WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY

January 12, 2019


Wearable technology’s evolution is not about the gadget on the wrist or the arm but what is done with the data these devices collect, say most computational biologist. I think before we go on, let’s define wearable technology as:

“Wearable technology (also called wearable gadgets) is a category of technology devices that can be worn by a consumer and often include tracking information related to health and fitness. Other wearable tech gadgets include devices that have small motion sensors to take photos and sync with your mobile devices.”

Several examples of wearable technology may be seen by the following digital photographs.

You can all recognize the “watches” shown above. I have one on right now.  For Christmas this year, my wife gave me a Fitbit Charge 3.  I can monitor: 1.) Number of steps per day, 2.) Pulse rate, 3.) Calories burned during the day, 4.) Time of day, 5.) Number of stairs climbed per day, 6.) Miles walked or run per day, and 7.) Several items I can program in from the app on my digital phone.  It is truly a marvelous device.

Other wearables provide very different information and accomplish data of much greater import.

The device above is manufactured by a company called Lumus.  This company focusses on products that provide new dimensions for the human visual experience. It offers cutting-edge eyewear displays that can be used in various applications including gaming, movie watching, text reading, web browsing, and interaction with the interface of wearable computers. Lumus does not aim to produce self-branded products. Instead, the company wants to work with various original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to enable the wider use of its technologies.  This is truly ground-breaking technology being used today on a limited basis.

Wearable technology is aiding individuals of decreasing eyesight to see as most people see.  The methodology is explained with the following digital.

Glucose levels may be monitored by the device shown above. No longer is it necessary to prick your finger to draw a small droplet of blood to determine glucose levels.  The device below can do that on a continuous basis and without a cumbersome test device.

There are many over the world suffering from “A-fib”.  Periodic monitoring becomes a necessity and one of the best methods of accomplishing that is shown by the devices below. A watch monitors pulse rate and sends that information via blue tooth to an app downloaded on your cell phone.

Four Benefits of Wearable Health Technology are as follows:

  • Real Time Data collection. Wearables can already collect an array of data like activity levels, sleep and heart rate, among others. …
  • Continuous Monitoring. …
  • Predict and alerting. …
  • Empowering patients.

Major advances in sensor and micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) technologies are allowing much more accurate measurements and facilitating believable data that can be used to track movements and health conditions on any one given day.  In many cases, the data captured can be downloaded into a computer and transmitted to a medical practitioner for documentation.

Sensor miniaturization is a key driver for space-constrained wearable design.  Motion sensors are now available in tiny packages measuring 2 x 2 millimeters.  As mentioned, specific medical sensors can be used to track 1.) Heart rate variability, 2.) Oxygen levels, 3.) Cardiac health, 4.) Blood pressure, 5.) Hemoglobin, 6.) Glucose levels and 7.) Body temperature.  These medical devices represent a growing market due to their higher accuracy and greater performance.  These facts make them less prone to price pressures that designers commonly face with designing consumer wearables.

One great advantage for these devices now is the ability to hold a charge for a much longer period of time.  My Fitbit has a battery life of seven (7) days.  That’s really unheard of relative to times past.

CONCLUSION:  Wearable designs are building a whole new industry one gadget at a time.  MEMS sensors represent an intrinsic part of this design movement. Wearable designs have come a long way from counting steps in fitness trackers, and they are already applying machine-learning algorithms to classify and analyze data.

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FARADAY FUTURE FFZERO1

January 5, 2017


I certainly had no idea engineers and automobile manufacturers have been working on autonomous or driverless automobiles for years. Experiments have been conducted on automating automobiles since the 1920.  Very promising trials took place in the 1950s and work has proceeded since then. The first self-sufficient and truly autonomous cars appeared in the 1980s, with Carnegie Mellon University‘s Navlab and ALV  projects in 1984 and Mercedes-Benz and Bundeswehr University Munich‘s Eureka Prometheus Projects in 1987. Since then, numerous major companies and research organizations have developed working prototype autonomous vehicles including Mercedes-BenzGeneral MotorsContinental Automotive Systems,  Autoliv Inc., Bosch, Nissan, Toyota, Audi, Volvo, Vislab from the University of Parma, Oxford University, and Google.  In July 2013, Vislab demonstrated the BRAiVE, a vehicle that moved autonomously on a mixed traffic route open to public traffic.  

As of 2013, four U.S. states have passed laws permitting autonomous cars: NevadaFloridaCalifornia, and Michigan.  With the intensity involved, I’m quite sure there will be others to follow.   In Europe, cities in Belgium, France, Italy and the UK are planning to operate transport systems for driverless cars, and Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain have allowed testing robotic cars in traffic.

There is absolutely no way progress could be accomplished without technologies such as GPS, proximity sensors, visual cameras and of course the software necessary to drive each system and integrate each system so success may result.  These technologies will continue to improve over the next few years.  I heard a comment yesterday that indicated if your son or daughter is under ten years old, he or she may never have the need for a driver’s license.  Time will tell.

CLASSIFICATIONS OF DRIVERLESS VEHICLES:

The American Society of Automotive Engineers has developed five stages or classifications of autonomous automobiles.  These stages are as follows:

sae-classifications

FARADAY FUTURE FFZERO1:  THE CAR

I would like to introduce to you now the FARADAY FUTURE FFZERO1.   Future’s 1,000-horsepower concept car should make Tesla very, very nervous.  The media announcement was made just this week and is as follows:

LAS VEGAS — With a thumping bass soundtrack in a lengthy airplane hangar-like building in Vegas, Faraday Future unveiled their new FF 91 electric “super car” on 4 January 2017.

The automaker was criticized at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) for showing off their FFZERO1 concept car, which turned out to be more style than substance. This year’s unveiling of the FF 91 was different, in that they attempted to show off a real vehicle that consumers will be able to order soon.

Filled with more hyperbole and superlatives than a car show and tech conference combined, Faraday Future promises the fastest acceleration for a production automobile at 0-60mph in 2.39s with a whopping 1050hp. They also laid claim to the most advanced battery technology in the industry, and boldly claimed they would disrupt all aspects of the car industry.

Faraday Future even dared to put themselves on a roadmap of “historical steps in technology,” equating their electric vehicle to the creation of the electric motor by Michael Faraday, alternating current by Nikola Tesla and even the internet by Tim Berners-Lee.  Digital pictures that follow will indicate the overall design of the vehicle. The first JPEG shows the initial rollout and introduction at the CES 2017 this week.

unveiling-and-media-announcement

faraday-concept

faraday-2

faraday-1

DESCRIPTION:

First off, although it’s a concept high-performance one-seater, it rides on FF’s new Variable Platform Architecture (VPA) on which it will base all its future cars. Essentially, it’s a skateboard-style chassis with that allows FF to easily scale up or down the platform for different vehicle types.  Moreover, with this layout, FF can have one, two or three motor setups, making for front-, rear- or all-wheel drive. And, from a safety standpoint, the structure also makes for larger crumple zones. While the variable chassis is all well and good, you won’t spend any time interacting with it, really. You will, however, spend lots of time in the FF cabin. Thankfully, that’s been as well thought out as the platform.

Inside the FFZERO1, just like future FF production cars, the steering column has been fitted with a smartphone. This allows it to become the focal point for the interface between the driver and the car — from sitting behind the wheel or from inside the owner’s home. When commanded by that smartphone, the autonomous FFZERO1 (oh, yeah, it can drive itself, too) can come retrieve the driver.     More of that as we move along.

The driver sits at a perfect 45-degree angle that is most beneficial to circulation in a seat derived from NASA designs. There, the driver can easily view the propeller-shaped, asymmetric instrument panel. Moreover, in this electric race car, the driver wears an unique Halo Safety System with integrated head and neck support, oxygen and water supply — combined into a prototype helmet.

Rethinking where passengers are placed in a vehicle, since all the power components are beneath the driver rather than in front, Faraday Future designers pushed the driver near the front and shaped around the single seat a “perfectly aerodynamic teardrop profile.” This is accented by FF’s soon-to-be signature ‘UFO line’ that runs around the center of the vehicle. This mystical line and is, as FF put it, “intended to give the sense that this vehicle is not completely of this world.”

Combining form and function, FF has created aero tunnels that run through the interior length of the vehicle. These allow air to flow through the car rather than around it. More than accentuating the alien look of the thing, the tunnels also dramatically reduce drag and improve battery cooling. This does away for any need of bulky, space-stealing radiator.  This is truly an innovative design and one that surely will be copied by other manufactures.

Amazingly, all of this was pulled together in just 18 months when the team of multidisciplinary experts from the technology, automotive, aerospace and digital content came together to create a new line of electric cars. Apparently working nights and weekends, FF was able to take the all-digital FFZERO1 and turn it into the concept model you see today.

The FFZERO1 unveiling comes after news of FF’s plans to invest $1 billion, reportedly backed by the Chinese, in the creation of a 3 million-square-foot manufacturing facility in North Las Vegas. FF plans to break ground on this phase one investment in the next few weeks, ultimately employing 4,500 people.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you’re already wondering how such a team and design happened to come together so quickly and create something that seems not only promising but also industry-changing. Is Faraday Future the cover for the long-rumored Apple Car set to debut in 2019? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

SELF-DRIVING:

A very impressive demonstration was the self-parking capability of the vehicle itself.

self-parking

The company demonstrated a self-parking capability in the lot outside, showing the car searching the aisles for an empty space and then backing in to it.

COSTS AND AVAILABILITY:

Faraday plans to release the FF91 in 2018. To pre-order, hopefuls will need to provide a refundable $5,000 (£4,080) deposit.  Prospective buyers were told they would be able to connect to the forthcoming car via a virtual “FFID” account.

“For the car to have a 130-kWh battery pack, it would be very heavy, and very expensive – extremely expensive to have a battery that size.”  On stage, Faraday executive Peter Savagian explained that the FF19 would be chargeable from various electrical standards. He added its range would extend to 482 miles (775km) when driven at 55mph. Many analysts expect interest in electric vehicles to continue to rise in coming years. “We estimate around one in 10 vehicles will be electric or hybrid by 2020, at around 8 million vehicles,” said Simon Bryant at analysts Futuresource.  I personally feel this is very optimistic but time will certainly tell.  I do not plan on owning a driverless vehicle in my lifetime but who knows.

As always, I welcome your comments.


I want us to consider a “what-if” scenario.  You are thirty-two years old, out of school, and have finally landed a job you really enjoy AND you are actually making money at that job. You have your expenses covered with “traveling money” left over for a little fun.  You recently discovered the possibility that Social Security (SS), when you are ready to retire, will be greatly reduced if not completely eliminated. You MUST start saving for retirement and consider SS to be the icing on the cake if available at all.  QUESTION: Where do you start?  As you investigate the stock markets you find stocks seem to be the best possibility for future income.  Stocks, bonds, “T” bills, etc. all are possibilities but stocks are at the top of the list.

People pay plenty of money for consulting giants to help them figure out which technology trends are fads and which will stick. You could go that route, or get the same thing from the McKinsey Global Institute’s in-house think-tank for the cost of a new book. No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends, was written by McKinsey directors Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Jonathan Woetzel, and offers insight into which developments will have the greatest impact on the business world in coming decades. If you chose stocks, you definitely want to look at technology sectors AND consider companies contributing products to those sectors.  The following list from that book may help.  Let’s take a look.

Below, we’re recapping their list of the “Disruptive Dozen”—the technologies the group believes have the greatest potential to remake today’s business landscape.

Batteries

energy-storage

The book’s authors predict that the price of lithium-ion battery packs could fall by a third in the next 10 years, which will have a big impact on not only electric cars, but renewable energy storage. There will be major repercussions for the transportation, power generation, and the oil and gas industries as batteries grow cheaper and more efficient.  Battery technology will remain with us and will contribute to ever-increasing product offerings as time goes by.  Companies supplying this market sector will only increase in importance.

Genomics

genomics

As super computers make the enormously complicated process of genetic analysis much simpler, the authors foresee a world in which “genomic-based diagnoses and treatments will extend patients’ lives by between six months and two years in 2025.” Sequencing systems could eventually become so commonplace that doctors will have them on their desktops.  This is a rapidly growing field and one that has and will save lives.

Material Science

advanced-materials

The ability to manipulate existing materials on a molecular level has already enabled advances in products like sunglasses, bike frames, and medical equipment. Scientists have greater control than ever over nanomaterials in a variety of substances, and their understanding is growing. Health concerns recently prompted Dunkin’ Donuts to remove nanomaterials from their food. But certain advanced nanomaterials show promise for improving health, and even treating cancer. Coming soon: materials that are self-healing, self-cleaning, and that remember their original shape even if they’re bent.

Self-Driving or Autonomous Automobiles

self-driving-vehicles

Autonomous cars are coming, and fast. By 2025, the “driverless revolution” could already be “well underway,” the authors write. All the more so if laws and regulations in the U.S. can adapt to keep up. Case in point: Some BMW cars already park themselves. You will not catch me in a self-driving automobile unless the FED and the auto maker can assure me they are safe.  Continuous effort is being expended to do just that.  These driverless automobiles are coming and we all may just as well get used to it.

Alternate Energy Solutions

reneuable-energy

Wind and solar have never really been competitive with fossil fuels, but McKinsey predicts that status quo will change thanks to technology that enables wider use and better energy storage. In the last decade, the cost of solar energy has already fallen by a factor of 10, and the International Energy Agency predicts that the sun could surpass fossil fuels to become the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050.  I might include with wind and solar, methane recovery from landfills, biodiesel, compressed natural gas, and other environmentally friendly alternatives.

Robotic Systems

advanced-robotics

The robots are coming! “Sales of industrial robots grew by 170% in just two years between 2009 and 2011,” the authors write, adding that the industry’s annual revenues are expected to exceed $40 billion by 2020. As robots get cheaper, more dexterous, and safer to use, they’ll continue to grow as an appealing substitute for human labor in fields like manufacturing, maintenance, cleaning, and surgery.

3-D Printing

3-d-printing

Much-hyped additive manufacturing has yet to replace traditional manufacturing technologies, but that could change as systems get cheaper and smarter. “In the future, 3D printing could redefine the sale and distribution of physical goods,” the authors say. Think buying an electric blueprint of a shoe, then going home and printing it out. The book notes that “the manufacturing process will ‘democratize’ as consumers and entrepreneurs start to print their own products.”

Mobile Devices

mobile-internet

The explosion of mobile apps has dramatically changed our personal experiences (goodbye hookup bars, hello Tinder), as well as our professional lives. More than two thirds of people on earth have access to a mobile phone, and another two or three billion people are likely to gain access over the coming decade. The result: internet-related expenditures outpace even agriculture and energy, and will only continue to grow.

Artificial Intelligence

automation-of-knowledge

It’s not just manufacturing jobs that will be largely replaced by robots and 3D printers. Dobbs, Manyika, and Woetzel report that by 2025, computers could do the work of 140 million knowledge workers. If Watson can win at “Jeopardy!” there’s nothing stopping computers from excelling at other knowledge work, ranging from legal discovery to sports coverage.

 

The Internet of Things (IoT)

iot

Right now, 99% of physical objects are unconnected to the “internet of things.” It won’t last. Going forward, more products and tools will be controlled via the internet, the McKinsey directors say, and all kinds of data will be generated as a result. Expect sensors to collect information on the health of machinery, the structural integrity of bridges, and even the temperatures in ovens.

Cloud Technology

cloud-technology

The growth of cloud technology will change just how much small businesses and startups can accomplish. Small companies will get “IT capabilities and back-office services that were previously available only to larger firms—and cheaply, too,” the authors write. “Indeed, large companies in almost every field are vulnerable, as start-ups become better equipped, more competitive, and able to reach customers and users everywhere.”

Oil Production

advanced-oil-technology

The International Energy Agency predicts the U.S. will be the world’s largest producer of oil by 2020, thanks to advances in fracking and other technologies, which improved to the point where removing oil from hard-to-reach spots finally made economic sense. McKinsey directors expect increasing ease of fuel extraction to further shift global markets.  This was a real surprise to me but our country has abundant oil supplies and we are already fairly self-sufficient.

Big Data

big-data

There is an ever-increasing accumulation of data from all sources.  At no time in our global history has there been a greater thirst for information.  We count and measure everything now days with the recent election being one example of that very fact.  Those who can control and manage big data are definitely ahead of the game.

CONCLUSION:  It’s a brave new world and a world that accommodates educated individuals.  STAY IN SCHOOL.  Get ready for what’s coming.  The world as we know it will continue to change with greater opportunities as time advances.  Be there.  Also, I would recommend investing in those technology sectors that feed the changes.  I personally don’t think a young investor will go wrong.

BMW I NEXT

November 3, 2016


I think we are all aware that automotive trends point towards autonomous vehicles; i.e. “self-driving” cars.  Personally, I’m not too thrilled about the prospects and feel the reality of one in my driveway is down the road, if ever.   With that being the case, BMW, INTEL, and Mobileye have teamed up to bring autonomous vehicles to the BMW product line.  I must admit, this appears to be one “mean ride”.  Let’s take a very quick at the styling to date.

i-next

i-next2

As you can see, the styling is truly beautiful. Each company represents leadership in automotive technology, computer vision, and machine learning and share the opinion that automated driving technologies will make travel safer and easier.  No doubt, easier is a given but I have yet to be convinced safer is right around the corner.  There are significant challenges to overcome before road-worthy vehicles such as the i NEXT receives certification and goes into production for the buying public.

The goal of collaborative effort is to develop future-proofed solutions that will enable drivers to reach the so called “eyes-off”, or level 3, and ultimately the “mind-off” or level 4 by 2021. This would transform “getting there” to leisure and/or work time. BMW said the new i NEXT model will be the basis for future fleets of fully autonomous vehicles that will drive on both highways and in urban environments, which are far more challenging. A BMW spokesman said it expects a steering wheel and pedals to remain in the fully self-driving vehicle, in case the driver wants to be in control. I personally feel even these will be removed if the concept proves itself with greatly improved safety. By doing so, cost savings may be accomplished and reduction in system complexity.

While BMW lends its automotive expertise to the collaboration, INTEL is providing computing power ranging from its INTEL Atom to INTEL Xenon processors, which deliver up to one hundred (100) teraflops of power-efficient performance without having to rewrite code. Mobileye is developing software algorithms, system-on-chips, and customer applications based upon processing visual information for driver assistance systems.

BMW is actively revamping company concepts to assure direct competition with the likes of new OEM Tesla, along with the usual suspects, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. In March, the company showed its future ideas regarding vehicle autonomy via its Vision Next 100 concept cars. This was likely an overly obvious foreshadowing of the iNext platform.

Harald Krueger, BMW CEO told annual shareholders in Munich that the upcoming vehicle with “cutting-edge” electric drive-train and all new interior will be able to drive itself. The new release, along with BMW’s current “i” line are all efforts to compete in the luxury car electric vehicle market. This will be an addition to the line which already includes the i8 PHEV and the i3 BEV/REx. Krueger said:

i Next is set to be “our new innovation driver, with autonomous driving, digital connectivity, intelligent lightweight design, a totally new interior and ultimately bringing the next generation of electro-mobility to the road.”

In addition to this, as companies are realizing that car ownership is continually diminishing in “big city” environments, BMW has announced its jump onto the bandwagon of car-sharing and ride-sharing ventures. Its first delve into the scene is a car-sharing situation in Seattle, with the possibility of more such services to come.

The numbers are showing that Tesla is dominating the European market and lighting a fire under established automakers. Mercedes has been luckier than BMW with being ahead of the game, launching new product lineups and a multiplex of new models. BMW’s sales in the first quarter of 2016 only gained marginal success compared to that of Mercedes.

In an attempt to try to regain momentum and push ahead, BMW has cut prices by approximately six percent (5.9%) across the board. This is partly since the company’s available models are all “older” models, in direct comparison to the competitors. Nevertheless, BMW is reportedly still on par with 2016 projections.

Krueger, in his stockholder’s address, assured that for the seventh consecutive year, his company is on target. While, unfortunately, above target needs to be the goal when factoring in the accelerated growth of the dominant competition.

Krueger concluded:

“After our first quarter, we are on track for the full year. We have always stressed that our centenary is a springboard to the future.”

CONCLUSION:   I marvel at the technology.  There is absolutely no way any company or companies could have developed a vehicle such as this as far back as five (5) years ago.  The technology was just not there.  Hopefully, BMW is successful, but as I mentioned earlier, there are tremendous hurdles and challenges before the rubber hits the road.  I certainly wish them success.

FARADAY FUTURES

February 12, 2016


Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, another all-electric automobile emerges from “drawing board” to concept car with hopes of becoming reality.  Faraday Future–which suggests you call it FF for short–says it will launch its battery-electric vehicle sometime during 2017, model FFZERO1. This is a very aggressive timetable and one which draws considerable skepticism from informed individuals in the automotive industry.

Future was established in 2014 and is currently based in Gardena, California. Since its inception in 2014, the company has grown to 750 employees globally.  Over the past eighteen (18) months California-based Faraday Future (FF)  has drawn an incredible hype with plans to “redefine the automotive experience by delivering seamlessly connected electric vehicles and future mobility solutions that will fit the needs of tomorrow’s population.”   Former automotive design-team leaders were recruited from BMW and Tesla Motors.   This Chinese-backed company has huge ambitions to change the future of the automotive industry and take on other electric rivals. Faraday says it is targeting the highest energy density and specific vehicle energy on the market with its battery pack. That would likely take the total energy capacity to over 100 kilowatt-hours, given Tesla’s recent announcement of a 90-kWh pack option for its Model S sedan.

FF plans to use a single pack design, smaller than current large packs to provide greater crumple zones, but will offer different pack capacities inside this single form factor. The batteries sit in horizontal rows, and the scalable factor of the platform comes from the ability to add or take away rows for different sized models. Nick Sampson, senior VP at FF and head of R&D said the batteries would operate like Christmas tree lights — if one pack goes out the “strand” keeps working. Other specifics–cells grouped into modules, replaceable cells or modules, safety measures to prevent any short in a faulty cell from propagating to adjacent cells–have been seen before in various other makers’ pack designs.

Are you ready for this one—“The 1,000-horsepower FFZero1 includes the ability to exceed 200mph (321 kph) and accelerate from zero to 60mph in less than three seconds. It also includes a helmet to provide oxygen and water to the driver.”  Other key features are as follows:

  • The adjustable chassis can accommodate strings of batteries that are more easily changed than single batteries. The number of batteries would depend on car size
  • A helmet to provide oxygen and water to the driver. (This really blows my mind.)
  • ‘Aero tunnels’ incorporated into the design to channel air through the vehicle for reducing drag and cooling the batteries.

Faraday made a deal with the State of Nevada for a billion dollar factory, securing over $330 million in tax incentives and eventually bringing 4,500 jobs to the state. FF revealed at CES (Consumer Electronic Show-2016)  plans to break ground on the new three million square-feet factory in just a few weeks, with the Mayor of North Las Vegas and Governor of Nevada present at the event.

Let’s take a look at the FFZERO1 displayed at the recent show.

FARADAY BODY STYLE

FARADAY BODY STYLE(2)

FARADAY BODY STYLE(3)

As you can see, this is truly a car of the future and apparently that future begins in 2017. Please keep in mind, if this vehicle is commercialized at all, there will have to be involvement with the DOT.  Approvals will have to be given.  Maintenance protocols will have to be developed. Spare parts will have to be designated.  In other words, there is a great deal of extremely important work needing to be accomplished prior to the first vehicle being sold.  I may have missed it but I saw no price mentioned in any of the press releases for the product.  I suppose if you have to ask you cannot afford one.  Time will tell.

SOLAR IMPULSE

July 18, 2015


Several photographs for this post originate from The Daily Mail.com.  This is a publication from the UK.

There are several stories each year that really excite our imagination. One is the Solar Impulse and the travels that craft has accomplished over the past few months.  Even though the news releases are recent, the actual engineering and fabrication took years to accomplish.

THE CRAFT:

SOLAR IMAGE

Someone once said, “If it looks like it will fly—it will fly”.  I’m not too sure that can be deduced from the configuration above.  The next digital will give you a much better picture as to the overall structure.

FLIGHT (2)

CONFIGURATION:

Solar Impulse 2 is powered by 17,000 solar cells and on-board rechargeable lithium batteries, allowing it to fly through the night. Its wingspan is longer than a jumbo jet but its light construction keeps its weight to about as much as a car.  The Solar Impulse 2 relies on getting enough solar power during the day to survive the night. It is also extremely light – about the weight of a car – and yet as wide as a passenger jet. Both of these combined facts make it extremely susceptible to the weather. In high winds or turbulent circumstances it can struggle to stay aloft at the altitudes necessary to gather sunlight.

Its maximum altitude is 27,900ft (8,500m), before dropping to 3,280ft (1,000m).  This allows the pilot is able to take short 20-minute catnaps. One huge issue with the aircraft is pilot fatigue.  Solar Impulse 2 and its pilots André Borschberg and Betrand Piccard set off from Abu Dhabi in March with the hope of returning within five or six months. It was forced to make an unscheduled stop in Nagoya in Japan after bad weather stopped it taking off on its Pacific leg, but it successfully touched down in Hawaii on 3 July after 118 hours.

Bertrand Piccard initiated the Solar Impulse project in November 2003 after undertaking a feasibility study in partnership with the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. By 2009, he had assembled a multi-disciplinary team of 50 engineers and technical specialists from six countries, assisted by about 100 outside advisers and 80 technological partners.  The project is financed by a number of private companies and individuals, as well as receiving around CHF 6 million (US$6.4 million) in funding from the Swiss government.

The first company to officially support the project was Semper Gestion, after its co-founder Eric Freymond was convinced of the future success of Piccard.  The project’s primary partners are Omega SASolvaySchindler and ABB.  Other partners and supporters of the project include Bayer MaterialScienceAltranSwisscomSwiss Re (Corporate Solutions),ClarinsToyotaBKW FMB Energie and Symphony Technology Group. The EPFL, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Dassault have provided additional technical expertise, while SunPower provided the aircraft’s photovoltaic cells. In October 2013, Solar Impulse announced that Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize Foundation, had become a supporter of the project after meeting with Solar Impulse officials during Google‘s 2013 Zeitgeist event.

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS:

  • Crew:1
  • Length:85 m (71.7 ft)
  • Wingspan:4 m (208 ft)
  • Height:40 m (21.0 ft)
  • Wing area:11,628 photovoltaic cells rated at 45 kW peak: 200 m2 (2,200 sq ft)
  • Aspect ratio:7
  • Loaded weight:1,600 kg (3,500 lb)
  • takeoff weight:2,000 kg (4,400 lb)
  • Powerplant:4 × electric motors, 4 x 21 kWh lithium-ion batteries (450 kg), providing 7.5 kW (10 HP) each
  • Propeller diameter:5 m at 200 to 400 rpm (11 ft)
  • Take-off speed:35 kilometers per hour (22 mph)

Performance

 

TIMELINE FOR SUCCESS:

If we look at the timeline, we see the following:

  • 2003: Feasibility study at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
  • 2004–2005: Development of the concept
  • 2006: Simulation of long-haul flights
  • 2006–09: Construction of first prototype (HB-SIA; Solar Impulse 1)
  • 2009: First flight of Solar Impulse 1
  • 2009–11: Manned test flights
  • 2011–12: Further test flights through Europe and North Africa
  • 2011–13: Construction of second prototype (HB-SIB; Solar Impulse 2)
  • 2013: Continental flight across the US by Solar Impulse 1 (Mission Across America)
  • 2014: First flight of Solar Impulse 2
  • 2015: Circumnavigation by Solar Impulse 2, conducted in twelve stages over five months

ROUTE:

I think the route is extremely difficult.  Only the very best calculations minimizing the risks involved would allow for such an adventure.  Please keep in mind, this legs were all accomplished on solar energy—solar energy alone.

ROUTE

COMMENTS:

I think this is an amazing engineering feat—absolutely amazing. I’m not sure at all if it proves solar energy is a viable alternative for air travel, especially when you consider modern-day air travel.  Think of all the critical systems on a modern airliner.  Many of those systems have redundentcy that allows for failure with almost instantaneous backup to eliminate cessation of operation.  I can’t imagine this level of development if we are considering solar power for commercial air travel.  I think this is a very bold engineering attempt and one that will probably, in the long run, provide other uses for solar energy.

RoHS

June 18, 2014


Several days ago I published a blog concerning “Conflict Minerals”.  This is a very real attempt issued by legislatures to lessen or eliminate minerals and substances mined to support destructive political actions taken to subjugate populations.  Necessary actions must be taken by engineers and management to evaluate products received insuring none contain conflict minerals.  Companion legislation has been issues by the European Community (EU )to insure environmental issues are also addressed.  RoHS is the abbreviated name for this directive. Any company doing business in the European Community must adhere to RoHS requirements.  This is mandated policy affecting all manufacturers supplying domestic consumer products or commercial products.  The purpose of RoHS  is to require companies to quantify six (6) materials used in the manufacturer and assembly of products.  Let’s take a look. The European Union set forth RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) Directive to establish environmental guidelines and legislation to reduce the presence of six (6) materials deemed hazardous to the environment.  To comply, products entering the EU must not have a homogeneous presence of these materials above the following levels by weight percentage:

  • Lead (Pb) < 0.1%
  • Mercury (Hg) < 0.1%
  • Cadmium (Cd) < 0.01%
  • Hexavalent Chromium (CrVI) < 0.1%
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBB) < 0.1%
  • Polybrominated Diphenyl Esters (PBDE) < 0.1%

RoHS Compliance is determined by a combination of supplier certification and engineering design verification.    The directive applies to equipment as defined by a section of the WEEE directive.  The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive) is the European Community directive 2002/96/EC on waste electrical and electronic equipment(WEEE) which, together with the RoHS Directive 2002/95/EC, became European Law in February 2003. The WEEE Directive set collection, recycling and recovery targets for all types of electrical goods, with a minimum rate of 4 kilograms per head of population per annum recovered for recycling by 2009. The RoHS Directive set restrictions upon European manufacturers as to the material content of new electronic equipment placed on the market. The symbol adopted by the European Council to represent waste electrical and electronic equipment comprised a crossed out wheelie bin with or without a single black line underneath the symbol. The black line indicates that goods have been placed on the market after 2005, when the Directive came into force. Goods without the black line were manufactured between 2002 and 2005. In such instances, these are treated as “historic weee” and falls outside re-imbursement via producer compliance schemes. The following numeric categories apply:

  1. Large household appliances.
  2. Small household appliances.
  3. IT & Telecommunications equipment (although infrastructure equipment is exempt in some countries)
  4. Consumer equipment.
  5. Lighting equipment—including light bulbs.
  6. Electronic and electrical tools.
  7. Toys, leisure, and sports equipment.
  8. Medical devices (exemption removed in July 2011)
  9. Monitoring and control instruments (exemption removed in July 2011)
  10. Automatic dispensers.
  11. Semiconductor device

Batteries are not included within the scope of RoHS. However, in Europe, batteries are under the European Commission’s 1991 Battery Directive (91/157/EEC), which was recently increased in scope and approved in the form of the new battery directive, version 2003/0282 COD, which will be official when submitted to and published in the EU’s Official Journal. While the first Battery Directive addressed possible trade barrier issues brought about by disparate European member states’ implementation, the new directive more explicitly highlights improving and protecting the environment from the negative effects of the waste contained in batteries. It also contains a program for more ambitious recycling of industrial, automotive, and consumer batteries, gradually increasing the rate of manufacturer-provided collection sites to 45% by 2016. It also sets limits of 5 ppm mercury and 20 ppm cadmium to batteries except those used in medical, emergency, or portable power-tool devices. Though not setting quantitative limits on quantities of lead, lead-acid, nickel, and nickel-cadmium in batteries, it cites a need to restrict these substances and provide for recycling up to 75% of batteries with these substances. There are also provisions for marking the batteries with symbols in regard to metal content and recycling collection information. It also does not apply to fixed industrial plant and tools.  Compliance is the responsibility of the company that puts the product on the market, as defined in the Directive; components and sub-assemblies are not responsible for product compliance. Of course, given the fact that the regulation is applied at the homogeneous material level, data on substance concentrations needs to be transferred through the supply chain to the final producer.  An IPC standard has recently been developed and published to facilitate this data exchange, IPC-1752.It is enabled through two PDF forms that are free to use. RoHS applies to these products in the EU whether made within the EU or imported. Certain exemptions apply, and these are updated on occasion by the EU. The RoHS 2 directive (2011/65/EU) is an evolution of the original directive and became law on 21 July 2011 and took effect 2 January 2013. It addresses the same substances as the original directive while improving regulatory conditions and legal clarity. It requires periodic reevaluations that facilitate gradual broadening of its requirements to cover additional electronic and electrical equipment, cables and spare parts. The CE logo now indicates compliance and RoHS 2 declaration of conformity is now detailed (see below). In 2012, a final report from the European Commission revealed that some EU Member States considered all toys under the scope of the primary RoHS Directive 2002/95/EC, irrespective of whether their primary or secondary functions were using electric currents or electromagnetic fields. From the implementation of RoHS 2 or RoHS Recast Directive 2011/65/EU on, all the concerned Member States will have to comply with the new regulation. The bottom line—it remains a complex world and global issues abound.  These issues affect companies trying to market and sell their products to countries far and wide.  We will not be successful unless we “play their game”.  Maybe that’s as it should be.  I welcome your comments.

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