Tag Archives: tech

Museum of American Heritage highlights technology 1750 – 1950

A tip of the hat to audio guru Steve Williams, who tipped me off to the Museum of American Heritage. What started as a private collection of Frank Livermore has grown into a full-blooded museum.

They intend to combine elements of history, technology, and design. This will illustrate the evolution of technology, how and why it has influenced society from inception to the current time, and give a glimpse of future expectations. The museum has an average of 12,000 visitors per year, plus 3,000 to 6,000 visitors for special holiday displays and over 5,000 attendees at its annual Vintage Vehicles and Family Festival.

Museum Entrance

Museum Entrance, courtesy Britt Bredstad

There is a nice archive of exhibits and you can poke around their site to see a great spread of technology over the decades.

Located at 351 Homer Avenue in Palo Alto, CA, MOAH exhibits are open from 11am to 4pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, except during exhibit changeover weeks and selected holidays. Call MOAH at 650-321-1004 for further details.

Nano tech could store power in cables, clothes

Professor Jayan Thomas and Ph.D. student Zenan Yu have developed an innovative method of transmitting and storing electricity in a single lightweight copper wire.

According to UCF Today (University of Central Florida), the technology could ultimately allow individuals to power their MP3 players, smartphones and tablets using the fabric of their jackets. 

Indeed, by being able to store and conduct energy on the same wire, heavy, space-consuming batteries may very well become an outdated remnant of the past.

“It’s an interesting idea. When we did it and started talking about it, everyone we talked to said, ‘Hmm, never thought of that. It’s unique,'” said Thomas. 

”We take it step by step. I love getting to the lab everyday, and seeing what we can come up with next. Sometimes things don’t work out, but even those failures teach us a lot of things.”

As Thomas notes, while copper wire may be the starting point, special fibers could eventually be developed with nanostructures to conduct and store energy.

The current model involves a single copper wire equipped with a sheath of nanowhiskers grown on the outer surface of the copper wire. 

The whiskers were subsequently treated with a special alloy, which created an electrode.

However, two electrodes were required to handle the energy storage, so the researchers created another by wrapping a thin plastic sheet around the whiskers using a metal sheath (after generating additional nanowhiskers). 

The layers were then glued together with a special gel. Because of the insulation, the inner copper wire retains its ability to channel energy, with the layers around the wire independently storing powerful energy.

Simply put, Thomas and his team managed to create an effective supercapacitor on the outside of the copper wire.

Although more research is required, the technique has the potential to be adapted for a wide range of applications. For example, flexible solar cells paired with the above-mentioned fibers could be used to design a jacket capable of powering various electronic devices.

$2.6 billion for wearable (animal) tech

Analysts at IDTechEx recently highlighted the lucrative potential of wearable tech for animals. Example such technology for pets and livestock include ultrasound-delivering treatment patches, electronic saddle optimization for horses, as well as collars capable of tracking, identifying and diagnosing.

“Multi-functionality is a trend as with the human equivalents, both facing the challenge of ‘do more but stay simple to use.’ Increased sophistication of function is the order of the day and now mobile phones can often access the data, replacing costly infrastructure, again mimicking the situation with human equivalents,” an IDTechEx analyst explained.

“[We] forecast that the global market for wearable animal tech will reach $2.6 billion in 2025. IDTechEx [also] predicts that during the next decade expenditure on medical diagnosis devices will increase in value market share from 11% to 23% and medical treatment (such as heating, cooling, ultrasound and drug delivery) will increase from a mere 1% to 13%.”

According to the analyst, a percentage of RFID tagging will ultimately be subsumed by diagnostic devices that look the same, such as newly available stomach boluses, collars and implants.

“[The] legal push is in two directions, from requiring tagging of many forms of livestock in certain jurisdictions for disease control and quality improvement to some seeking to ban sale of ‘inhumane’ dog training collars that administer electric shocks,” the analyst added.

“Cameras on pets are surprisingly popular and a dog’s bark can now be interpreted and radioed to the owner when away. The number of protected fish tagged already runs into millions, tagging racing pigeons is a big business too and even bees are being tagged nowadays.”

Interested in learning more? You can check out the full IDTechEx report on wearable technology for animals here.

Hydrogen fuel cell tech to power the IoT

Earlier this week, The Register’s Bob Dormon attended Twickenham’s Future World Symposium.

Since many of the UK-based vendors displayed handheld devices and sensor nodes supporting the Internet of Things (IoT), keeping power consumption down, or at the very least making it practical, was understandably a clear priority for many of the exhibitors.

“[That is why] London-based outfit Arcola Energy strives to deliver the best of both worlds with its adaptations of hydrogen fuel cell tech,” Dormon writes.

Image Credit: Bob Dormon, The Register

“As an integrator, the company covers a broad scale of fuel cell applications from transportation to providing remote power sources. It also caters for developers with its kits, complete with an [Atmel-based] Arduino Uno board (ATmega328 MCU) starting at £350 ($591) … There’s mbed compatibility too.”

According to Dormin, the dev kits allow engineers to precisely determine what type of energy lifespan they can can expect from a design.

“Besides the boards and fuel cell shield electronic controller, you get a refillable 12 litre HydroStik hydride that feeds a shiny metal box complete with fan that is the actual fuel cell,” he explained. “The fuel cell determines the overall output of the system. With the Arduino One kit it’s 1.5W.”

Interested in learning more about Arcola Energy’s fuel cell kits? Developers can find Arcola’s software for the fuel cell inventor kit on Github here, while the full text of Bob Dormon’s “Inventors: Feast your eyes on fuel cell tech that’ll power up Internet of Thingies” can be read on The Register here.

Smart RF with Atmel tech

Atmel offers industry-leading performance for RF devices operating in the license-free ISM frequency bands, including 5.8 GHz, 2.4 GHz, 868 to 928 MHz, 433 MHz and 315 MHz.

“Our devices support both unidirectional or bidirectional data communication to meet a broad range of proprietary wireless industrial and consumer applications such as automatic metering, alarm systems, home control, toys and gaming,” an Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces.

“In short, our Smart RF products include unidirectional devices with a single transmitter, bi-directional devices with dual transceivers and high-performance receivers.”

In addition, all Atmel RF components are designed to seamlessly work together, offering devs the reassurance of error free design, integration and testing.

“Simply put, we integrate all the building blocks you need for both base and the mobile stations in typical remote control and access control systems,” the engineering rep continued.

Key features of Atmel Smart RF tech include:

  • Integrated design – Atmel offers a portfolio of RF devices that deliver the largest link budget in the industry. System level functions such as automatic transmission, frame acknowledgement and hardware security accelerators offload the microcontroller (MCU) to reduce power and computation burden.
  • Broad data rate and transmission support – Atmel devices support data rates from 1Kb/s to 20Kb/s (FSK) and 1Kb/s to 10Kb/s (ASK) in Manchester mode and bi-phase mode, plus other codes in transparent mode with programmable bit ranges.
  • High sensitivity – Low-IF receivers provide high selectivity, blocking and low intermodulation, eliminating the need for bulky blocking surface acoustic wave (SAW filters in remote control units.
  • Low current consumption – In operation, idle, and sleep mode for long battery lifetime.
  • Adjustable output power – Transceiver devices support a power output range from 0 to 10dBm; the output can be adjusted and stabilized with external resistors.

Want to learn more about Atmel’s Smart RF tech? Be sure to check out our product breakdown here.