efficiency using a multi-junction cell. OPV are gaining more interest in the realm of green energy technology because they are cheaper to produce and are more flexible.

Heliatek further claimed that its latest OPV with 13.2% efficiency exhibit “excellent low light and high temperature behavior” of its inorganic counterpart and can generate power as well as conventional cells with 16% efficiency under real world conditions.


Purdue University Research Findings

Much like Heliatek, the engineering professors of Purdue University are conducting a research suggesting a new method for manufacturing inexpensive solar technology.

Researchers, Muhammad Ashraful Alam, Bryan Boudourism, Biswajit Ray, Aditya Baradwaj and Ryyan Khan suggested to keep electron-hole pairs separated so that they don’t recombine and impede current generation. They also suggested to simplify the design of organic solar cells using only one type of polymer, and to produce cells out of purer polymers since they are more efficient.

The US Department of Energy, and the US Air Force are some of the sponsors to the research.


Likely Commercialization of OPV

In its latest OPV design, Heliatek combined three kinds of absorbers specifically dedicated to convert green, red and near-infrared light to electricity with more efficiency than ever before. It has only been 13 years since OPV was met with much skepticism, but Heliatek’s new world-record solar cells may just well be the key to cost-effective harnessing and harvesting of sunlight to make electricity.

Heliatek’s super lightweight, flexible and low-cost organic solar cells provides a hint that commercialization of OPV may well be under way. Organic solar cells offer a substantial cost advantage over silicon solar cells, and may be manufactured via roll-to-roll processing like that of newspaper printing.

In the same way, Purdue University researchers are continuing on the study and are working on a new type of solar cells that don’t need bulk heterojunctions. They intend to dig deeper into how OPV operate and to help design more efficient and more affordable organic solar cells.