Tech Universe: Wednesday 24 July

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

THIS LUNCH LOOKS OFF: Apparently to a shark a human being in a traditional black wetsuit can look just like lunch. Research shows though that sharks have several weaknesses in their visual system, such as that they see in black and white. That's why Shark Attack Mitigation Systems now have wetsuit and other designs that make the wearers look dangerous or camouflage them against the background. One style is effectively black and white stripes that make the wearer look like something sharks would rather avoid. The other is a blue and white disrupted pattern that make the wearer difficult for sharks to see in the water. If it's just a matter of colours and patterns that could make a difference it sounds like your next wetsuit should use this.

YOUR SHIRT IS CALLING: OMsignal shirts include a 3-axis accelerometer, an EKG and a breathing sensor that measures ribcage extension and contraction.

The sensors continuously monitor heart rate, breathing, calories burned and daily steps, along with Heart Rate Variability and stores the information on a memory card. A Bluetooth connection sends the information to a smartphone app. The smartphone in turn displays graphical interpretations and alerts users if a sharp increase in bio signals is detected, such as an abnormal heart rate or unusual breathing pattern. Data is retained on the memory card for 7 days, while the battery lasts 16 hours, and can be recharged via USB. Clothing is just getting smarter all round.

HOT AND COLD: Many industrial processes create heat that's just wasted. One example is power stations, though car exhausts are a more everyday example. Thermocells harness that difference in temperature between two surfaces and convert it into electricity. A small team of researchers at Monash University has developed an ionic liquid-based thermocell that has high power outputs but doesn't create CO2. The device is cheap and flexible, and works at temperatures of around 100 to 200 C. WHy waste heat when you can exploit it?

CHEAP CHEEPS: Scientists from the University of Puerto Rico have put iPods to good use: wrapped up in a waterproof case, with a cheap microphone and an antenna that can transmit data to a base station up to 40 Km away, along with a solar panel and a car battery for power, the units are part of a project to study biodiversity. The sounds they record are analysed by machine-learning algorithms that scan the frequencies for patterns that indicate a specific species. This automated remote biodiversity monitoring network aims to get around the problem of researchers not having enough time to make best use of the extensive recordings they have. The team who created the system say the devices are like biodiversity weather stations that have already accumulated important data about a local endangered frog. Let's just monitor all the things.

LIKE LASERS FOR INTERNET: I think we'd all be happy to get our Internet at 31 terabits per second — until the bill comes in, of course. Researchers from Bell Labs successfully sent data at speeds of 31 Terabits per second over 7200 Km, the highest ever capacity for undersea data transmission on a single fibre. The experiment used 155 lasers, each operating at a different frequency and carrying 200 Gbit/s over a 50 GHz frequency grid. Now, of course, they have to shift from doing that once in an experiment to making it routine in the real world, but it's nice to dream.

Miraz Jordan,

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