How child-security apps lengthen the reach of parents

My son recently turned 3 years old. Now that he's a "big boy," he wants to explore and run ahead of me, even though he lacks the wherewithal and caution to do so. My instincts, as a first-time father, are to hold onto him for dear life. I can't hold...

Water-powered Lighting for All

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It’s hard to imagine what life would be like without light, but the reality is that this precious thing we take for granted is something many people around the world can only dream of. For them, Beacon is a new conceptual device that provides illumination using the power of salt water.

Ideal for areas close to the sea, the design utilizes a galvanic cell battery system and only requires refilling with salt water. Unlike kerosene or oil lamps which pollute the air and are dangerous, this design is so safe to use that even kids can operate it.

Designer: Carmen Cumming

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Light Project (yanko)

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Never Get Lost at Sea

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Time is the plain and simple difference between life and death at sea. This is especially true for water sports enthusiasts like surfers and skiers who put themselves at peril for the activities they love. The Coastal Beacon and Buoyancy Aid offers a streamlined solution that jumps into action in the event of an emergency.

The wearable device fits comfortably on the arm and can be triggered by the wearer in seconds after an accident, being caught in a riptide, or finding themselves stranded. Once triggered, a flotation aid is released and a GPS location alert is sent directly to the Coast Guard for immediate rescue.

Designer: Mike George for DCA Design

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Construction with caution

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Construction workers are pretty brave. Being able to perform the kind of tasks they perform, especially at those heights. It’s not an art, it’s sheer courage. I’ve shuddered at the thought of standing under scaffolding, I can only imagine what it feels like actually standing on top of it, balancing gingerly a hundred feet from the ground on a frail looking pipe structure. Scaffolding, as it is called, can be quite unpredictable. One weak link, or one gust of wind, and the entire thing can fall apart like dominoes. The Scaffolding Alert beacon is a pressure sensitive device that sits between pipes in a scaffolding structure. What it does is that it provides alerts when any part of the grid starts becoming weak. An alarm is instantly initiated when evacuation must be begun, so that no human life is lost in the eventuality of a mishap.

Designers: Chen Yu-Sheng & Liao Mei-Chih.

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Google Nearby Opens The Door For Indoor Mapping and Automation

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Google may be preparing to launch a new technology to improve indoor mapping, targeted advertising, and home or office automation.

Anyone that remembers life before smartphones might remember the days when navigation was done using signs, landmarks, and paper maps. GPS and mapping features are some of the most popular apps and features provided by modern technology, but the services are largely take for granted.

Mapping technology is incomplete, though. Since GPS relies on signal from satellites, maps (usually) requires line of sight to the sky in order for service to function properly. Google has improved mapping some by using locally mapped WiFi signals to triangulate a rough approximate location as a supplement to improve the accuracy of GPS, but still doesn’t solve for major gap in navigation: it doesn’t work indoors.

Anyone that has ever tried to navigate a shopping mall might be familiar with trying to orient a mall kiosk map in order to find a specific storefront. This is one area that smartphones would be of great use, except GPS doesn’t work indoors, and WiFi isn’t prevalent enough to provide an accurate location.

Apple has previously launched its “iBeacon,” which is a Bluetooth low energy beacon that helps establish way-points. Now Google is rumored to be launching a similar service called “Nearby.”

So far, a lot of the uses for similar Bluetooth devices, such as iBeacon, has been to enable advertisers to target potential customers (go figure). For example, a mannequin in a clothing store could be equipped with a beacon, and when it detects a phone from a nearby customer (if allowed by the customer’s privacy settings) and it could automatically push a notification containing a coupon for whatever item of clothing the mannequin is dressed in.

This type of function is fairly common for many new technologies, as they need to have a way to generate revenue in order to encourage adoption and fund the research and development of additional features.

If Google is entering the market with Nearby, then there could be a boom of these devices being implemented in many new ways. The market for indoor mapping, as specified above, is virtually untouched currently, but there’s also a huge opportunity for implementation in home automation and office automation.

For home automation, it could function hand in hand with products like Nest (another Google product) to determine how many people are in various rooms in order to efficiently provide heating or cooling. It could also be incorporated with smart lighting so that lights turn on and off as you enter or exit a room. Or even more fun, change the mood lighting (brightness, color) based on how many people are in a room and the level of activity.

Outside of the home, offices are finding a massive productivity boost from the use of automation features. Many companies find that there’s a paradox in office communication. Email is becoming less and less productive from overuse, but as a result, conference rooms are also getting overbooked and unavailable.

some companies–such as Solstice Mobile, the leading provider of enterprise innovation and mobility solutions–have created full blown smart-offices, relying heavily on Bluetooth beacons. This creates efficiencies across the board, because power is better conserved by dimming lights and other power draws to inactive areas, but also efficiencies in work productivity. Workers can find where their colleagues are located at any time in order to have a quick face to face meeting, reducing both email and conference room congestion.

There are entire categories of untapped features that could be utilized as services such as Google Nearby become more prevalent, in addition to the augmenting of existing popular services, such as maps and navigation.

Of course some people might not be the biggest fans of many of the effects of this service, due to very valid privacy concerns, but fortunately there are enough applications in the privacy of your own home or office to give any technology fan something to be excited about!