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Friday, April 29, 2016

Geneva hosts 'Exhibition of Inventions'

by Mark Ollig
Copyright © 2016 Mark Ollig

A golden scissors cutting through a multicolored ribbon officially opened the 44th International Exhibition of Inventions recently.
This event took place in Geneva, Switzerland.
Approximately 40 countries, including China, Spain, Russia, France, Poland, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Switzerland, were represented.
This year’s exhibition drew 57,612 visitors.
Many were industrialists, distributors, country representatives, and business people.
Approximately 700 inventors and presenters described and demonstrated the nearly 1,000 inventions.
Mechanical and industrial, health and medicine, sports and leisure, agriculture, security, textile and clothing, solar power, the environment, and other categories were represented.
Numerous deals were being conducted during the exhibition.
Business and trade representatives were making agreements with the inventors of the devices and technologies they wanted to invest in, and be a distributor for.
Regulations for the exhibition included a stipulation saying “an invention may be exhibited in Geneva only once and must be protected by intellectual rights.”
One event press release said companies are buying inventions “from the outside,” and products being used today have an average lifespan of three years.
It had once been assumed, with the arrival of the Web, publicly attended exhibitions would drop off, and people would just watch and participate at these events online using a computer.
However, after many years of the web and internet, the organizers of this event came to a conclusion, saying; “Technology will never replace human contact.”
Since its start in 1972, this exhibition event has shown thousands of inventions.
Jean-Luc Vincent is the president and founder of the International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva.
Inventions from this exhibition have been successfully marketed and used in real-world situations.
One includes an invention by a person from Romania exhibited in 2013.
It’s a device attached onto a vehicle for scanning and detecting planes carrying smuggled goods, such as weapons, or drugs.
A factory built in Switzerland to manufacture this invention resulted in new jobs and improvement to the country’s economy.
One invention from 2003 was the first magnetic bearings for use on a spacecraft; they operate at a speed of 5500 RPM (revolutions per minute).
I watched an 11-minute video of this year’s event, showing a walk-through of the large, open hall where the exhibits were located.
The camera-person did a good job. It felt like I was there in person, walking past the various inventions and signs displayed at exhibit tables, while observing and listening to the activities taking place.
Presenters, or the inventor themselves, would demonstrate and explain their invention’s benefits to visitors who stopped by and showed interest.
Music could be heard playing in the background.
One large banner over an exhibit table read: “Hong Kong Science Park – Turning Innovations to Golden Opportunities.”
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, or PolyU, was one of the invention exhibits in this park.
Their creations earned 14 awards from the International Exhibition of Inventions.
PolyU was awarded one grand prize and gold medal for its “Anti-heat Stress Clothing for Construction Workers in Hot-Humid Weather.”
“With excellent one-way transferability and liquid moisture management capacity, the technology improves fabric breathability, speeds up sweat evaporation, and helps construction workers to reduce heat stress,” according to the press release from PolyU.
They also won a special merit award, and a gold medal for their self-cleaning solar panels, which use a “highly dispersed nanocomposite paste.”
A special transparent paste or coating is applied onto a solar panel.
This coating will protect the solar panel from “organic and inorganic dirt,” thus reducing cleaning costs by 70 percent.
Another benefit seen is an increase in the average output power from the solar panel.
The coating will also protect the solar panel surfaces “from corrosion of sandstorm and acid rain,” according to PolyU’s press release.
I look to seeing this special, beneficial coating being applied on existing solar panels around the world.
The complete press release from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s website can be seen here:
The top grand prize was awarded to Professor Kok-Wai Cheah from Cathay Photonics, for his technique of protecting glass display screens used on smartphones and other devices.
The process involves the particular technique of applying a thin layer of sapphire over an existing glass surface at a high temperature.
A very thin layer is enough to provide adequate protection without diminishing the glass’ transparency.
Sapphire is one of the hardest materials available.
This technique of applying sapphire can be used on other glass surfaces, such as TVs and watches.
I took a screen capture of the professor holding a glass display using the thin-layered sapphire-applied process:
The Geneva International Exhibition of Inventions homepage is:
Follow the occasionally inventive messages I exhibit on Twitter via my @bitsandbytes user handle.

Above photos screenshots from:

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Solar-powered telegraphs during: 'The Carrington Event'

by Mark Ollig

In London, British astronomer Richard Carrington was drawing images being projected onto a “pale straw color” plate of glass from his telescope pointed at the sun.

The images he drew were of large dark spots, appearing on the surface of the sun.

Carrington was surprised by “two patches of intensely bright and white light” which suddenly showed on the dark spots; known today as sunspots.

This was 157 years ago. Carrington had witnessed a huge solar flare erupting from the sun – and this massive flare was headed directly towards Earth.

“The phenomenon took place at an elevation considerably above the general surface of the sun,” he later wrote in the November 1859 Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society publication.

Thursday, Sept. 1, 1859, the bright and powerful coronal mass ejection (CME) emitted from the sun, blanketed the upper Earth’s atmosphere.

This solar event caused confusion and wonderment; as the sky brightened, and then changed into a red, green, and purple swirling hue of a gigantic aurora borealis.

Over the course of several days, the resulting magnetic solar storm played serious havoc with devices using electricity – especially electrical telegraphs.

Telegraph systems, a commonly used communications device in 1859, required battery-power to operate.

A battery cell supplying the voltage was comprised of a glass jar filled with a chemical solution (such as copper sulfate) with copper and zinc electrodes immersed in the solution.

A chemical reaction between the electrodes and the solution created an electrical voltage.

Battery cells were connected together to produce the greater voltages needed for a telegraph to operate over long spans of telegraph wire.

I was surprised to learn about the many unique and distinctive styles, and makers of not only telegraphs, but electrically-powered magnetic clocks used in 1859.

However, let’s digress back to the CME, which has now reached Earth.

Upon entering the atmosphere, the solar storm wrapped its powerful flow of electrical current energy around miles of copper telegraph wire attached to wooden poles.

Telegraph wire connected the many individual telegraph stations located along the railroad tracks and towns.

At some stations, telegraph operators were physically being shocked by the solar storm’s electrical current surges on the brass or copper telegraphy break-key they used to tap out (key) coded messages.

There were reports of sparks, shooting out of the break-keys, causing paper used with the telegraph machine to be set on fire.

Telegraph operators hurriedly disconnected the batteries to their telegraph machines.

After doing this, many experienced a surprising discovery.

The electric current from the solar storm was powering their telegraph systems – without having any batteries connected.

I came across an astonishing personal account of a conversation between two telegraph operators, written in the 1859 Boston Evening Star newspaper.

This conversation was between the Boston, MA, and Portland, ME telegraph operators working on the American Telegraph Line.

Boston operator: (to Portland operator) Please cut off your battery entirely from the line for 15 minutes.

Portland operator: Will do so. It is now disconnected.

Boston operator: Mine is disconnected, and we are working with the auroral current. How do you receive my writing?

Portland operator: Better than with our batteries on. Current comes and goes gradually.

Boston operator: My current is very strong at times, and we can work better without batteries, as the aurora seems to neutralize and augment our batteries alternately, making current too strong at times for our relay magnets. Suppose we work without batteries while we are affected by this trouble?

Portland operator: Very well. Shall I go ahead with business?

Boston operator: Yes. Go ahead.

I read that the electrical current produced by this solar storm went up and down; but provided enough electricity for many telegraphs to operate for hours..

Although the telegraph operators needed to reconnect the batteries; for a brief while, there were actual working, “solar-powered” telegraphs in 1859.

Ground-based magnetometers, available in 1859, were able to measure the forces, or the “strength” from the solar storm.

Magnetometers plotted out a magnetogram graph of the solar event on an hourly basis, from Sept. 1 through Sept. 3.

Today, of course, we depend on many electronic devices and systems.

Most of them require a constant and uninterrupted supply of electricity.

As of 2013, there were more than 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines making up the national electric grid, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

The Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite was launched into space Feb. 10 of this year, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The satellite’s primary purpose is to obtain information about the solar wind and charged particles constantly bombarding our planet’s magnetic field.

“These data help us to prepare for and respond to solar events that could disrupt our critical infrastructure,” said the official White House blog.

In 2009, the Department of Energy, along with private funding, invested $9.5 billion for modernizing the nation’s electrical grid.

“The consequences of a future solar storm like the Carrington Event of August-September 1859 are extensive and involve a range of potential economic impacts not unlike a major Force 5 hurricane or tsunami that could [immobilize] the present national electricity grid for an extended period,” states a White House file document titled: National Cyber Systems Infrastructure Security Review Concept Paper.

Stay tuned.

Follow me on Twitter using my @bitsandbytes handle. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

The F8 conference

by Mark Ollig

I received an email recently about an F8 conference hosted by Facebook.

My mind associates F8 with a keyboard shortcut; what could Facebook’s F8 mean?

After performing due diligence research, yours truly learned Facebook held eight-hour “hackathon” sessions for software programmers and code developers.

These eight-hour hackathon sessions became a Facebook tradition known as F8.

The first Facebook F8 developer conference was in 2007, a year after Facebook became publicly available online.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, spoke at this year’s F8 conference last week at the Fort Mason Center, located on the north end of San Francisco, on Pier 2.

I signed up on a Facebook website,, to watch the live-streaming video coverage of F8.

This website also showed the building layout for the conference, including the “hacker tent” located just outside the Herbst Pavilion, where the keynote speech by Zuckerberg was given.

Twitter used the hashtag #F82016, for folks posting photos, video, comments, and other information related to Facebook F8.

“The line for coffee and one-hour-early mob waiting to get into the keynote. @ Fort Mason...” one hashtag tweet, posted by @curiouslee said.

An attached Instagram link, showed two photos of people waiting outside of the Fort Mason Center.

A reported 83 countries were represented at this year’s F8.

So, what happens during a Facebook F8 conference?

For one, the software application (app) developers and writers of computing code, spend time in breakout lab sessions, and “development garages,” where they experiment with, and create new software apps.

One phrase heard during F8 was, “Code to Connect.”

The software coders and developers write the programming code which becomes the working software apps used on the Facebook platform.

Facebook uses apps to enhance our online experience, and generate statistical information.

Some apps employ social graphical interface programs, which monitor our Facebook activities.

Apps generate revenue for the businesses using them, the developers who created them, and, of course, for Facebook.

These Facebook apps offer tempting links for us to click on.

We’re drawn to them because they’re personalized to suit our own individual tastes.

Facebook currently serves more than 1 billion users.

The present population of our planet, according to Worldometers’ data, is estimated to be a little more than 7.4 billion.

Some 4 billion people in the world have no access to the Internet; let alone Facebook, so there is still much work to be done in getting everyone on this planet connected.

Last Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to the F8 conference stage amidst loud applause.

He addressed the 2,600 in attendance with, “Hey everyone! Welcome to F8.”

“Today, we’re going to do something different. We’re going to walk through our roadmap for the next 10 years,” he told the attentive audience.

Zuckerberg put emphasis on how connectivity will become available to everyone, not just the one-third of the people in the wealthiest countries, and that all will have access to the opportunities of the Internet.

“We stand for connecting every person, for a global community, for bringing people together, for giving all people a voice, for a free flow of ideas and culture across nations,” Zuckerberg said.

The following statement appeared in large font size on the display screen behind Zuckerberg “Give everyone the power to share anything with anyone.”

The 10 year roadmap focused on Facebook’s platform and associated apps, along with its Instagram, Messenger, and video products.

Zuckerberg pointed out their WhatsApp Messenger service, sends some 60 billion messages each day.

The roadmap included technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and AR (augmented reality).

Software developers have made over a million apps for Facebook’s platform.

Zuckerberg acknowledged 70 percent of the software apps Facebook uses are created by developers in communities outside the US; citing India and Africa as two of these developer communities.

“A lot of things we think about today as physical objects, like a TV in the living room, will just be $1 apps,” Zuckerberg predicts.

These types of apps will have us wearing what looks to be a regular pair of eyeglasses; with no ancillary device or gadgets attached to its frame, like Google Glass had.

VR/AR eyeglasses will cause us to believe we are seeing and speaking with someone, or even throwing a ball back and forth with them, as if they were physically in the same room; even though the person could actually be located on the other side of the world.

Zuckerberg also showed video from Facebook’s VR app, Oculus Toy Box.

In one scene, two people appear to be playing ping-pong with each other; even though both are physically located on opposite sides of the Earth.

“I think that virtual reality has the potential to become the most social platform, because you actually feel like you are right there with another person,” Zuckerberg said.

Yours truly foresees future VR/AR apps providing people total sensory immersion from inside virtual-reality venues.

Conceivably, these virtual-venues could contain anywhere from one, to tens of thousands of people sharing the same VR experience.

After all, it’s about bringing people together; even though it’s within a virtual reality.

Follow my somewhat virtual adventures via @bitsandbytes on Twitter.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

CEO answers questions about delivery drone

by Mark Ollig

The first successful home delivery using a fully-autonomous unmanned aircraft (drone) was the subject of last week’s column.

This FAA-approved test was carried out in the urban region of Hawthorne, southeast of Reno, NV.

The contents of the delivery package transported by this unmanned aerial vehicle included: medical supplies, food, and bottled water.

This week, dear readers, you’re in for a treat.

I contacted Flirtey, the company which accomplished this historic drone delivery.

Their CEO, Matt Sweeny was kind enough to answer the following questions.

“B&B: I am very impressed about Flirtey’s mentioning the drones’ use for humanitarian scenarios; such as getting relief supplies into cut-off, populated areas during natural disasters.

MS: Thank you – at Flirtey, our vision is to reinvent the delivery process for humanitarian, online retail, and food delivery industries. To illustrate our dedication to humanitarian scenarios, this recent delivery included bottled water, emergency food and a first aid kit.

B&B: What was the distance the drone traveled during the Hawthorne, NV test under the control of the autonomous delivery system technology?

MS: This delivery flight was about half a mile and it’s important to note that for this particular delivery, we were optimizing for precision delivery in an urban environment – our drones can, of course, travel much longer ranges. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to test our technology in an urban environment with houses, power lines, and trees to navigate – and our technology performed exactly as we would have hoped.

B&B: Is there any detailed technical information about the autonomous software operating system, and the six-rotor drone itself; such as its dimensions, on-board navigation system, package weight limits it can carry, and what material/means was used to carry the package of supplies?

MS: The Flirtey delivery drone is constructed from carbon fiber, aluminum, and 3D printed components. It is a lightweight, autonomous, and electrically-driven unmanned aerial vehicle. It conducts deliveries by lowering the package in a controlled manner with the drone hovering in place. Built-in safety features include low battery return to safe location, auto return to home in case of strong winds, low GPS signal or communication loss.

B&B: What is being planned for the next Flirtey delivery test situation?

MS: We’re currently focusing on applying what we’ve learned from this flight to our current drone delivery technology. R&D is a major focus of the FAA-designated Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Sites, and this latest operation has given us a significant amount of information to be used towards future tests and operations. From here, we will continue to develop and refine our technology. With collaborations that include NASA and the University of Nevada, Reno, we’re leading the industry in autonomous drone technology, drone safety systems, and advanced delivery technology; and look forward to delivering direct to customer houses in the not too distant future.”

I want to thank Matt Sweeny for his time, and wish him and everyone at Flirtey, the best of luck in this new and exciting aerial delivery service.

“Real-time delivery by flying robots. Anytime. Anywhere.” These words are boldly written on Flirtey’s website homepage.

Possibly the next time I hear the whirling sound of rotor blades coming from the sky over my house, I’ll look up and see a Flirtey delivery drone.

A video of their delivery drone in action, along with a message from CEO Matt Sweeny and others involved with the drone delivery company, can be found on Flirtey’s website:

Follow Flirtey’s continuing progress via their @Fly_Flirtey Twitter user handle.

Keep an eye on your humble, drone-reporting columnist at: @bitsandbytes.

(Photos used with permission from Flirtey.)