Do we have enough energy to become green?

I was trawling through YouTube in search for new technology to review when I came across an interesting short video by GreentechMedia titled “Rewired: How electric vehicles could make or break the power grid. The premise suggested that as society slowly drifts towards large scale electric vehicle usage, electricity providers may struggle to meet demand with the current infrastructure as people arrive home from work and charge their vehicles. It wasn’t anything I had thought of before so I started to thinking and researching a bit more. Now first and foremost, I’m not an expert in this subject nor have I studied it.

This really brings into question, where are we heading in terms of a renewable, large scale energy source or sources once our non-renewable’s have been exhausted. Can we call ourselves `green´ if we need non-renewable`s to help us get there, will our generation be `green´ or will it be the next or further. Are we waiting around for the physicists to find the solution to develop cold fusion and have endless energy or should every structure that  faces the sun have a photovoltaic panel on it. There are many questions and I wish I had the answers but I don´t think any one person can solve this. There are however many people and organisation’s doing their best, some of which have featured in previous blogs.

Please don’t think I’m completely against non-renewables and only for green solutions, I’m pragmatic and merely asking the question. So do we have enough energy to become green, I think so, as long as we accept that we need non-renewables to get us there. At this point in time energy its like an early generation Toyota Prius, a hybrid of both renewable and non renewable energies. The greener technologies can quite go it alone just yet.

If you have any comments or feedback, please don’t hesitate to reply or get in contact with me through Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.

Emerging Display technology, will anything be real?

Many of us can remember the iconic scenes in the movie ‘Minority report’, where Tom Cruise’s character swipes and manipulates screens and windows with his hand and arm gestures or the Iron Man/Avengers series where Robert Downie Jr uses 3D holograms to move and spin objects. The dream of many is to have devices where gestures and movements control the icons and windows on a display that is barely noticeable. Is this only the stuff of science fiction or the dreams of programmers, some would say yes, FourFront Reviews doesn’t think so and we’ll show you why. This post will examine the emerging display technologies of holographics, screen-less displays and phased array optics. although the concepts are not new news, however what is currently being built and going through trial phase is.

Holographics have been around Hollywood for decades, many of us grew up wanting be Luke Skywalker and fire proton torpedoes into the death Star from an X-wing fighter. Holographic displays have taken on many forms, heads up displays in vehicles is now quite common and just about every fighter jet utilises holographic’s. But where will we use holographic’s tomorrow or in 5 years time. Let’s examine that, earlier this year Microsoft announced a new holographic project called a ‘hololens’. The project uses numerous realtime cameras and holographic lenses to view the world around while overlaying interactive holographics through the wireless headset, yes you read correctly ‘wireless’. According to the tech site, The Verge, windows has teamed up with NASA in the development of the HoloLens, so you could only imagine what astronauts will be fitted with if this is the public version. Next up, screen-less displays.

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Screen-less displays are an almost all encompassing topic, traditionally they included popular areas such as Holographics, Heads-Up-displays and the now all to common virtual reality goggles/glasses/headset whatever you wish to refer to them as. But for FFR, screen less displays means something else, such as how to project an image onto… well, nothing or something other than a solid. Back in 2011, public safety messages in the Sydney harbour tunnel were designed by a company called Laservision to project an image on the a film of water pouring onto the road like a waterfall, the steady stream allows a reasonably solid image to be projected. The concept of screen less display, at present is unavailable, however during research into this topic it was noted that concepts are being theorised to project images onto the water particles within oxygen. The water molecule is more stable than hydrogen and could potentially provide a ‘surface’. Until a projection system is developed which does not require a surface or headset to view the image, dreaming is the closest we will get.

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The last topic reviewed is phased array optics, first and foremost a definition, ‘Phased Array Optics is the use of Spatial Light Modulators built to nanometer specifications for general manipulation of light’. Wikipedia further defines it as ‘dynamically controlling the optical properties of a surface on a microscopic scale, it is possible to steer the direction of light beams, or the view direction of sensors’. Phased Array optics or PAO is being referred to as technology that could possibly replicate the Star trek ‘holodeck’. At this point PAO can only be theorised, however the future applications are boundless from training simulations, communications, psychology, medicine and many more.

Although these topics are not quite into production or even at the concept phase the point is, is that there are very interesting advancements in the field of displays to look forward too. Yes, you could just be mesmerised by the next curved phone or smart watch but we’d like to think there are still some people out there looking at the ‘bigger picture’ (sorry for the bad ‘display’ joke).

Emerging Construction Technology

The construction industry appears to be heading for a major overhaul with the development of certain construction techniques and autonomous robotic workers. What are the potential advacements, are they within reach or simply wishful thinking. Of all the the concepts and theories circulting 3 topics have been chosen. Claytonics, 3D printing and domed cities are touted by many as revolutionary construction methods, each topic will be explained and reviewed to determine what real world applications could exist, if any. The first topic discussed will be claytronics.

Some readers may not have heard of claytronics, admittedly it is a relatively new topic to FFR so some digging was required. The global research University of Carnegie Mellen has teamed up with Intel to develop a claytronics project which they define as collaborative research into programmable matter. They state that claytronics is the combination of ‘modular robotics, systems nanotechnology and computer science to create the dynamic, 3-Dimensional display of electronic information’. Micro robots form the matter, which could take any programmable shape. One theory is that the shapes could provide base building blocks for construction of any object exceeding current methods or structural limitations of today’s methods. Some believe claytonics could become a reality by 2020. The Carnegie Mellen and Intel project is not the only claytronics project currently being conducted, however limited information is currently available, which leads us to the the next topic 3D printing.

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons

Not 20 minutes go by before something new has been 3D printed, but there are still some very interesting advacements. 3D printing is not a new concept especially in the field of construction, however some of it’s uses for construction is intriguing. CNET published an article in mid January 2015 about a Chinese company called WinSun that constructed a 5 storey apartment block from 3D printed materials, most of the plastics were recycled making the contruction even more interesting. In December 2014, the International Space Station was able to 3D print a ratchet wrench from code that was beamed up from mission control. The wrench was not used but returned to earth for comparison to earth based printed objects. Printing objects in space from materials that could be to heavy or dense to print with on earth could have enormous implications for construction. The ability to build large-scale objects with load bearing qualities could revolutionize the entire industry. Just imagine buildings being lowered into place or spaceports being built from raw materials in space. It could also be a key to building an outpost and later a colony on Mars. The last topic reviewed is domed cities.

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Domed cities have been theorised for decades, in fact the earliest documented mention of a domed city was cited as far back as 1881. The concept appears straight forward, build a city under a domed glass roof, seems simple enough. The main premise is the atmosphere in the dome can be controlled allowing a comfortable existance regardless of the external enviroment. The city of Dubai is attempting to build the world’s first domed city, however it’s probably not what you’d imagine. There is a central dome containing green space and other social areas but also an extensive enclosed interconnecting walk ways to shops, hotels and other facilities the domed city plan appears as a spider’s web of climate controlled walk ways and hubs. Extreme heat is a driving factor for the Dubai domed city project but extreme cold weather cities can also benefit from controlled atmospheres such as domed cities. The challange for domed cities will be if they can achieve zero emissions, thereby not impacting the environment surrounding the domed area.

The three topics of claytronics, 3D printing and domed cities are defiantly not the be all and end all of construction methods and techniques being practices and theorized. On the contrary the number of concepts currently being discussed would mean this blog would take a week to read if each topic was analysed. All we know is that construction along with other emerging technology sectors are evolving at exponential rates. How we as human beings build cities and where we live on this planet could be unimaginable with today’s technology but quite frankly we’re very excited.

Fight smarter not harder, a review of emerging military tech

Most technological advancement has been civilianzied from military programs, aircraft for ariel combat, telecommunications devices for effective battlefield communication, internet to transfer data and many more. This post will review some of the developed and conceptualised military tech projects the have been publicised and propose some civilian applications. Traditionally, advancements in military technology tend to be kept under a veil of secrecy, but there are some very interesting concepts and prototypes available for public knowledge. Of the multitude of projects and concepts, three have been reviewed for this post. They are the green bullet, force fields and exoskeletons. The first tech reviewed is the green bullet.

The green bullet is as it sounds, although it’s not necessarily a new concept as its development dates back to the late 1990’s. The difference between a ‘green round’ and standard ammunition is that lead is removed and replaced with more environmentally friendly copper. Not only is it safer for the environment it has positive long-term effects, obviously not for the target! War zones and conflicts have predominantly taken place in developing countries with many of the people utilising farming of crops or livestock as the basis for their daily activities and survival. The article Green Bullets (U.S. Military) published by Clive Dilnot quoted an alarming statistic, ‘during the height of active battle operations in Iraq, U.S. soldiers were using 5.5 million rounds of ammunition each month’. The potentially harmful levels of lead leaching from the millions of rounds into the already harsh land would make any farmable produce dangerous to consume. This may be a world away to some people but the conflict in Ukraine further limits some produce being produced impacting the country and its people long after the conflict has come to an end. The next topic is force fields.

In recent weeks a number of articles have surfaced relating to the potential development of force fields, primarily combating side on blasts of Improvised Explosive Devices’ (IED) and so on. According to an article on The next web, Boeing has devised a Laser pulse system that is triggered by shockwaves of an explosion. The system is called a shockwave attenuation via electromagnetic arc. Essentially, once the system detects a shockwave directed towards, for example a vehicle, the system sounds out its own shockwave towards the oncoming shockwave. The idea is that as both shockwaves meet, they cancel each other out thereby limiting any damage to the vehicle or personnel. There are claims that force fields could be utilised for civilian or industrial purposes seems just a little bit farfetched for the moment, exciting, but farfetched. The final review is on exoskeletons.

It’s not just Boeing developing new Military technology, Lockheed Martin, another aerospace giant is developing exoskeletons for military and civilian purposes. The primary concept is called the FORTIS exoskeleton as is defined as ‘an unpowered, lightweight exoskeleton that increases an operator’s strength and endurance by transferring the weight of heavy loads from the user’s body directly to the ground’. In August 2014, the US Navy took consignment of 2 FORTIS exoskeletons for use and evaluation in a military setting. The potential applications for reducing spinal and compounding injuries due to fatigue and excessive weight-bearing situations could not be under estimated. Along with the military application, Lockheed martin envisage a construction workforce able to achieve feats currently impossible by a lone worker.

Image curtosy of FORTIS Exoskeleton. www.lockheedmartin.com

Image curtosy of FORTIS Exoskeleton. http://www.lockheedmartin.com

Lockheed Martin are not the sole developers of an exoskeleton, as are Boeing in the development of force fields or the concepts of green ammunition. For instance the ReWalk is a robotic exoskeleton allowing the mobility impaired and wheel chair bound freedom they never thought possible. The future of military technology is an exciting prospect. The question is that if every soldier is able to withstand extreme situations and explosions being nullified, will anyone die on the battlefield and if not would there end up being a global ceasefire? The research into emerging military technology has shown that there are numerous organisations attempting to develop the next weapon, armour or some other military use. Although this was not going to be a series Emerging military technology will remain topic that FourFront Reviews will research and bring to you from time to time. Until , knowledge is power.

Emerging tech for developing countries (part two)

This is part two and final post for emerging technology for developing countries which focuses of waste management, housing and construction and information technology. Enabling and supporting emerging technologies for developing communities has far-reaching positive impacts as highlighted by the first topic for this post, waste managment.

Waste management has been a health and welfare issue for many countries, not just developing countries. The need for clean and safe waste Management is imperative to all communities. The re.source Sanitation organisation based in Haiti created a portable household toilet for informal settlements. The need for this concept was borne from the natural disaster where a great deal of infrastructure was destroyed and many people died from the diseases that took hold.

The housing and construction in some unforgiving environments can be a tough ask. So, how do you build cost-effective housing in these areas, simple. The Enactus Cairo University’s has developed earth bag housing. Utilising sandbags and some engineering knowhow the project can erect a sustainable, low-cost and stable dwelling within 15 days. The earth bag walls also protect the inhabitants from flooding and earthquakes and also provide a safe refuge during gunfire. Dwellings in some developing countries lack a reliable power source or any power at all. The liter of light – Switzerland organisation has developed an ecological solution to darkened dwellings during the day. Utilising a water and chlorine solution in a clear plastic bottle, then in half and half in the roof of a unlight dwelling. The results provide a defragmented light source equivalent to a 55 watt light bulb.

With the improvement of basic Information technology infrastructure benefits to developing countries are astronomical. Due to the high risk of tuberculosis and limited medical facilities, the Operation ASHA developed an Electronic Medical Record System (EMRS) to obtain biometric data through the use of fingerprint scanned and a wireless network device such as a small tablet. The device is referred to as an eComplience, which gathers data from tuberculosis suffers and transmits observations to a central medical team to monitor the patients health. Operation ASHA state that eComplience can be utilised to measure any long term diseases in patients. Utilising this emerging medical technology in these areas provides a level of care and welfare that may not have been present previously.

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There are a number of organisations like the Empowering People Network and charities such as the International River Foundation striving to improve the lives many people in developing countries that should be acknowledged and supported. Not all the technology is cutting edge, but emerging technology doesn’t always have to be. By very definition ‘emerging’ is for something to become apparent. Dedicating just a small amount of resources to improving any group, community and just an individual’s life is never a waste.

Emerging tech for developing countries (part one)

How can emerging and green technologies benefit some of the poorest people on earth? These people live in some of the harshest climates and geographies on earth. Improving their lives by bringing them up to health and well-being standards most of us take for grant does not seem to be a top priority, apart from a dedicated few. This two-part blog will highlight some of the projects and organisations trying to better the world through the use of simple and green technology. Part one of two will review water and health, food and agriculture and energy. Part two focuses on waste management, housing and construction and information and communication technology.

In 2005 the Swiss based company Vestergaard Frandsen released the Lifestraw®, a simple tubular device capable of removing water born bacteria and diseases. Vestegaard Frandsen state the ‘water filters convert contaminated water into clean, safe drinking water’ potentially providing a family of 5 with clean drinking water for up to 3 years. Vestegard Frandsen are not alone, Skyjuice Foundation based in Australia also produces water filtration systems for developing countries, but on a much larger scale.

Championing the aforementioned companies for the rest of this post would be easy, but who are the other companies making an effort that have yet to reach mainstream success. The Mother Nature network recently published an article about Cynthia Lam an Australian inventor, who has developed a water purification system which activates with sunlight. The onedollarglasses project is from a German inventor by the name of Martin Aufmuth. His concept providies affordable corrective eyewear hinges on utilising very cost-effective and robust materials that can be assembled at home.

In the area of food and agriculture, there are a number of great innovations being made. For instance, the hippo water roller is a 20lt circular container with a pole in the middle of each end that is bent around to form a handle. The hippo water roller project aimed to reduce the daily impact to women and children gathering water and placing heavy containers on their heads. The hippo water roller does exactly as it sounds, the containers can be rolled on the ground which reduces impact and significantly reduces time to gather the water. Theses containers allow a greater amount of water to be used for crops and food preparation as more water can be gathered daily, in turn providing more food and fresh water for communities.

With better infrastructure people in developing countries are gaining more access to mobile phone networks and the internet but not always a continuous or reliable source of energy. The African Renewable Energy Distributor has developed a mobile solar cell phone charger. These are portable devices that can attached to bicycles and mopeds. The concept enables the device to gain charge through solar cells and store the energy in lithium batteries. Its mobility allows it to be placed in numerous locations for mobile charging to occur.

Emerging Tech in Medicine

In recent months a number of articles have appeared across the web spruiking the potential for emerging technology to advance the field of medicine. An article was recently published indicating that brain matter can now be grown in a laboratory may be able to trace the origins of certain diseases such as mental health and dementia. If these speculations come to fruition it will have an enormous impact on the way certain diseases are treated or diagnosed.

A present, research and technological advancements in medicine seem to be occurring weekly. A quick search displays topics such as male contraception, artificial uterus, cryonics Stem cell treatments and nanosensors. LifescienceIntelligence.com lists an extensive number of current organisations and businesses currently developing emerging medical technology.

Unfortunately, legislation in a number of countries has not yet caught up with the technological advancements in medicine. For example, Stem cell research is still being debated. The main point of controversy is the method for harvesting stem cells which is primarily taken from a placenta or from the inner cells of a embryo. Despite the controversy, the discoveries through the research cannot be disputed. An article was published the past 24hrs stating that arthritis could be cured as researchers are utilising stem cells to grow new cartilage.

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The field of medicine is set for exciting discoveries. The foundation that stem cell research is setting will allow future emerging technology and advancements to have a far easier path to acceptance. The hope is that humans will be able to live longer and fuller lives with the aide of medical advancements currently in development. Emerging medical technologies is an intriguing and in-depth subject, which cannot be covering entirely in one blog. However, FourFront Reviews takes a keen interest in Emerging medical technology due to the profound implication on our existence and will bring readers breakthroughs and updates on emerging medical technologies in the future.

How will we use Smart Clothing

You’re walking to walk along a busy street filled with people going about their day. There’s a chill in the air, its winter. All of a sudden you feel your neck warming, the warm feeling flows throughout your torso and the chill seems to disappear as you reach the office. Welcome to Smart clothing. It was recently announced that Microsoft has developed a prototype smart scarf that can warm up or vibrate once paired with a smart phone to provide the commands. These are the ideas and concepts that continually place Microsoft at the forefront of tech development, but what will the real world applications be.

Image credit to John Hofilena

Image credit to John Hofilena

Smart clothing is not a new concept, the web is full of articles about smart clothing, smart fibres in clothing and we don’t need to discuss wearable’s. The idea that clothing could heat and cool a person depending on the body temperature or current environmental conditions could have an enormous impact on the homeless, needy or developing nations and communities. Self cleaning smart clothes with inbuilt heart rate, blood sugar and hydration sensors would be perfect for anyone’s needs not only the elderly. Clothing comprised of nano fibre’s that can stiffen instantaneously to the point that it becomes slash or stab proof or minimises the impact of small calibre firearms. There is no telling in which direction or what the capability of smart clothing will be. All we know at the moment is that it’s real and it’s possible.

Smart clothing applications and concepts will become clearer in time but the exciting thing is, is that it’s here and the possibilities are endless. The ability to improve and enhance the lives of many people through Smart clothing is an exciting prospect. Perhaps in the near future we won’t be wearing clothing with the Nike tick or the 3 distinct stripes of Adidas but clothing with the Google, Microsoft and Apple symbols.

Welcome to FourFront Reviews

Hello and welcome to the Official FourFront Reviews blog. The FourFront Reviews mantra is clear, ‘knowledge is power’. Understanding technology can be a bit overwhelming considering the numerous types of technology currently being discussed.

FFR wants to make things simple. There are two main focuses and two sub topics the first main topic is emerging technology. This will focus on what is being discussed, theorised, conceptualised and developed. Second main topic is green technology but this won’t just be about who can fly a solar-powered plane the furthest. FFR also brings you technology for the greater good, to discuss tech that hopefully enhances the way people live and thrive, how technology is used to better the way impoverished or developing nations or people are able to cope and survive in their environment. Lastly, Tech worth knowing about. These are the four topics of FFR.  Graphene has been chosen as the image for FFR as it represents the development of new materials that can greatly enhance our lives.

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We live in a time when technology matters, our mission is to provide the knowledge. FFR is also on Twitter, Google+ and Flipboard. We hope you enjoy the articles and blogs that are posted. Please feel free to comment or email on any blog or article that is posted. If you have an idea for a blog or wish to write a blog for FFR feel free to email FFR to discuss your idea. Enjoy.