Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category

There are many movies and series about dystopian futures lately -although, unfortunately, many of them have been heavily distorted from the original book version to make them easier to digest by teenagers-. One of the most interesting ones, though, is, in my humble opinion, BBC Black Mirror.  Each episode of the series plays around a single concept, like the impact of public opinion in major political decisions in the age of social networks or the effect of recording every second of life (in an eidetic memory fashion) on human relationships.

I’m going to focus here on episode 2, “15 million merits”. I’m not going into reality shows, virtual reality worlds and the like this time (the real target of the episode), but simply in energy harvesting in a world of dimming resources packed with electronics consumers. The outline of the story is simple: people of lower status are expected to spend most of their time working out in a static bike to pay for their basics: a bed, bland food and access to virtual entertainment (they also need to pay to avoid spam ads and other unwanted stuff). If they provide more energy, they get better rewards. I’m not going any further to prevent spoilers, I’ll just say that this was one of the most disturbing episodes of the series for me, and if anyone has watched “National Anthem”, this is saying a lot.

This idea is not that strange. In Ready, Player One (Ernest Cline), the main character uses a bike device for electricity in his den. This is also, reportedly, the only exercise most people do in a world where they spend most of their time in virtual immersion. In this case the idea has its perks: you save money in your juice bill and keep fit at the same time.

The concept has somewhat been put in motion by the Go Green Fitness center. And in an even more profitable fashion, too. Instead of getting paid to generate energy, you pay yourself to do it: your spinning class is used to power up the facilities. Many of us have used our bike to power up a bulb riding a bike at night. In extreme, a  typical group cycling class with about 20 bikes has the potential to produce up to 3.6 megawatts a year, reportedly enough to light 72 homes for a month. Your reward: a reduction in carbon emissions by over 5,000 pound.


If you feel that whatever you generate should be yours and yours only, there are other portable devices that might do the trick. Orange Dance Charger, for example, promised 15 minutes of talk time in exchange for 1 hour-workout (reportedly 85% efficiency).

More on renewable energy in Got Wind


Cronos-265521580-largeHere comes Halloween. Or how what people actually do with technology never ceases to surprise …

Many years ago, way before Guillermo del Toro did Hellboy, Pacific Rim or Pan’s Labyrinth, he filmed a quite original vampire movie: Cronos. An antiques dealer finds inside a statue a strange bug shaped jewel that attaches itself to his body. The jewel drinks his blood, but in exchange it provides energy, strength and, in extreme, eternal life. Of course, it comes along with an uncontrollable blood lust …

Naomi Kizhner is not creating vampires -at least as far as we know- but she has indeed designed a blood sucking jewel that uses the wearer’s movements and blood flow to turn a small wheel inside the device. The wheel generates electricity in exchange.


This (disturbing) concept -human energy harvesting- is also presented in Matrix, where machines keep humans in stasis to use them as living batteries and Kizhner just proves it’s feasible: as long as the heart is pumping, you can actually use it to power up a tiny bloodmill.


Energy harvesting is actually a reality. Some devices -like wristwatches or flashlights- may be recharged with body motion. Some sensors attached to glass surfaces feed from traffic induced vibration and further development might allow to harvest larger amounts of energy in a future. Your smartphone could actually be charged in a future using energy derived from temperature changes. However, thus far the only organ-based harvester was meant to power up a pacemaker using the heart energy to avoid battery replacement surgery.

Kizhner claims that her jewels are a proof of concept to check how far people would go to keep their gadgets charged in a world of declining resources. Yuck!

Energy Addicts. from naomi kizhner on Vimeo.

Source: The Higher Learning

Have you read Detective Comics 763? Gotham Central? Then you probably know about Detective Josie Mac.


Josie has this unique gift, she can talk to objects. Well, in fact, she mostly feels the emotion of objects, but you get the idea. The cool thing about this is that objects may, indeed, talk nowadays, courtesy of Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) technology. Have you ever walked out of a shop through one of those arcs just to get alarms going? And, assuming you were not planning to make a run for it, someone in the shop passed whatever made it go through a gadget and it was a go. Eventually, you’d find a dead sticker somewhere in the purchased object that looked like a flat copper spiral. Yep, that was an RFID tag!


The best about RFID is that, actually, tags do not require batteries. Instead, they feed on the tag reader, the other part of the communication link. Tags are just sticked to an objects and they work! As long as there is a reader -like Josie Mac- around, but they work 🙂

Let’s imagine that a communication device is like old light signals, that could send data in Morse code by opening and closing a lid in front of the lantern. The lantern should be on, of course, in order to send light. The alternative would be to remove the lantern and use a mirror. As long as you get a light source nearby, we could use it exactly like the lantern! We would not need energy to feed the light in that case, so the lid-mirror would work like a passive tag. That’s why that sticker in your book may trigger an alarm when you walk through the bookshop door: if you check your sides at the point, you’ll notice two large transmitters feeding the thing.


Indeed, RFID transmits digital information, so it is very much like the light-based system, only that lid-ons and offs would be gathered into a “word” of n-activations (n bits, in our case). Thus, we could transmit as much as 2^n different tags. These tags are written at some point by a reader and, after that, they simply transmit their n-bits each time they are activated.

Let’s just think about it. If we wanted to identify uniquely every person on Earth, currently 6.300.000.000 persons, we would need just 33 bits to binarize that quantity, as 2 power 33 is equal to 8.589.934.592 , more than enough to give a single unique number to each of our neighbors. This basically means that an RFID label would be enough to make every single passport on the world. However, it is things we were talking about. If we assume that every thing in the world belongs to someone, as a typical EPC code presents 96 bits, we still have 96-33, i.e. 63 bits to identify all the items of a given person. That is 9.223.372.036.854.775.808 items per person!!

Of course, it is more advisable to just provide more information than identification in an RFID label. Like, let’s say, when were they manufactured. That means a date (day, month, year). 31 days fit within 5 bits, 12 months fit within 4 and up to year 3000 can be fit within 12. Hence, we would require 21 additional bits to encode a date, along with who do the item belongs to. We still have 63-21 bits (42) to, for example, explain what kind of item we are.

There are far nicer applications to RFID than commerce. For example, sea turtles can be tagged with RFID to check how frequently they return to a given beach to lay eggs and such. Until turtles decide to speak with us, RFID is what you get. And you can tag any animal instead of branding them Far West style, too!



At the moment, in fact, there are small, low power consumption circuits that actually feed on induction, too. That’s really handy when you need to put them in places where it would be hard to replace the batteries, like a pressure sensor on a tire. In this case, passive thingies do not only provide previously stored information, but actually capture and even process it for you.