Everyone poops. Cardiologists are counting on it…


NOT an illustration of the actual device 🙂

❝ Engineers at Rochester Institute of Technology have designed a high-tech toilet seat that effortlessly flushes out data on the state of your cardiovascular system. The tricked-out porcelain throne measures your blood pressure, blood oxygen level, and the volume of blood your heart pumps per beat (stroke volume)—taking readings every time you sit down to catch up on some reading of your own. The engineers, led by David Borkholder, recently published a prototype of the seat in the open-access journal JMIR mHealth and uHealth.

❝ According to the inventors, the seat’s daily data dump could make patients and their doctors privy (har!) to early warning signs of heart failure, potentially helping to prevent further deterioration and avoid costly hospital stays. Moreover, the seat could ease in-home monitoring for heart patients, who often strain to consistently track their tickers with other, non-toilet-based monitors.

Makes great sense to me…if I had any sort of heart concerns. Apple’s HealthKit built into my iPhone made it a piece of cake for me to finally get round to integrating nutrition and exercise with other apps…lose weight, keep it off and get in better shape than a significant chunk of my [old geezer] age group.

Someday, a Medical Machine Will Smell Whether You’re Sick – or Not


Click to enlargeViktor Koen

❝ Blindfolded, would you know the smell of your mom, a lover or a co-worker? Not the smells of their colognes or perfumes, not of the laundry detergents they use — the smells of them?

Each of us has a unique “odorprint” made up of thousands of organic compounds. These molecules offer a whiff of who we are, revealing age, genetics, lifestyle, hometown — even metabolic processes that underlie our health…

❝ …Not every physician’s nose is a precision instrument, and dogs, while adept at sniffing out cancer, get distracted. So researchers have been trying for decades to figure out how to build an inexpensive odor sensor for quick, reliable and noninvasive diagnoses.

The field finally seems on the cusp of succeeding.

❝ “You’re seeing a convergence of technology now, so we can actually run large-scale clinical studies to get the data to prove odor analysis has real utility,” said Billy Boyle, co-founder and president of operations at Owlstone, a manufacturer of chemical sensors in Cambridge, England.

❝ Mr. Boyle, an electronics engineer, formed the company with two friends in 2004 to develop sensors to detect chemical weapons and explosives for customers, including the United States government. But when Mr. Boyle’s girlfriend and eventual wife, Kate Gross, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2012, his focus shifted to medical sensors, with an emphasis on cancer detection.

Ms. Gross died at the end of 2014. That she might still be alive if her cancer had been detected earlier, Mr. Boyle said, continues to be a “big motivator.”

The shame is that our US government – supposed to be part support of our family and lives – never seems to have that concern for our health and care anymore. Yes, we got Obamacare for a little while. Shortsighted and convinced our insurance and pharmaceutical giants need as much support as individuals and families, that endeavor is currently being short-circuited by mean spirited politicians who care even less than the capitalist barons or Dark Ages priests they pimp for.

❝ Owlstone has raised $23.5 million to put its odor analysis technology into the hands of clinicians. Moreover, Britain’s National Health Service is funding a 3,000-subject clinical trial to test Owlstone’s sensor to diagnose lung cancer…

The company also is conducting a 1,400-subject trial, in collaboration with the University of Warwick, to detect colon cancer from urine samples, and is exploring whether its chips can help determine the best drugs for asthma patients by sorting through molecules in their breath.

RTFA for more examples, more individuals and firms doing good work, useful studies constructed to lead to healthier lives. Good for them.

Shame on those we put into office at all levels with the same sort of mandate – conveniently forgotten when they take their seat in power.

Connected farms and the future of agriculture

It used to be that farming was an occupation that relied on gut instinct. Information about the land was passed from generation to generation like an heirloom. “When my grandpa started in the late ‘20s or ‘30s, you needed a good work ethic and a strong back,” says Ron Haase, a farmer who, with his brother, operates a 1,200 acre corn and soybean farm 90 miles south of Chicago.

Things have changed quite a bit since Haase took over the family farm in the mid 1990s. Like health care, transportation, and plenty of other industries before it, agriculture is currently undergoing a radical transformation. In recent years, farmers have begun embracing advanced technologies like sensors, satellite imagery, GPS, and big data analytics to build connected farms that are as efficient, productive, and as profitable as possible. Some people call the new, technologically-enabled era of farming Ag 3.0, a movement that centers around the idea that every operation on the farm should be tracked, from soil moisture to the number of seeds planted to precise read-outs on crop yields.

Since Haase began using sensors to track yield data in the early 2000s, nearly all of his operations have evolved to rely on some form of data gathering. “In some form or another the data’s being used to make the decisions,” he says. His planters track what types of seeds are planted where, his combines precisely measure yield data during harvest, and every aspect of his tractor — from fuel usage to location to how long it’s been running — is measured to ensure efficiency.

All this data is pushed automatically to cloud-based software, which means Haase no longer has to sit in front of a computer and enter the data himself after a long day of work. As a result, Haase says he’s cut his planting time down from nearly a week to three days and now has more time for his family.

Thanks to forward-thinking farmers like Haase, Ag tech has become big business. In 2015, investments in farming technology reached $4.6 billion. Companies across the farming industry are investing in the trend in the form of cloud-based software that analyzes different variables like soil moisture, sunlight, climate, nitrogen and pests. This software helps farmers determine where and what kind of seeds they should plant the next year to reap a maximum yield.

But while sensors might be the backbone of the connected farm, it’s the ability to parse the data itself that’s revolutionizing the way farmers work and make a living…

The article ends with the old saw, “farming isn’t a lifestyle; it’s a business”. That wasn’t news 10 centuries ago. And as it always has been, the farmer’s choice – beyond subsistence farming – how much do you wish to reorder and organize your life and work to make more money. Or not?

The family farms owned by my Canadian kin haven’t changed in size in over a century. Same root crops. Soil temperature useful as ever and you don’t have to spend half a day or so sticking a probe into the ground by hand.

Point remains the same one made by Farmer Haase up top of the article. More data and the ability to analyze that data easily has cut some of his tasks in half or better. He can use that time to work at growing, expanding his business – or he can spend more time with his family. I know which I’d choose.

Dumbest engineers of the year

A Proton-M rocket crashed headlong into the ground shortly after take off on July 2. According to independent website Russian Space Web, which has been monitoring Russian media since the crash, reports that crash investigators examining the wreckage had found the angular velocity sensors had been installed the wrong way up.

According to the website, the sensors are marked with an arrow which is supposed to point upwards. However, several sensors were found among the wreckage were found to be pointing the other way. It’s thought that the signals picked up by the wrongly installed sensors threw the rocket’s flight control system into disarray, causing the rocket to turn upside down shortly after take off, and crash roughly a kilometer from the launchpad…

The crash, which reportedly caused a crater up to 200 m (650 ft) across, posed a significant risk as it failed to clear the launch complex at Baikonur in Kazakhstan. However, no one was hurt as a result of the crash.

The question isn’t one of stupidity – but ignorance. Any number of engineering firms, research projects, realized long ago that the best way to prevent human error like this is to design every component so they only fit into place when installed correctly. Apparently no one notified the Russian Space Agency.

Easy-peasy.

Oops! Here comes smart parking spots. Technology helping to balance the parking ticket budget!

Place “smart” in front of a noun and you immediately have something that somehow sounds improved.

In its current state, however, “smart parking” is in some ways little different from regular parking. The term refers to a beguiling technology, now being tested in several cities, that uses sensors to determine whether a particular spot on the street or in a parking garage is occupied or vacant. When a car has overstayed its allotted time, the technology can also send the information to a parking enforcement officer with ticket book in hand.

The sensors’ data can also be used to adjust parking prices, using higher rates to create more turnover on the busiest blocks and lower prices to draw drivers to blocks with underused spaces…

If you’re changing prices every other day, how will drivers know where to look?

Cities are marketing the programs as experiments in using demand-based pricing to reduce traffic congestion — the kind caused by circling drivers desperately seeking parking spots — and to make more spaces available at any specific time. Drivers are encouraged to use mobile apps to check parking availability and pricing, though coverage is not universal. Parker, for example, from Streetline, gives detailed information about on-street parking for Los Angeles, but not for San Francisco.

SFpark is using “smart pricing” to achieve a target of having one parking space available most of the time in the areas it covers, says Jay Primus, the SFpark program manager. SFpark, he says, “de-emphasizes inconvenient time limits and instead uses smart pricing” to achieve those targets. The same spot, for example, may have different parking rates for different times of day. That intraday pricing is adjusted at multimonth intervals, but theoretically, it could be altered on the fly, depending on availability at any given hour.

All of which requires at least a smartphone or a motor vehicle newer than 99% of what’s on the road.

As for parking enforcement, San Francisco and Los Angeles have begun to use the sensor technology to dispatch officers to cars that have stayed past their limits. That’s far more efficient that having officers roam streets in search of random meter violations.

And that’s how this will all be paid for.

NY firefighters burning down houses to increase safety!


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Firefighters will spend the next two weeks setting homes ablaze on a small island in New York Harbor for one purpose: Saving lives.

Eighteen abandoned townhouses on New York City’s Governors Island, formerly housing for members of the Coast Guard, have been turned into a setting for roaring fires in experiments aimed to develop new strategies firefighters can use to save lives.

“They are bringing the lab out to the firefighters,” said Dan Madryzkowsky, a fire protection engineer from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which conducted the tests with the FDNY and Underwriters Laboratories, a non-profit group.

The idea behind this and other experiments taking place on Governors Island is to find flaws in fire-fighting techniques that, in many cases, haven’t changed in decades.

At the same time, modern households have undergone dramatic shifts, with organic materials, such as cotton and feathers, largely replaced by more affordable synthetic materials introduced in the 1970s.

With the change came a disturbing trend, said Fire Department deputy assistant chief Robert Maynes. The new materials have shortened the time it takes a house to burn, and cause fire to burn even hotter. Where more natural homes would take 17 to 20 minutes to burn, modern homes can be engulfed in five minutes…As a result, Maynes said, an increase in burns and fatalities started to show up in fire department statistics in 1983.

The researchers performing the experiments on Governors Island hope that each home, outfitted with more than 100 sensors which measure oxygen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, airflow through the houses and heat levels, would give them valuable information in fighting fires.

Bravo. Sensible use, smart experiments, designed to elicit info which can save lives.

Scientists create Borg cockroach that produces its own electricity


 
An insect’s internal chemicals can be converted to electricity, potentially providing power for sensors, recording devices or to control the bug, a group of researchers at Case Western Reserve University report.

The finding is yet another in a growing list from universities across the country that could bring the creation of insect cyborgs – touted as possible first responders to super spies – out of science fiction and into reality. In this case, the power supply, while small, doesn’t rely on movement, light or batteries, just normal feeding…

“It is virtually impossible to start from scratch and make something that works like an insect,” said Daniel Scherson, chemistry professor at Case Western Reserve and senior author of the paper. “Using an insect is likely to prove far easier,” Scherson said. “For that, you need electrical energy to power sensors or to excite the neurons to make the insect do as you want, by generating enough power out of the insect itself.”

Scherson’s team…developed an implantable biofuel cell to provide usable power…

The researchers found the cockroaches suffered no long-term damage, which bodes well for long-term use.

The researchers are now taking several steps to move the technology forward: miniaturizing the fuel cell so that it can be fully implanted and allow an insect to run or fly normally; investigating materials that may last long inside of an insect, working with other researchers to build a signal transmitter that can run on little energy; adding a lightweight rechargeable battery.

“It’s possible the system could be used intermittently,” Scherson said. “An insect equipped with a sensor could measure the amount of noxious gas in a room, broadcast the finding, shut down and recharge for an hour, then take a new measurement and broadcast again.”

Or photograph a famous politician having illicit sex.

RTFA for the technology and science.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

A smartphone designed for everything you worry about

Japanese mobile phone giant NTT DoCoMo is developing a smartphone that will measure radiation levels. The design was inspired by worries over the health implications of the radiation leak at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The phone will come with changeable “jackets” which will also be able to measure bad breath and body fat…

At the Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technology, hosted near Tokyo next month, DoCoMo will show off three smartphone ‘jackets” that are fitted with sensors, to monitor body mass as well as level of skin-damaging ultraviolet light.

But the shell that measures radiation levels is likely to prove the most popular.

“Many customers have been nervous about radiation since the Great East Japan Earthquake,” said DoCoMo’s spokesman Daisuke Sakuma.

We had been thinking what services we can provide to address these needs as a telecom carrier,” he added.

Just think of the possibilities:

Point your smartphone at a mirror and ask “does this outfit make my butt look fat?”

Take a photo of your date and determine what your prospective children might look like.

Record a speech from a political candidate and it will tell you the percentage of lies.

Street lighting with intelligent sensors uses 80% less electricity

Of all the energy-saving tips out there, probably the one we hear most often is to not leave lights on when we leave a room. It’s good advice, yet cities around the world are not following it in one key way – their streetlights stay on all night long, even when no one is on the street.

The Netherlands’ Delft University of Technology is experimenting with a new streetlight system on its campus, however, in which motion sensor-equipped streetlights dim to 20 percent power when no people or moving vehicles are near them. The system is said to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions by up to 80 percent, plus it lowers maintenance costs and reduces light pollution.

Delft Management of Technology alumnus Chintan Shah designed the system, which can be added to any dimmable streetlight. The illumination comes from LED bulbs, which are triggered by motion sensors. As a person or car approaches, their movement is detected by the closest streetlight, and its output goes up to 100 percent. Because the lights are all wirelessly linked to one another, the surrounding lights also come on, and only go back down to 20 percent once the commuter has passed through. This essentially creates a “pool of light” that precedes and follows people wherever they go, so any thugs lurking in the area should be clearly visible well in advance…

Some fine-tuning is still ongoing, in order to keep the lights from being activated by things like swaying branches or wandering cats. In the meantime, Shah has formed a spin-off company named Tvilight to market the Delft technology. He claims that municipalities utilizing the system should see it paying for itself within three to four years of use.

Anything that saves on electricity use pays for itself sooner than most people realize.

Yes – I can still hear my father instructing me to – “turn off the light when you leave a room”!

Smile, you’re on Candid Camera – at Best Buy, Wal-Mart

The scenes being examined in this office may seem like random shopping bloopers, but they are meaningful to stores that are striving to engineer a better experience for the consumer, and ultimately, higher sales for themselves. Such clips, retailers say, can help them find solutions to problems in their stores — by installing seating and activity areas to mollify children, for instance, or by lowering shelves so merchandise is within easy reach.

Privacy advocates, though, are troubled by the array of video cameras, motion detectors and other sensors monitoring the nation’s shopping aisles…

Companies that employ this technology say it is used strictly to determine characteristics like age and gender, which help them discover how different people respond to various products. But privacy advocates fear that as the technology becomes more sophisticated, it will eventually cross the line and be used to identify individual consumers and gather more detailed information on them…

Some degree of privacy, experts say, is necessary as a matter of decency.

“When someone’s watching me, I’m going to act differently than when I think I’m alone,” consumer advocate, Katherine Albrecht said. “Did I pick my nose? What was I doing? What did they see..?”

The companies that install and analyze video for retailers say that they are sensitive to privacy issues but that the concerns are overblown. They say they are not using the technology to identify consumers but to give them easier and more enjoyable shopping experiences. And, they added, they have the sales results to prove it…

But industry professionals said interest in analyzing shoppers was growing. Video analysis companies said nearly every major chain was or had been a client, including giants like Wal-Mart Stores and Best Buy.

So, remove the words “shoppers” and insert “voters”, “office-workers”, “students” – does the question become more or less meaningful?

RTFA. A few examples which illustrate why you should be interested.