Tech Universe: Wednesday 24 October

By Miraz Jordan

Nissan Motors have developed a new system of radar and laser scanners, in conjunction with a front-mounted camera to help drivers avoid collisions. Photo / Thinkstock
Nissan Motors have developed a new system of radar and laser scanners, in conjunction with a front-mounted camera to help drivers avoid collisions. Photo / Thinkstock

STEER RIGHT: Nissan Motors have developed a system of radar and laser scanners, in conjunction with a front-mounted camera to help drivers avoid collisions. The system first alerts the driver to turn in a certain direction. If the driver doesn't respond quickly enough the system then automatically steers the car. Nissan hope to release the system in around 5 years. Though hitting an object on the road may be the lesser of two evils — something only a human could judge.

DIESEL FOR TREES: 20% of people, especially those living in the countryside in Africa and Southern Asia, don't have access to electricity. They often cut down trees to burn for cooking, which is harmful to both land and health. Students at ETH Zurich and the University of St. Gallen created a generator for low-cost production in large quantities. Their Smart Micro Grid System fits on a trailer and includes both solar cells and diesel.

It can supply enough power for 100 people in 20 households, and it uses waste heat to purify 1,000 litres of water per day. A computer controls the electricity loads and would allow users to redeem credits they've bought at a local kiosk. So now the village just needs a kiosk, a water supply and diesel.

BABY STEPS: In Kenya there's only one doctor for every 10,000 people.
On the other hand, nearly 75% of people there own a mobile phone, and many use it for going online. With limited access to medical services, many women die because of complications in pregnancy. The Baby Monitor trial project is assessing whether automated phone calls can help with this problem. Women receive a long phonecall at regular intervals and provide answers to questions about the progress of their pregnancy.
Women trialling the system currently visit health workers who ask the same questions to see if the automated system is getting it right. If it works correctly, the system should advise whether progress is normal or the woman should visit a health clinic. Lifesaving cellphones.

MOUTH AID: Sometimes you regret that sip of coffee if it burns your mouth. Still, you just have to tough it out and wait until the pain eases. Now a team from the University of Texas have developed a dissolvable oral strip that could help. The strip contains a local topical anesthetic, benzocaine, and a therapeutic polymer. Stick the strip to the roof of your mouth. It slowly dissolves while releasing the painkiller and promotes healing. Who's going to be the first to see if it numbs toothache too?

OPERATING SYSTEM UPDATES: You'd think that while you're a patient in hospital the only viruses you'd have to worry about would be the kind that infect humans. Unfortunately, viruses are also a problem with medical equipment, much of which runs on Windows. Equipment manufacturers often refuse to allow OS updates or security patches because of concerns that the equipment may then no longer meet required standards for approval. Malware can cause slowdowns and delays in the use of essential equipment. Medical equipment is usually connected to an internal network that is itself connected to the Internet, making devices vulnerable to malware. What's the equivalent of an autoclave for electronic devices?

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