Viewing entries tagged
technology

6 Innovations in Energy Technology

6 Innovations in Energy Technology

It was National Clean Air day on June 6th, so we pulled together the most inspiring and innovative products & design contributing to a healthier planet.

Energy Innovation

The Uk's first electric trunk plant, run by Charge Automotive is due to open in Oxfordshire

Charge Automative have designed a competitively priced electric truck ranging from two to 26 tonnes, which can be built by one person in just four hours. The trucks are software based, which means they are updated and improved wirelessly.

Climeworks air-capturing plant takes C02 from the atmosphere and feeds it to vegetables 

Our high levels of CO2 are contributing to global warming, so it's great to see that people are looking into ways to produce sustainable energy and reduce CO2. At the same time we are actually producing CO2 for farmers, chefs and scientists. Climeworks have designed an ingenious solution captures CO2 from the atmosphere and feed it to vegetables.

Gulf Power launches energy storage R&D project with Tesla powerpack

The McCrary Battery Energy Storage Demonstration, a 250-kilowatt/one-megawatt-hour Tesla Powerpack lithium-ion industrial energy storage system, is designed to help industrial and commercial customers store and use energy on demand while improving resiliency.

UK government has promised to double energy innovation investments to £400m per year by 2021 

"The UK Government is committed to leading the world in delivering clean energy technology and today's investment shows that we are prepared to support innovation in this critical area," said Claire Perry, minister of state for BEIS, speaking at a clean energy showcase event.

Fantastic news! UK renewable energy generates more electricity than gas & coal for first time! 

National Grid reported that, on Wednesday lunchtime (7 June), power from wind, solar, hydro and wood pellet burning supplied 50.7% of UK energy.

Are you currently looking into research and development in this field? We've worked with businesses across industries supporting them to bring their ideas to life and find them through our R&D tax relief service.

 

 

 

 

 

New technology releases 2016

New technology releases 2016

As we have crossed the half way line of the year (yes I know, where did the last 6 months go?) it’s time to look at what technology we’ve got to look forward to.

 

iPhone 7

It’s hard to know if what we’ve seen so far of the iPhone 7 is going to be a reality, because we never really know for certain until it is released. So far, we can speculate about what we are likely to expect from rumours and blurry images which have been leaked. So, what do we think we know so far? Well, the new iPhone is likely to be thinner, which would be achieved by ditching the headphone jack. It is likely that there will be a new colour option (which is highly speculated to be blue), a larger camera lens, a bigger minimum storage choice and it's possible that it will be waterproof too. The iPhone has some camera catching up to do when compared with other brands of a similar spec, yet the lens change isn’t likely to signify an increase in megapixels. With a release likely in September to coincide with iOS 10 and every other previous iPhone release, we won’t really know what expect for a couple more months, but let’s face it, no matter what it has, it’s likely to be a success.

 

Google Home

Google Home was announced in May at Google’s keynote event and didn’t have a specific date for release, yet rumours are that we will see it before the end of the year. Operated entirely by voice, Google Home will carry out services such as setting timers, alarms and sending messages. It will work in harmony with other Google services such as Google Play Music, Google Cast and Google Assistant. Google have worked hard to ensure that this voice assistant works in real life situations in the home, so that when there are other sounds, the far field voice recognition will still work effortlessly.

 

Nintendo NX

Before the years out, we can also expect details on the Nintendo NX. Though release isn’t due until March 2017, we do expect that the new Nintendo console will marry together the home and handheld markets. Some speculate that it will be a console for use at home, which will also allow you to take part of it away to continue your progress elsewhere. Likely to be as powerful as a PS4, it is set to be a major rival on the gaming market.

 

Pokémon Go

It's already been released, but with huge growth I think it would be naïve of me not to include the huge new Pokémon Go, because although this might not be technology like you’ve just read about above, it is a big part of popular digital culture at the moment and is changing the way people are interacting with their tech. 

For those of you who aren’t aware of this new/old craze sweeping the world, it is a free-to-play, GPS based, augmented reality version of Pokémon, which was once played with trading cards. Pokémon Go is worth talking about, because unlike other games, this game forces you to go to the outside world to play.

Pokémon Go had added $9 billion to Nintendo’s market value, taking it to a total of £22 billion...though this took a drastic plummet when it was revealed that Nintendo don't actually develop the game! 

 

So that's just a preview of what to expect for the coming months, check back after the iPhone 7 release where i'll be picking apart the new features. 

 

Written by 

Katherine Thomson 

10 Beautiful Designs - March

10 Beautiful Designs - March

HI! 🙌🏻

It's that time again, and hey, guess what, this might be the first one which (regrettably) doesn’t include something made of concrete, but there's so many other amazing materials out there… 

Pssssst, there's a whole concrete top 5 blog now! 🎉

1.  Cactus Tongue Bike Holders

The Cactus tongue aims to reinvent bike storage as we know it. Bikes are being recognised more and more as the beautiful machines that they are. This design only reiterates that bikes look lovely on display and are as of late, becoming as much as an ornament as they are a practical mode of transport. The Cactus tongue attaches to any wall with only two fixing screws which can support a weight of up to 20kg. 

2.  The Otaku Bathtub

Designed by Tal Engel, the Okatu bathtub is inspired by boats floating at sea. Inspired by Vietnamese weaving techniques expertly woven using light brown bamboo, the tub is then waterproofed with coconut oil and resin. The design combines traditional and modern manufacturing methods to create an elegant and surprisingly practical bathtub with natural beauty. 

3. OMA Imperia Horn Series

Drawing inspiration from the conical horns of gramophone players, the Imperia Horm Series designed by David D’imperil are both aesthetically pleasing and practical. The horns come in a beautiful array of wood options which are then finished with a hand rubbed oil to enhance the woods natural colours. The four-way horn system covers all sound bases, with the system covering an impressive 100 to 20kHz and the rear subwoofers handling 20-100kHz. 

4.  Michael Jantzen Folding Light

I absolutely LOVE this light, it’s such a clever design, and is so versatile, that it can change so fluidly. The cubed structure folds out in various shapes, revealing a single energy efficient bulb housed in a wooden light diffuser. Depending on how many sections you open up, and how you position the light, the glow interacts differently with it’s surroundings. Jantzen has created a really fun design which is intriguing and beautiful. 

5. Safe + Sound

This is a truly unique design! It’s so clever! 

Biking with your headphones in, is dangerous. Cyclists, rely heavily on their senses to navigate the roads and listen out for danger, and headphones compromise this ability. Gemma Roper, has come up with an innovative new solution. Instead of playing music through your ears, the Safe + Sound headphones use bone conduction to play the audio through your cheekbones! This is a versatile design as the modules can be attached to ear pads for a more conventional listening experience. This is a very clever design! 

6. The Landscape Series

The Landscape series is a lovely set of boxes, with an edge. The lids of these boxes are inspired by natural terrain, which have been viewed through a reductive lens, and simplified into geometric patterns. Five styles are available, including waterfall and volcano. The designs have multiple uses and have silver, grey, white and sand finishes. 

7. Tourer Backpack

Harvest Label have designed a backpack which is both minimalist and functional. Depending on how many belongings you want to fit can be transformed from a spacious rectangular shape, into a compact triangular form. This is such a practical item, and even includes a padded sleeve to protect tablets/laptops, and the Corder fabric keeps all of your belongings dry, even in heavy rain! Available in several colours! 

8. The Suspended Collection

This sleek collection by Moreno Ratti is more than just aesthetically pleasing. The pieces have been created with the production process in mind. The demand for Marble ultimately produces vast amounts of waste, and Ratti has put the spotlight on the modern manufacturing process in his work. Ratios pieces are created using discarded pieces of marble or are created without producing any waste. This work really highlights how which would typically be discarded as waste marble, can create elegant and beautiful designs.

9.  The Hole Chair

Aptly named, as the legs of the chair pierce through the upholstery. I really love this! This is a carefully thought-out design which draws you in to notice the quality of the craft. Upholstering around the holes left by the legs is no mean feat and is a sign of true dedication to good design. Built with strong European oak and upholstered with 100% Danish wool, this design is both aesthetically pleasing and comfortable for use. 

10. The Humphrey Chair

Another chair, I hear you cry! This one really is something to behold! Founder of the Texas Rover Company, John Humphreys aimed to create products which were inspired by the past, for the adventures of the future. Fascinated by the explorers who discovered new lands, the company designed the Humphrey chair with South African explorers in mind. The collapsable base is crafted from reclaimed native pecan wood which has been hand-sanded and hand-finished, and the seat is made from a full-grain oiled leather which is designed to withstand the elements whilst being comfortable and stylish. This chair fits effortlessly with so many different styles, making it a design which is both sleek, and rugged. 

Written by

Katherine Thomson

To read more top ten design blog entries, just click here.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

It’s 2016, the future is here.

It doesn’t feel like it though does it?  It’s just a regular day! It’s the first Monday back and the UK is back behind their desks, catching up on the Christmas emails and asking their co-workers how their break was.

One question, which crops up a lot, is ‘did you make a New Years resolution?’ and about 80% of the time, the answer is yes. The most startling realization is that only 8% of people actually achieve their resolution. The truth is, that 2016 is just a continuation of 2015, the days of the week continue the same, and the clock still ticks on and nothing has changed except the date, however it’s the feeling of a new year which promotes this feeling of a ‘new you’. The New Year feels like a catalyst for change, and although it’s just another day, it feels like the start of something.

How do we possibly join the elite 8%? These 8% of people are so motivated and so committed to their goals and I too want to be able to share in the sense of satisfaction and achievement that they feel at the end of a year!

The trick to sticking to these resolutions are apparently as follows –

1.    Define your goal

2.    Track your progress

3.    Be patience and persistent

4.    Tell people about them (to get support)

Whether you’re trying to lose weight, get in shape, further your career, quit smoking, drink less alcohol, eat healthier, travel more, save more money, be more organised, spend more time with family, learn a new language, take an evening class, get out of debt or spend some of your time volunteering, those four rules above can be applied to all!  

Technology can play a big role in helping us to stick to our goals as there are apps out there which can help us achieve the goals which we’ve set for ourselves. Here’s some examples for you which might help you become part of the 8%.

Want to lose weight? Why not track your calorie intake and exercise using ‘MyFitnessPal’. Want to drink less alcohol? Try the ‘Drinkaware’ app and calculate your units. Become more organised? Perhaps try ‘Timeful’.  Save more money -  ‘Spending Tracker’. The digital world is designed to aid us and enhance our lives and we should take full advantage.

We wish all of you a prosperous and happy 2016. 

 

Written by

Katherine Thomson

5 Christmas Gadget Gift Ideas

5 Christmas Gadget Gift Ideas

There’s nothing wrong with being prepared right? 🎄

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1.     Parrot Hydrofoil Drone

This is the ultimate big kids toy! A propeller driven unit sits on top of the body and travels at speeds up to 5.4 knots (6mph), lifting it clean out of the water by about 2 inches! Not only is it water based, the structures can be separated allowing the structure to fly through the air.

2.     Bowsers & Wilkins P5 Wireless Headphones

If this isn’t a good gift, then I don’t know what is, though on the pricier end of the Christmas gifts list scale, I’d save this item for someone you really want to buy for, and not a Secret Santa or something! With no wires, this set of Bluetooth headphones keeps the great sound quality that you’d expect but with the convenience of not getting tangled in cables. The headphones have a 17-hour battery life and are supplied with a USB cable so you can conveniently charge them through your laptop.

 

3.     Classic Blutune DAB /Bluetooth sound system

This gorgeous classic looking radio allows you to surf the airwaves as well as streaming from your own device using Bluetooth! Roberts Radio has a great selection of vintage looking DAB radios, which look effortlessly cool and are beautifully designed. This is the perfect gift for someone who wants a slice of the modern world but loves traditional looking items.

4.     Gameband

This is the ultimate gift for Minecraft players, enabling them all of their created worlds in one place, playable off Mac, Pc or other Linux-based computers. Wherever the wearer goes, they have all of their data with them, ready to play whenever they like. Not only is this a storage band, it also works as a watch and comes in several variations.

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5.     Happy Plugs Sound Piece

Swedish brand, Happy Plugs, have delivered a sleek looking speaker with changeable grills to suit your style and mood. This Bluetooth speaker has two 20W speakers as well as bass vents for when you really want to kick out some bass. This speaker looks absolutely amazing in so many different colours and patterns. I am pleasantly surprised by what a lovely shade the mint green grill is.

 

Written by 

Katherine Thomson

The world of Virtual Reality

The world of Virtual Reality

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Google gave a glimpse into virtual reality when they gave away ‘Cardboard’ at a conference in 2014. Stunned by the simplicity of the giveaway, people assumed it to be a joke. Were they mocking VR giant 'Oculus', or pulling a prank on attendees who were expecting something more along the lines of a free smartwatch? The reality was that Google had just equipped everyone in that room with a device, which would turn their smartphones into a DIY, low-cost virtual reality headset.

Virtual Reality is meant to be a big game changer, likely to have influence over film, gaming, travel, communication and education. VR technology feels very futuristic currently but the era has already begun developing and shows no sign of slowing down. People who try Google Cardboard are never disappointed, and even such a simplistic device, seems to prove to skeptics that Virtual Reality is on the way, and it really will be as good as it says it is going to be.

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Here in the G2 office, we have a couple of Google Cardboard headsets kicking about; the pretty basic app features are amusing enough when taking a virtual tour of museum artifacts or Google street view but are not overly impressive and the novelty soon wears off. That is, until now. If you were feeling underwhelmed by the Cardboard apps, then fear not, as things have started to get a lot more exciting indeed. 

In early November, Google announced that you won’t only be able to use your phone to view the specific VR content, but also YouTube content in new theatre mode. There are so many new free VR offerings out there, which make Google Cardboard much more exciting, it’s just a case of finding them. Available already, are a selection of apps designed to make you feel like you’re walking with dinosaurs, at a theme park, on a rollercoaster or travelling through space. My personal favorite is the Insidious VR app as it is almost like being in a game where you travel through different levels, however it can get pretty scary when you’re on your own with your headphones in.

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Content developers are taking this technology to new levels, allowing users to get up close and personal with Paul McCartney performing Live and Let die in full immersive 3D sound and a 360 degree camera rig or taking a glimpse into the world of watchable VR with developer VRSE who are offering a growing amount of content ranging from on set experiences to documentary material.

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With Oculus Rift expected to launch in 2016, we’ve had a glimpse into the world of Virtual Reality, and it’s likely to live up to expectations. Google Cardboard has allowed the world to see what can be possible with £10 and a smartphone, so imagine what is going to come next!

 

 

 

 

Written by

Katherine Thomson 

 

Tech for Cold Weather

Tech for Cold Weather

Dark, cosy nights, hot chunky soup, jumpers on while sitting in front of a roaring fire. Sounds pretty dreamy right?

What I’m neglecting to tell you, is that getting out of the hot shower in the morning is about to become a vicious test just to make sure you’re awake enough for the day, defrosting the car windscreen means you have to get up 15 minutes earlier than usual (later defrosting your fingers in front of the car heating system which only seems to get to an adequate temperature when it’s time to get out), commitment to after work plans dwindle as the call of the cosy slippers is too difficult to turn down and the transitional period from summer jacket to winter parka almost always means that on certain days, you’ll either be sweating or freezing as the weather decides if it’s getting cold or not yet.

But hey, don’t despair. I’ll admit, I love it, even with all of those negatives I listed above I still live for the colder weather! Though I do understand that some people actually just wait for these months to pass until Summer is back again and so I’m going to offer a helping hand (kinda), the helping hand comes in the form of five pieces of technology/design, which will make the cold life easier, I promise.

 

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1. Hot Rod Heated Travel Mug

Yeah, that’s right, a HEATED travel mug, running off the 12V power outlet in the car. What better way to get through those frosty mornings than to have a beverage which stays warm for the duration of your journey, well, unless you use public transport where this becomes irrelevant (sorry).

2. Nest Thermostat

This smart bit of tech, could save you from those reluctant cold shower departures and instead make getting out of the shower an easy, pain free experience. Nest learns your routine after only a week. If you like being cosy when your alarm goes off, but cooler while you’re sleeping, then Nest will learn. Being able to remotely control your central heating adds another layer of convenience and connectivity to modern day life, and is likely to even save you money.

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3. USB Toast Hand Warmers

If, like me, you always have cold hands, then this might just be the solution for you. Those times that even when the heating is on and the rest of you is toasty, you notice that you’re typing away and you’ve got ‘bath hands’ (the name I like to give to hands which are so cold that they’re wrinkling up like you’ve been in the bath for too long). Those times are the worst, but here is the solution. Voila.

4. Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2

This 14MP camera is perfect for getting those snaps on freezing cold winter days. A very durable little camera which is waterproof and freezeproof making it the perfect winter device. This versatile piece of kit may be more willing to brave the elements than you are, but incase you get brave, it’s right there with you.

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5. Cuisinart Soup Maker

Winter just screams soup, and soup is just waiting to comfort us on those days when it’s so cold that we’re frozen to the core. Imagine a world though, where soup making requires no waiting around for the veg to cook, no messy transfer from the pan to the blender and pretty much no effort… this is a world I want to live in. Perfect for smoothies, ice crushing and making chutneys too, this is one multi-purpose blender!

 

 

 

Written by

Katherine Thomson

Prediction VS Reality: Transport

Prediction VS Reality: Transport

Predictions made at the start of the new millennium were not so far off the reality of life today. But rewind that 50 years, and you’re faced with a completely different picture.

So what happened to the hover cars and hypersonic jets that were dreamt up?  

In the early 19th and 20th centuries technological developments were advancing so quickly that there seemed no limit to how fast or how far we could travel. Inventors imagined flying cars, rocket propelled bicycles and monorails running above houses. We were in a hurry to get places faster and to go further than we’d ever been. The reality is quite different but only in the form the travel takes. We’re still looking for ultra fast speed; we’re just looking elsewhere for it. The new supersonic airplane from Hypermach is due to be twice as fast as Concorde (which went out of use in 2003 due to the expense and high levels of pollution) and used as a business jet with a top speed flying at 2664 mph at a height of 62000 ft, to allow passengers to observe the curvature of the earth.

In the mid-20th century when the nuclear age dawned, there was a feeling of limitless power at humanities disposal and there were dreams of railways under the sea and travel from New York to Paris taking only 90 minutes. The reality is that these ideas didn’t happen, whether that was because they were over-hyped, under-funded or that they weren’t commercially viable.

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Some concepts did work as prototypes and an example of this is George Bennie’s Railplane. The Railplane was a suspended carriage with propellers. But due to lack of commercial backing, Bennie went bust in 1937.

Today, we may not have flying cars, but we are on the cusp of having fully autonomous vehicles. We might not have interplanetary travel, but as previously mentioned, we may be getting a supersonic passenger airplane in the next decade or so. So what, if we don't have hover cars, Lexus have announced their new development, the hoverboard and all I can say is...never say never.  

The transport dreams of the 50's we're a little ambitious and in some cases, completely impossible. Although we've not got the products that were predicted, we have advanced in other ways. In 50 years, we'll look back and compare to the predictions of today, chances are, we'll have been a bit wrong too. 


Written by

Katherine Thomson

R&D Tax Relief: Is R&D spending a victim of austerity?

R&D Tax Relief: Is R&D spending a victim of austerity?

Is R&D spending a victim of austerity?

The Office for National Statistics recently released some data about government spending on R&D (here) and we’ve been having a closer look at it. If you were to ask a UK manufacturer if it’s up or down you could expect a negative answer, as budgets are slashed further each year in this age of austerity. The reality is a bit more complicated. UK public spend on Science, Engineering and Technology in 2013 (the last year we have data for) was £10.9 billion, an increase of 9% versus 2012 and on the face of it good news. It also reverses the downward trend in R&D expenditure that’s been there since 2009, but it’s still far from the pre-recession peak. There are winners and losers within these figures though, so let’s take a quick look at them.

Research Councils stay steady over a longer period

The government funded Research Councils invest in research, covering academic disciplines from medical and biological sciences to astronomy, physics, chemistry and engineering, social sciences, economics, environmental sciences and the arts and humanities. Their budget was increased for 2013, but when you take into account inflation it’s in real terms stayed at it’s 2008 level, following an increase from £2.5 billion to £3.4 billion between 2002 and 2008.  

University R&D spending

A similar story can be seen with UK higher education spending, with a slight increase from £2.1 billion in 2002 to £2.4 billion in 2013, again affected by inflation. The grassroots pressure group Science Is Vital says that the apparent rise is further misleading though, as the total figure includes an increase in capital spending but also a drop in cash funding for science projects.

Who lost out in R&D taxpayer spending?

There have been specific increases in expenditure from 2002, but the overall budget has stayed quite steady, so who has suffered? R&D in defence, dropping £2.1 billion since 2002. It’s subjective and controversial as to how defence R&D should be regarded, but it’s clear this is where the savings have been made. 

Our R&D spending versus our neighbours and competitors

Back to the bigger picture; the overall R&D figures put us in the position of spending the lowest proportion of our GDP on R&D of all the G8 countries (see below), with 0.5% spent, compared to an average of 0.8%, and this doesn’t compare favourably with our European competitors like Germany (0.89%) and France (0.82%) or our cousins across the pond with their 0.86% spend on R&D. We believe research and development is vital to the UK’s future (it’s why we do what we do) and while it’s great to see R&D spending starting to increase again, more is needed to keep the UK competitive.

 

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1:  UK Government Expenditure on Science, Engineering and Technology, 2013

2:  The G8 is: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States

 

Keeping cool in Summer

Keeping cool in Summer

5 ways to keep cool through summer and the inevitable heatwaves

STAY INDOORS WITH A FAN BLARING COLD AIR INTO YOUR FACE WHILST SITTING IN AN ICE BATH!

Nah, just kidding.

I’m not going to lie to you; I dread the really hot weather, summer is like a heatpocolypse to me. Even British summer time gets pretty warm and a heat wave is usually inevitable. Now regardless of if you love it or hate it, you probably don’t want to get too hot and you want to keep your cool and look like the blaring sun and soaring temperatures don’t faze you. So I’m going to help you achieve that, (aren’t I nice) and recommend some of the best tech and gadgets designed to keep you cool!

1 – Dyson AM06

If you actually want some power from your fan then this is probably the fan for you. Some fans lack power but are quiet, others, are powerful but loud. This Dyson fan has triumphed in being both powerful and quiet. The new generation of Dyson designs have improved airflow, and reduced power consumption. The improved airflow paths reduce air turbulence, allowing air to pass through the machine with greater efficiency. Having trouble sleeping in this heat? Well the Dyson AM06 can be programmed to turn off after a range of pre-set intervals ranging from minutes to hours.

2 – UV Sun Sense Wristband

If you actually like being out in the sun (what a crazy notion, but I hear some people do) then you need to protect your skin! These colour-changing wristbands can help you do just that! When applying your sun cream, simply coat the wristband too. The band is sensitive to UVA and UVB rays and will turn brown when it’s time to reapply sun cream. When your skin has reached its MED (mean erythema dose) threshold, the band will turn peach, signifying that it’s time to seek out some shade before your skin burns.

3  - Corkickle

Refreshing drinks are a must for the hot weather! How better to keep your cool than by sipping on a cold beverage? The lovely people over at Corkickle have designed a range of products designed to keep your drinks cool for the duration of your drink. No longer must you worry about ice watering down your delicious concoction. The Corkickle range of products have got your back, they know how annoying it is to have melted ice in your drinks and have a design for pretty much every drink you can think of. The Chillsner looks to be my personal favorite! With its in-bottle design, the ice-cold wand fits into your bottle and allows you to drink through the chiller. See it to believe it friends.

4 – Chili Bed

This is a pretty fantastic way of controlling your temperature in bed. Water flows through soft coils in the mattress pad, actively adjusting the temperature of the surface of the bed and then depending on the direction of the electron flow, the water is either cooled or heated. So as you can see, this isn’t just a mattress for summer (because that would be a right pain having seasonal mattresses), this is a mattress to see you through all the seasons.  With the mattresses timer, you can go to sleep nice and cool and then retain room temperature in the middle of the night when the outdoor heat drops.

5 – Summer Blast Umbrella Fan

How about a fan for the garden parasol? That’s exactly what this is! Running off six D batteries, this fan attaches to your parasol and provides air circulation whilst you’re sitting in the shade! The shade is great, and a perfect retreat from the scorching rays, but without a gentle breeze, the shade can be just as hot and muggy as sitting in the sun.


I hope these gadgets have shed some light on how to keep cooler in the blaring sun.

Now go out and have fun! 


Written by

Katherine Thomson

The Future of Coding

The Future of Coding

In England, 2014, the new computing curriculum was introduced. Computer sciences have increased in presence on the curriculum in recent years, and the 2014 curriculum changes demonstrate the pressure on children to keep up with their peers in other countries. Universities want to reverse the decline in applicants for computer science courses, gaming companies want more programmers and the government wants more high-tech start ups, so the shift in the curriculum was probably inevitable. The demand for coding and computing skills has increased significantly and people of all ages are starting to go out of their way to learn.

Out of the curriculum, Code Clubs have made an appearance in and out of schools to engage young people in learning about how their technology works. Code Club is a nationwide network of volunteer-led after school coding clubs for children aged 9-11. There are 2498 code clubs in the UK run by volunteers who know how to code, teaching children in their local libraries and primary schools.

Raspberry Pi, the cheap, credit card sized computer is a perfect example of taught at home coding. Raspberry Pi plugs into a monitor or TV, which enables people of all ages to explore and learn about code and computing. The kit has been hugely successful and there were millions of orders before it’s release last year. More products geared towards computing and code are coming to the market. The Kano Kit is one of these products. This hugely fun kit built with Raspberry Pi, is a story, complete with books, which contain simple steps to build a computer, make things and explore the world of computers and code. Engaging and interesting, the Kano kit highlights the demand for children to learn about code. Minecraft have developed an add-on called LearnToMod, which aims to teach children coding skills whilst playing. The clever, highly engaging program costs £18 per year and unlocks badges as the player progresses and learns more. There are tons of tutorials on the online modding studio and a private server to test and share mods.

With the introduction of coding into schools, the curriculum has had to adapt to a new way of making computing appealing to children. Previously ICT was a subject focused on teaching kids how to use computers, but not how to understand how they are programmed and how they operate. Understanding how technologies work is very different to knowing how to use the technology.  Kano, LearnToMod and Raspberry Pi, demonstrate the growing demand for coding education both from home and in schools. There are numerous apps to help children learn about coding and programming, whilst making it fun to learn.

ScratchJr is aimed towards children between 5-7 years old, and enables them to create their own interactive stories and games. This app is a new type of literacy, similar to how writing helps to organise your thoughts and express ideas, the same is true for coding. Using this app, young children learn how to express themselves with the computer and not just to interact with it. Available on both iPad and Android tablets, this interface is designed to develop sequencing skills that are foundational for later academic success. Kandu, is an iPad app designed to enable kids to learn about the overall structure of coding through developing their own games and animated pictures. This app doesn’t actually use any code, well, not like you’d expect. Kandu uses toolbars on the left and right to allow kids complete control over characters, backgrounds and objects. Kandu’s main focus is ensuring seamless user experience that is easy for kids to interact with, meaning they can hop on the platform and get creating.

In conclusion, it is clear that software is the language of our modern world and is becoming critical in our lives. We are facing a future, which will possibly be as challenging to those who do not know the language of computers as today can be to those who are illiterate or innumerate. Coding provides a new way of looking at the world and understanding the software we use on a daily basis and is beneficial to understanding future technology too. It's time to future proof ourselves. 

Written by

Katherine Thomson

Earth Day

Earth Day

‘As Earth Day is about encouraging people to remember to care for the environment, the organisation behind it urges people to do anything they can to help - from volunteering and installing solar panels on your roof, to organising you own event or just changing a habit.’ Source; The Independent – Earth Day Quiz

In order to celebrate Earth Day in a slightly different way, I’m going to look at how technology plays a role in protecting the world. We have made and continue to make amazing advances in technology. Technology is not just for human benefit, lets see how these advancements are used to save and enhance lives, everyday in our World.

Let’s start with how technology is changing the world of our domesticated friends. Derby the dog is a heartwarming example showing that it’s not just humans reaping the benefits of 3D printing. Derby was born with two shorter, under-developed legs, which impacted his mobility. After being taken to the Peace and Paws Dog Rescue by his previous owners who could no longer care for him, Derby was fostered by Tara Anderson, director at 3D systems, a 3D printing company. After trialing a wheeled cart to aid his mobility, Anderson suspected her team of designers could do better. The designers at 3D systems began crafting a set of custom prosthetic legs that would help Derby to move more naturally and freely. After a few different trials, Derby was ready to try his finished set of prosthetics! Derby now runs freely using this technology and has newfound freedom of movement, the ability to run on concrete and the ability to play with other dogs too.

Our domesticated animals are not the only animals that need our technology. Prosthetics and Bionics are used worldwide. My example of this is ‘Beauty’ the bald eagle who was fitted with a life like prosthetic beak. After a bullet shattered in her beak, Beauty narrowly escaped a poacher. The prosthetic now allows her to grasp her own food, giving Beauty her independence back and a new lease of life.

As well as being able to change the lives of animals on our planet, we are able to reverse climate change and deforestation in a way we’ve never been able to do before thanks to technology.

Green energy includes the development of alternative fuels, new means of generating energy and energy efficiency. Solar Panels are a perfect example of how people can lessen their carbon footprint and generate electricity using the suns rays. Solar panels (PV cells) are made from layers of semi-conducting material, when light shines on the cell it creates an electric field across the layers, therefore producing electricity. A typical Solar panel system saves over a tonne of carbon dioxide every year.

Now, earlier on I mentioned how technology can help to tackle deforestation. There are two ways we currently plant trees, by hand and by delivering dry seeds by air. Hand planting is slow and expensive, and dry seeds result in low uptake rates. Ex-Nasa engineer, Lauren Fletcher is planning to plant one billion trees per year with a fleet of drones. Fletchers company, ‘BioCarbon Engineering’, based in the UK, are developing a system for planting trees with drones for just 15% of the cost and must faster than traditional reforestation methods. The seedpods are encapsulated in a nutrient-rich hydrogel, for high take up rates. After planting, the drones will also be used to audit and monitor the reforested sections to check the success of the area.

Now, this is a very broad and non-exhaustive topic, and cannot be covered in just one blog post, but I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about these technologies.

Happy Earth Day, not just today but every day!

http://www.earthday.org

http://biofriendly.com/blog/environment/50-ways-to-make-your-life-more-environmentally-friendly/

Written by

Katherine Thomson

Technology for Summer

Technology for Summer

Summer is on it’s way, and contrary to what ‘Game of Thrones’ keeps telling us, Winter is actually very much behind us now, so we better crack out the coolest cooler and get our shades on.

Coolest Cooler?’ I hear you ask. I’m going to explain that, and also open your mind to some of the best summer tech out there.

So the ‘Coolest Cooler’, really is very cool. It is basically summer in a stylish box. Don’t believe me? Let me explain. Not forgetting that the cooler is there to keep all your favorite beverages and snacks cool, it also has these super cool features to enhance your summer… 

1.     The Coolest Cooler has a 5-watt Bluetooth Outdoor Speaker with dual drivers and a resonator plate for excellent clarity base and volume. Bluetooth 4.0 allows you to stream music from up to 30 feet.  Let the party commence!

2.     Not only does this Cooler have an amazing speaker, but it also has an accessory desk which lets you store your personal accessories in a safely secured and hidden from view deck compartment.

3.     You know those beautiful sunny days when all you want is a refreshing drink filled with ice? Yet you’re out in the garden enjoying the weather, and the kitchen just seems so far away. Well, the Coolest Cooler has a built in 18-volt ice-crushing blender, enabling you 6 gallons worth of pure blended joy. Frozen ice tea, anyone? Most certainly!

4.     Did I mention that the Cooler has a 20-volt battery? Well, it does, and with the speaker and blender, you can get even more out of it. The USB charger is fully waterproof and allows you to recharge your gear wherever you are!

5.     The lid keeps the party going all night with built-in LED lights at the push of a button. By this point, you’re no longer dreaming of being at a summer party, you are the party and complete with the extra-wide, easy-rolling tires, the party goes wherever you go.

6.     I guess by this point you’re getting a bit peckish, it’s mid afternoon and you’re all partied out, time to recharge your own batteries with a snack from the cooler. If only you had a plate for your snacks, and a chopping board to whip up some cucumber batons to accompany your well-chosen dip selection…well, you guessed it, there is! While your drinks and snacks are busy chilling, the cool box divider doubles up as a chopping board, and the integrated storage contains four colour matched reusable plates and a sharp rust-proof knife.

Do you really need more points to be convinced?

No?

I didn’t think so.

Now lets look at what summer tech you can use if you don’t want to constantly party for the next 5 months.

If you’re more the outdoorsy type and nothing excites you more than a walk into the wilderness with nothing more than a flask and a childlike sense of adventure, then let me introduce you to Earl.

Earl is an android powered, solar-charged, two way radio enabled, waterproof tablet. Full solar powered charge lasts for 20+ hours so you’re never left in the dark about where you are or how to get in touch with the authorities if you’re in an emergency situation.

Earl’s GPS chipset gives you a precise reading of your location, direction and elevation. Combine Earl with ‘everytrail.com’ and instantly have access to over 300,000 trails so you can get the most from being outdoors. If you would like to keep track of your heart rate, pace and cadence then you can do this too, all you need to do is connect ANT+ or a Bluetooth 4.0 device.

Mother Nature will never catch you out because Earl’s internal weather sensors accurately forecast the weather even in the most remote location.

This is the ultimate outdoor tool for when you want an escape from everyday technology, but not from all communication. Earl’s built in waterproof radio lets you tune in to the world no matter where you are, and the built in walkie-talkie means you’re never far from being able to reach out too. Water/dust/shock and mud proof, this durable device works in temperatures between 0-50 degrees and altitudes up to 40,000 feet. The glove friendly touchscreen means this device will work in almost any condition.

Looking for something for your camping trip? It get’s pretty cold in the woods at night, and sometimes you just want some hot food and a cuppa to warm your bones. Alas, the woods don’t have streams of hot soup or waterfalls of tea, so you’re going to have to sort this one yourself.

This is where the ‘BioLite CampStove’ comes in. Burning only wood, the CampStove creates a smokeless campfire that can cook food and boil water.

Did I mention that this super efficient fire also produces electricity? BioLite’s core technology captures the waste heat from the fire and converts this heat into useable electricity. The USB attachment on the side, allows you to charge your phone, gadgets, torches and more.

This product folds into itself for ultimate space saving convenience so you don’t need to allocate tons of space in your rucksack to take this stove with you, and it weighs only 2.06ibs!

Like to Kayak to a beat or wish you could party in your canoe? No, probably not, but at least now you have the option. The ECOXBT waterproof Bluetooth speaker is the ultimate pool speaker. With a 12-hour battery life, you’ll not have to worry about your music stopping while you’re out.

Being fully waterproof, the ECOXBT also floats, so you can drop it in a pool, or whatever watery setting you’re in and not have to worry about it sinking or malfunctioning.

The British weather is so unreliable’, I hear you cry.

Don’t despair! Just download a good weather app. BBC Weather keeps you up to date on all the latest weather, breaking it down hour by hour so you know exactly when to plan your adventures, when to get your party going and when to pack your raincoat.

Well, there you go. You’re all set!

Written by

Katherine Thomson

International Astronomy Day

International Astronomy Day

Our amazing planet is hurtling around a Galaxy full of spectacular star formations, neighboring planets and meteors. Yet so few of us take the time to look up and appreciate what is above us, and unfortunately Light Pollution makes it even tougher to see the wonderful night skies.

Don’t despair though; I’m going to talk about some of the greatest places to enjoy the beautiful night sky, with and without a telescope.

Right, let’s kick off with Galloway Forest Park. The picturesque park is located in the west of Scotland and is one of the darkest places in the North of Britain making it a perfect place to enjoy the stars. Over 7000 stars and planets are visible from the park with just the naked eye.

The Forest Park has a Sky Quality Meter (SQM) scale reading of 21 to 23.6, which considering the scale only runs to 25 and a Photographers dark room measures at 24, it’s a desirable place for stargazing. 

Next up is Exmoor National Park in the South West of England, which has been designated the first International Dark Sky Reserve in Europe. As well as being able to see astronomical sights through the naked eye, even more spectacular sights can be seen though a telescope or binoculars. If you do not own either of those, telescopes can be hired from the park to help you explore the amazing skies.

Let’s see how technology plays a role in helping us explore the Universe in a way we can’t do with the naked eye or even with the average telescope. As part of Bristol’s new ‘Smart City’ revamp project, where they will bring technology and interactivity into the heart of their city. One feature launching on April 25th ’15, is the spectacularly designed Planetarium, which will allow people to journey through the stars and planets in an immersive planetarium featuring 360-degree digital 3D, incredible 7.1 surround sound and 4K ultra high definition.

Want to get up close and personal with our universe? The Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Observatory offers you just that. The observatory is open at various times through autumn and winter to allow the public to enjoy the night sky and is open in summer for the public to be able to view the Sun through filtered telescopes.

The North Yorkshire Moors offer breathtaking views of the night sky. Due to the low light pollution levels and the clear horizon, the moors offer one of the best stargazing views in Britain. Unlike the skewed view of the night sky in the cities, the moors offer views where it is possible to see 10 times more stars.

So let’s look at what equipment there is out there which could enhance your viewing experience of our wonderful solar system.

Starting at £39.99 the CELESTRON 76/700 Reflector Telescope is a great starting point for first time telescope buyers. The 35x magnification from the first eyepiece and the 175x from the second allows you to explore constellations, celestial bodies and events. The x Barlow lens triples the magnifying power of each eyepiece for superb viewing quality.

Looking for something with a bit more power? The Jessops 800-80 Astrononical telescope has a magnification range from 40x-399x, which is considerably more powerful than the Celestron. Views of the moon and Jupiter should be no issue for this Telescope.

However, if you would like to explore even more of the night sky and your Telescope budget includes the Sky-Watcher Skyhawk-1145P SynScan AZ GOTO telescope at £243, then you’ll be able to feast your eyes on a considerably clearer and more detailed view of the Solar System. With this telescope, there should be no issue seeing the craters on the moon, Jupiter’s stripes and moons.

The final Telescope on the list comes in at £1345. The Celestron CPC 800 GPS XLT Telescope is a superb example of a telescope, which can give you excellent views of the night sky. The built in GPS in this camera allows you to select which planet you wish to view. The built in technology then locates the planet and directs the telescope directly at it. It’s really rather wonderful and an excellent piece of kit if you are looking for a more advanced Telescope. With views further into our solar system.

There’s a telescope for all you budding astronomers out there.

Whether you want to view the night sky through technology or go and experience it with your own eyes, there’s so much to discover and so many places offering a complete dark sky experience. 

Written by

Katherine Thomson

The Online Election

The Online Election

Will this be the last paper election?

With the General Election just around the corner, we look at how technology is playing a role in the way we engage with campaigns, feel connected and learn party policies, the only way it isn’t playing a role, is in how we actually vote.

This is the first UK election campaign to run so heavily on social media in the hope of engaging a broader audience, especially younger voters. In 2010, only 44% of 18 to 25 year olds voted, compared to 75% of over 65’s.  A recent poll predicting how many young people definitely plan to vote in the next general election was found to be only 23%, with 60% saying that they wanted to be able to vote online.

So what has changed about this years online campaign approach? Well, the answer is pretty much everything, as people have become more comfortable with social media sites, the online world has opened a door to new campaign tactics. It is estimated that the spend on social media has increased significantly with the Conservatives spending upwards of £100,000 and Labour spending £10,000 each month on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter campaigns.

The Electoral Commission is using mobile for the first time to persuade and encourage young people to vote in this year’s election. The campaign emphasises the importance of voting and highlights their role in the UK’s future. The mobile campaign forms part of a broader marketing push to encourage people to register to vote.

The emphasis on online campaigning stretches further than the top social networking sites. Politicians are seeing the benefits of getting involved with sites that reach voters who might not pay attention to more traditional forms of media. Sites such as BuzzFeed have a reach equal to or possibly greater than other news organisations and are being recognised for their ability to connect with voters.

In Britain, political advertising is banned on TV and Radio but not on the Internet, therefore enabling the parties to have more direct contact with the electorate through sites like Twitter and Facebook where comments can be read and replied to. Television debates include social media in their debate structure by posing questions from Twitter users to ask the political leaders.

2010 was an important year for social media campaigning, as it was the first year it was really possible. The previous general election of 2005 was limited online, seeing as Facebook was still restricted to US university students and Twitter didn’t start until March 2006.

The question is, will all of this Social media effort be worthwhile? Only time will tell, but it has certainly opened up a new platform for engaging voters.

 

Written by

Katherine Thomson

Tech in Medicine

Tech in Medicine

The Medical field is no stranger to new technologies and pioneering experiments, now more than ever we are seeing technology revolutionising the world of Healthcare. 

Only 60 years ago was the first successful open heart surgery. An operation, which was revolutionary at the time, now trumped by the minimally invasive surgical methods of the 21st century with the assistance of robots! It’s just incredible how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time.

It’s not only Scientists and Doctors who are pioneering this new exciting technology, which we see today. Apple and Google (Google X) are finding their place within the Medical world. Outdated methods are being championed by new technologies allowing fresh ways to collect patient data for research and for storing medical records.

I'm going to talk you through 7 different technological developments, which are revolutionising the way we treat and diagnose. 

1 – 3D Printing – Not only for use in Japan for printing doll size replicas of yourself, 3D printing has countless, invaluable medical uses. With constant leaps forward in technology, its no surprise that 3D printing is readily available for more advanced uses.  3D printing organs is not just an idea anymore; it’s fast becoming a reality and bioprinting is enabling the creation of replacement organs by using human cells. We are already at the stage of being able to print body parts; heart valves, artificial bones, joints, ears and skin grafts, and these exciting advancements in Bioprinting show no signs of slowing down.

2 – ResearchKit – This is how Apple are making their mark in Medicine. Focusing on Medical Data, ResearchKit turns the iPhone into a diagnostic tool able to harness large amounts of patient medical data ready for study into different medical conditions. 5 apps have already been developed to assist people suffering from Asthma, Parkinson’s, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease and post-treatment Breast Cancer patients. This way of capturing data, has never been done before and enables medical researches to have a much broader and diverse set of results to analyse.

3 – Brain Computer Interface – As computers evolve, as does our understanding of the human brain. Brain Computer Interface (BCI) is a technological breakthrough and has amazing sci-fi possibilities. BCI technology paves the way for exciting developments for blind and deaf people. It’s now almost possible to transmit signals directly into someone’s brain allowing them to see, hear or feel sensory inputs. Another exciting area of BCI research is the development of devices, which can be controlled by thoughts, enabling artificial limbs to be operated only by the signals coming from implanted electrodes in the brain.

4 – Robotics – Think more the robots used to build cars and less C-3PO in medical scrubs. These medical robots are used in surgeries and take up a decent sized room. The benefits of using these robots are that their ‘hands’ are super small, high precision instruments. The robots don’t carry out the surgery; they are simply instruments for surgeons to use as they offer a greater level of precision. The future for medical robots looks impressive with the next generation of surgical robots being developed to seek and destroy cancers and the ability to set bones. 

5 – Exoskeletons – An exciting development that may help paralyzed patients walk. Movement is controlled by the brain, which sends a signal down the spinal cord and the surrounding nerves. However, in Paralyzed patients, the spinal nerve structures are damaged and therefore the signals can’t reach the legs or arms, thus leaving the patient unable to walk or move certain body parts. A Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) Exoskeleton, can pick up these weakened signals through sensors attached to a persons skin, and can set motors, (located in the pelvic and knee joints) in motion allowing the person to move.  The patient always remains in control of the suit as it is controlled directly by neurological instructions.

6 – Scanadu – This Company could completely change how we look at our health, and how we respond to our symptoms when we do get ill.  The Scanadu scout is an ‘Indiegogo’ funded campaign which allows you to check all of your vital signs on your smartphone by holding the device to your forehead for ten seconds. Scanadu can identify illness and the device also has camera scanning to identify rashes and skin conditions, the app then suggests the best course of action, including if any treatments should be used and at what dose. The Scanadu is competing in the ‘Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize’ competition. The £6m ($10m) competition to develop a real life ‘Tricorder’ (as used in Star-Trek) launched in 2013 challenges anyone to develop a wireless device, which is capable of detecting a wide range of diseases. The finalists have been announced and the teams will be judged later this year with the awards ceremony in January 2016. 

7 –Bionics – Prosthetics are nothing new, but Bionic limbs are a game changer. We saw Dr. Hugh Herr at South by Southwest (SXSW) this year with two bionic limbs attached to his body using smart skin. The double amputee is living proof of the advances in bionics. His revolutionary work in Bionics is paving the way for enabling disabled persons new freedom of movement and ease of life. Implanted prosthetics is a different kind of prosthesis, and is one, where the prosthetic is actually connected to the bone, muscle and nerves, which moves us even closer to touch sensation bionics. Bionics don’t just stop with limbs, scientists at Newcastle University are working on a microchip implant for the brain, which receives signals from a camera in a bionic eye. They hope to be able to restore sight to people who have lost their vision.

These are just some of the ways that tech is revolutionising healthcare. Now more than ever we are seeing the development of products enabling us to take our health into our own hands, and understand our own bodies. With the developments underway with the Tricorder X prize, the hope is that one day we will be our own first call for diagnosis, without needing to see a Doctor straight away. 

Written by

Katherine Thomson

Drones for Good

Drones for Good

Drones are now part of the World we live in, whether used for capturing beautiful Photography and Video footage, conservation work or in search-and-rescue operations.

The question is, how do we further the uses of Drones to benefit us as a species and the Planet we live on?

The UAE (United Arab Emirates) Drones for Good Award is a competition held in Dubai, inviting inventors and developers to present their Drone prototypes in the hope of winning a monetary prize to further their projects. The competition launched in 2014 by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai and has seen incredible drone concepts from around the world.  October 1st 2014 was the submission deadline, with the technical proposal due December 1st 2014. Submissions for the competition must meet certain criteria; they must be looking to the future and use the most advanced civilian UAV technology available, they must describe the human need and suggest new ways of improving an existing service using drones. The Final award ceremony was February 8th 2015 and the winners were announced.

The competition is open to everyone around the world; individuals, teams or companies and consists of two major winners.

The International competition has a first prize of $1,000,000  (about £675 thousand) and rewards prototypes of Drone services that can benefit humanity within the next 3 years.

The winner of this competition was a collision resistant drone for search and rescue. Developed by Patrick Thevoz and his team of engineers, the ‘GimBall’ has the ability to fly into disaster zones to identify where victims are trapped. The unique feature of this Drone is its ability to squeeze into tight spaces, bounce off other objects and roll on floors or ceilings all while causing no harm to the victims that it identifies. Being the winner of this competition enables the team to develop their product. The next step for the Flyability team is to now develop the GimBall specifically for first responders, adding features such as infrared imaging for dark or smoky environments.

The other major award of AED 1Million is to the winner of the National competition category. Entries from the United Arab Emirates must meet slightly different criteria; submission must be; for a real government service in the UAE, be implementable within the next 12 months and be fully autonomous (Full criteria can be seen on their website).

The winner of this category was Matt Karau from the Environmental sector, who saw victory with his National Park drone prototype. Karau has developed a drone, which can fly for up to 40km around the Wadi Wurayah National Park collecting data about plants, and animals in the UAE’s first mountain protected National Park. The drone removes the risk for park rangers, Sami and Ali who hike up to the park to manually get data. The two rangers are exposed to extreme weather condition and temperatures that can reach 47 degrees Celsius during the peak of Summer.

Over the next 3 months, the Wadi Drone will be optimized ready for deployment in 9 months.

There were some incredible entries into the competition, and just because they did not win, does not mean their ideas won’t come to life. The UAE have announced an ‘AI and Robotics for Good’ award and winners will be selected in 2016 in Dubai.

With so many exciting developments, it’s great to see how modern technology can be used to enhance and protect our World.

Written by

Katherine Thomson


Apple Watch

Apple Watch

The big tech news of the week has been the Apple Watch launch. With a release date of April 24th, the news has spun critics and the public alike into a frenzy of equal excitement and dismay.

Apple are no strangers to beautifully designed products and sleek designs, but at up to £13,500, is there a market for the Apple watch?

So what is the Apple watch all about anyway? Well, essentially, if you want to be connected 24/7 (or at least for as long as the battery lasts each time) then this product is probably for you. The watch is controlled by an Apple watch app, which can be downloaded to iPhone iOS 8.2, the app allows you to organise what apps show up on your watch and the notifications you receive.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 15.06.43.png

The watch is essentially a less capable, tiny iPhone for your wrist, which acts as a communication device, with notifications and messaging at the heart of what it can do; enabling you to check and reply to your emails and messages at a glance without the need to trawl through infinite pockets and bags to find your iPhone (Though it’s really never that difficult, is it?).

All sarcasm aside, Apple has made quite a spectacular product with lots of cool features. The digital touch enables you to make choices about how you want to communicate with other Apple watch users with the options being to send a sketch, a note or a tap. Though if you want to send something more personal, you are able to send your heartbeat using the built in heart-rate monitor (how much more personal can you get!) 

The watch can be personalized to suit your mood or occasion by changing how the watch face is displayed whether it’s something more similar to the iPhone lock screen or a subtle animation.

Voice commands are easy with the watch. Raising your wrist activates Siri, meaning that you can talk directly into your wrist, channeling your inner spy. Pressing the digital crown allows you to ask Siri questions, set reminders and ask for directions etc.

Now if you read my last blog post (and of course you did), you’ll know I’ve been talking about wearable tech lately. The Apple watch treads on the toes of fitness trackers and Apple stores have ceased selling Jawbone and Nike products in their stores as competition mounts. The watch works in a similar way to other wearable fitness trackers, and syncs with a new app in iOS 8.2. Apple uses the data you input to suggest fitness goals to work towards. As with most wearables, the Apple watch charts calories burned, exercise and can even tell you how many times you have stood up. Another crafty fitness feature, which we’ve seen in some other trackers, is the nudge when the user has been sat for too long; promoting a healthy lifestyle.

As with most Apple products, the initial critic opinion is mixed and quite often negative. We saw it with the iPad, which was said to just be a big version of the iPhone, and when the iPhone 6 was released, many said that Apple had failed, yet the handset actually sold more than any other iPhone. It would appear that the initial negative reviews and critiques of Apple products have very little influence over the success of their products and I don’t see this being a different story either.

Even though the Apple watch is a latecomer to the wearables party, I don’t see it having any problem fitting it and being a big competitor for Samsung and other major brands.

It’s pretty cool, and I can see the benefits of owning one if you need/want to be connected all the time, but for me personally I think I’m just going to stick to using my iPhone, after all, it’s never that far away from me anyway…

Written by

Katherine Thomson




There's an app for that!

There's an app for that!

Technology: Where do we draw the digital line in the sand?

 

Technology surrounds us everyday, and for the most part, makes our lives easier and more efficient. Need to contact someone? Send a text. Want to do your food shopping? Use an app. Lose weight and be more active? There’s an app for that, and even a device you can wear too! The technology we use is endless and most of us would be lost without it. We no longer live in a world where we have to remember phone numbers or look at maps, because they’re readily available for us in the palm of our hand. We’re reliant, and increasingly so, on the comfort of how easy technology makes our lives.

But what happens when technology goes further, do we lose our privacy and our ability to disconnect? Do we have issues with the ethics behind some technology? Are we just apprehensive and worried about where it could take us? Or perhaps we’re scared of how the future might look and if we can keep up?

I think, it’s a mixture of all three. In a world where driverless cars and Robot hotels are no longer a product of a science fiction film is it any wonder that we as a species are a little bit apprehensive to accept some of these technologies in to our world?

Now, we can rule out an ‘I, Robot’ situation and the future certainly does not look like a scene from ‘Terminator’ either.

The astonishing developments in AI are really rather incredible.  The AI of today actually has nothing in common with the human brain and works on a basis of ‘if this, then that’ instruction. It cannot think for itself, it cannot feel emotion and it cannot operate in the same way that humans do.

The question is, when are we too reliant on technology, and how beneficial is it to us?

My example of the reliance on technology is the recent report made by Samsung, warning users not to discuss personal information in front of their Smart TV. A recent study showed that when the voice activation feature is active, the TV listens to what is being said, and this information may be shared with Samsung or third parties. 

So are we too relaxed and trusting of these technologies? Is some new technology damaging to our private information and to us? So, is this where technology has gone too far? Or is it simply that we need better security and more regulation on the uses of our information?

With driverless cars expected to be the norm on our roads by 2030, how do we change our behavior so drastically and accept the new technology? Driverless cars throw out new challenges for regulation and security; for example, will all of our movements in our cars be tracked, and can we take over the controls if there is an emergency situation? I have to admit; I feel really mixed about this, on one hand I would really miss driving my own car, but in contrast I also think about how much more I could get done! I could be reading a book, writing or relaxing to music on my journeys instead.

These technological developments don’t just mean a changing future for cars and hotels, but also huge leaps in the medical fields too! We now live in a world where 3D printing can save lives and enhance others. Wearable technology is helping people get in shape, iPhones are connecting with ‘diagnostic dongles’ to identify HIV and Syphilis and ‘Peek’ is an app which is leading the way in smartphone based eye examinations. 

I think in a world of emerging technologies we have to be open to the developments on our doorstep. Some may be a little scary but there’s so much to look forward to and so much constantly being developed that can enhance our lives and enhance the world we live in!

Written by 

Katherine Thomson

5 Lifestyle Gadgets

5 Lifestyle Gadgets

Which tech is right for me?

 

1 - Jawbone UP24 - This piece of wearable tech can track your every move! Great for increasing your activity levels or monitoring your fitness! At only £99 this piece of tech syncs wirelessly with your other apps, alerts you when you've been sat too long and tracks your sleep to enable you to optimise your sleeping pattern!

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 2 - Brunton All Day - For just £40 this product is a must have for all GoPro users. With the ability to increase the battery life by up to 4 times you can focus on your filming without any distractions.

3 – Ikettle – Ever wanted to put the kettle on but can’t be bothered to get up to do it? This might be the answer you’ve been looking for. The IKettle allows you to boil your kettle anywhere in your home using your smart phone, so long as you’re connected to the same Wi-Fi.  RRP £99.99, it sounds so worth it!

4 – Sound asleep pillow – This is the perfect solution for anyone who falls asleep with their headphones in! No longer will bedtime be spent fighting with tangled wires or trying to get comfy in Bluetooth headphones, for £17.99 you can fall asleep with your music streaming through a small, unnoticeable speaker in your comfortable pillow.

5 – 3Doodler – This pen for £99.99 allows you to physically draw in the air! The pen squeezes out a thin and flexible thread of heated plastic, which quickly dries, allowing you to create three-dimensional shapes!

 

Written by

Katherine Thomson