Archive for July, 2008

RFID to test Indian driving skills

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

The Regional Transport Authority of Hyderabad, India, has announced plans to monitor its driving test tracks with an RFID-enabled system designed to automate testing for driver licenses.

The new system will be tested in a pilot program at one of the RTA’s three test tracks. The Nagole track will be equipped with a set of RFID readers buried 15 inches beneath the road surface. Applicants for licenses will drive vehicles outfitted with antennas, and the system will track variations in movement, speed limit and wrong turns within parameters preset by the RTA. Test scores, and the prospective driver’s ability, will be judged in a graph format.

The system takes human judgment out of the test administering, after accusations had been made that driving school agents and motor vehicle inspectors were manipulating test results. As additional insurance, thumb impressions would be recorded on the driving license to avoid manipulations

“No discretion is given to a motor vehicle inspector or others,” transport commissioner Raymond Peter said. “Once we see how it works, we will computerize the rest of the tracks. The system will be in place after the monsoon.”

Source: RFID News

Find a Parking Space Online: Street-embedded sensors monitor parking availability

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Carspotting: Part of a mesh network, this sensor node embedded in a San Francisco street can detect when a car parks in the spot beside it. It also monitors passing traffic. See following image credit to Streetline.

This fall, San Francisco will implement the largest mesh network for monitoring parking to date. Around 6,000 wireless sensors from the San Francisco company Streetline will be fixed alongside as many parking spots, monitoring both parking availability and the volume and speed of passing traffic. The city hopes that displaying information from the sensors on Web maps, smart phones, and signs on the street will reduce the traffic and pollution caused by circling cars.

A mesh network differs from a typical wireless network in that there’s no central transmitter: every node can transmit to every other node. Mesh networks have generally been used for environmental monitoring, or to grant wireless devices Internet access.

When sensor networks have been deployed roadside, it’s usually been to monitor traffic, not parking. In urban areas, traffic-monitoring systems have been used for congestion pricing: during business hours in downtown London, for instance, the license plates of cars are photographed, and the drivers are sent a bill. Some parking garages also have signs that tell drivers where the available spaces are, but such systems generally rely on manual car counting, not sensors.

In San Francisco, however, clusters of plastic-encased, networked sensors are embedded in the surface of the street. The main sensor in the cluster, which is commonly used to detect cars, is a magnetic one, says Jim Reich, the vice president of engineering at Streetline. Magnetic sensors detect when a large metal object locally disrupts Earth’s magnetic field. One challenge with magnetic sensors is avoiding false positives. “We rely on the magnetometer the most, but in order to fix errors, we use other types of sensors [that] give you much higher reliability,” says Reich. He won’t elaborate on the supporting sensors, but he says that the Streetline system has a high ninety percent accuracy in recognizing parked cars. (more…)

Scientists turn car exhaust into electricity, twice as efficiently

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Scientists from Ohio State University have created a new material called thallium-doped lead telluride, which has been designed to convert car engine exhaust heat into electricity.

exaust.jpgThe research team led by Joseph Heremans said the material could also be used to help power generators and heat pumps. The new material is reportedly able to convert the wasted heat into energy without causing pollution, and do so more efficiently than was previously possible.

“The material does all the work. It produces electrical power just like conventional heat engines — steam engines, gas or diesel engines — that are coupled to electrical generators, but it uses electrons as the working fluids instead of water or gases, and makes electricity directly,” Heremans said in a statement on the OSU web site.

Its expected operating environment, between 450° and 950° Fahrenheit, is the normal range of car engines. Just 25 percent of the energy from a gasoline car engine is used to actually move the car, so the discrepancy between necessary energy and wasted energy is substantial.

Published studies previously indicated as much as 60 percent of energy loss in a gasoline engine is because of waste heat that is not disposed of properly.

Although thermoelectric materials used to generate power aren’t revolutionary, the OSU research team has made several small adjustments to make its material more efficient. They were able to double the efficiency rating from 0.71 up to 1.5.

An alloy called sodium-doped lead telluride previously was the most efficient material, which had the 0.71 rating.

The discovery by Heremans at OSU is the latest in a string of events that started after years of research by other universities. Michigan State University researchers who published a quantum mechanics report on thallium and tellurium in 2006 helped OSU better understand what they were dealing with beforehand.

Furthermore, OSU was helped in testing the material from Osaka University and the California Institute of Technology.

Moving forward with their research, Heremans and his team hope to further increase the efficiency rating of the new material.

Source: Beta News

Home networking with Zigbee

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

For the last few years, we’ve witnessed a great expansion of remote control devices in our day-to-day life. Five years ago, infrared (IR) remotes for the television were the only such devices in our homes. Now I quickly run out of fingers as I count the devices and appliances I can control remotely in my house. This number will only increase as more devices are controlled or monitored from a distance.

To interact with all these remotely controlled devices, we’ll need to put them under a single standardized control interface that can interconnect into a network, specifically a HAN or home-area network. One of the most promising HAN protocols is ZigBee, a software layer based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard. This article will introduce you to ZigBee—how it works and how it may be more appropriate than simply accumulating more remotes.

Why so many remotes? Right now, the more remotely controlled devices we install in our homes, the more remotes we accumulate. Devices such as TVs, garage door openers, and light and fan controls predominantly support one-way, point-to-point control. They’re not interchangeable and they don’t support more than one device. Because most remotely controlled devices are proprietary and not standardized among manufacturers, even those remotes used for the same function (like turning on and off lights) are not interchangeable with similar remotes from different manufacturers. In other words, you’ll have as many separate remote control units as you have devices to control.

Some modern IR remotes enable you to control multiple devices by “learning” transmitting codes. But because the range for IR control is limited by line of sight, they’re used predominantly for home entertainment control.

A HAN can solve both problems because it doesn’t need line-of-sight communication and because a single remote (or other type of control unit) can command many devices.


New Meter Reader

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Nice to see that the utilities are starting to do an actual roll out of Zigbee based meters… what utility officials call “the first wave of deployment,” SDG&E began installing digital, wireless smart meters this week for about 3,500 customers in Tierrasanta. The new meters track each customer’s electricity and gas usage throughout the day, and automatically transmit data at regular intervals to a computerized information center at SDG&E.

The smart meters are expected to do far more than merely eliminate the need for meter readers. By most accounts, the technology represents the biggest advance in monitoring energy consumption since 1888, when the electromechanical meter was invented.


GPS-based road tax in the Netherlands in 2011

Thursday, July 24th, 2008


It’s easy to argue that road taxes are quite unfair because they’re flat: You pay fees to drive around; it doesn’t matter how much you actually use the car.

The Netherlands has decided to improve the country’s road tax by taxing according to the vehicle type, usage, hour and roads the vehicle is using. The system uses GPS, a car transmitter and a standard cell phone GSM network to send this information to a central computer that processes the information. Once these figures are calculated, the driver is charged. Congestion and the environment are both taken into consideration in the rate scheme. Using a highway that enters a city in peak hours while driving an SUV will be taxed more than driving a small car in a rural area where private vehicles are more of a necessity.

Dutch officials hope the system will reduce CO2 emissions and congestion, because the Dutch government claims that there is no more room to build more roads. Critics say this system is an attack on privacy: a computer will know where and when you’ve driven, although the company that implements the system guarantees that this information won’t be stored once translated into money. The system starts in 2011 for freight transport and will be expanded to include cars in 2012. Full deployment of the system is scheduled to be completed in 2016. A similar system has been under study in the UK.

Source: Qué!, Motor Authority

Automate Your Home

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

house_sky.jpgIt’s every nerd’s fantasy — a “smart house” that knows when you left the lights on and turns them off, adjusts the heat and A/C according to the outside temperature, closes the blinds in the afternoon sun and reminds you to get milk at the store.

It may sound like something out of a 1980s sci-fi movie, but it’s not as far-fetched as you think. In fact, home automation is a burgeoning market with all sorts of toys available.

For most part, it’s a playground limited to a few lucky dot-com millionaires. If you happen to have sold YouTube for a billion dollars, just find a contractor who specializes in this stuff and pretty soon an automated voice will announce when the milk is low.

Fortunately, the rest of us aren’t completely left out of the home automation fun. But this stuff gets pretty geeky pretty fast, and it definitely helps to have some background knowledge about electronics and networking before diving in.

Source: Bored IT

Florida toll system chooses eGo sticker

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

Illinois_toll.jpgFlorida’s Turnpike Enterprise (FTE), which manages the statewide SunPass system, has selected TransCore’s eGo Plus RFID sticker for use on the state’s 460 miles of toll road. The paper-thin, batteryless tags will be sold as the SunPass “Mini” and be available this summer.

The eGo Plus sticker tag is a 915 MHz programmable, beam-powered, windshield-mounted tag packaged as a flexible sticker. Each eGo Plus sticker tag comes equipped with a factory-programmed unique tag identification number to prevent the tag from being duplicated. The eGo Plus technology is also being used by Houston’s Harris County Toll Road Authority, the Texas Department of Transportation, and the Washington Department of Transportation.

The FTE’s initial order with TransCore is for 1.5 million of the tags, which will join the more than three million hardcase SunPass tags currently in use on the state’s roads.

Source: RFID News

Troll 9500 Water Quality Monitoring for Remote Locations using GSM/GPRS Telemetry

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

Troll-Link1-sm.jpgRS Hydro have recently won two seperate contracts to supply anWater Quality Sonde with Remote Monitoring Telemetry Troll Link Systemd install the Troll 9500 multiparameter water quality sonde in remote locations in Wales. Two further units are being supplied as stand-alone platforms.

The clients are using the Troll 9500 XP Professional platform along with the Troll Link solar powered telemetry system with plug and play sensors including turbidity, level, temperature, conductivity and pH/ORP. One of the clients is using the Troll 9500 to provide an early warning alarm to inform the client if any of their remedial works on a dam face are having an influence on the water quality of the compensation flow from the reservoir. The other client is using 4 units to measure water quality in a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) over a period of two years.

Both clients are using RS Hydro’s FlowView platform to provide all the data on a daily basis. Should any of the alarm thresholds be exceeded, text (SMS) messages will be sent direct to the client. It is possible to view a demo of the Troll 9500 on our local river. Before you think there are errors in the conductivity readings, they are correct! The Salwarpe RIver is partly fed by Droitiwch Spa’s naturally occuring brine baths, hence at low flows, conductivity rises dramatically.

Source: RS Hydro

Avago Technologies Adds Ambient Light Photo Sensor

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

Avago Technologies announced a new low cost miniature surface mount ambient light photo sensor for controlling display backlighting in a wide range of portable electronic applications. Avago’s APDS-9008, which is designed to approximate the spectral response curve of the human eye, helps to significantly reduce power consumption to extend battery life in mobile phones, PDAs, notebook computers, TVs, video and digital still cameras. Avago is a leading supplier of analog interface components for communications, industrial and consumer applications.

The APDS-9008 is an analog-output ambient light photo sensor that comes in a lead-free miniature chipLED surface mount package. This new sensor from Avago offers a wide voltage range from as low as 1.6 V up to a maximum of 5.5 V and incorporates a spectrally suited photo sensor, which provides excellent responsivity. It targets designers of applications that require the measurement of ambient light to control display backlighting power consumption. Moreover, applications such as mobile phones and PDAs that draw heavy current for backlit LCD displays will benefit from incorporating this surface mount ambient light sensor into their designs.

The APDS-9008 is a pin-to-pin compatible alternative to Avago’s APDS-9005 and provides designers with a miniature low-cost ambient light sensor that can work at a much lower Vcc of 1.6V. (more…)