Category Archives: Green Technology

One Size Fits All with Ohyo 2Bag



Back in 2016 I interviewed Guy Jeremiah from Ohyo at The Gadget Show, where he was demonstrating a flexible use bag. Designed by Felix Conran, the bag could be arranged into four different configurations; a tablet bag, messenger bag, a back-pack and a grocery bag.

Returning to 2017, the team’s back together with the Ohyo 2Bag, a re-imagining which focuses on daily life. The 2Bag converts between a messenger bag and a larger carry-all, so imagine starting the day with a laptop in the 2Bag but then being able to buy some groceries on the way home. Inside, the 2Bag has two zipped compartments and as the smaller is waterproof, any leakages from the shopping won’t destroy the electronics.

Designed again by Felix Conran, the grandson of Sir Terence Conran, the 2Bag has additional pockets for keys and phones, plus a ring to hold a collapsible Ohyo bottle. Focussing on the re-usability of the 2Bag, Felix says, “I think we have a huge amount of responsibility as designers. It’s our job to consider everything and that includes where the product ends up… we don’t want to be designing landfill. I want to make objects that have a longer life-cycle than is expected of them because if you only need to buy something once, this is the ultimate in sustainability.

And it’s way more stylish when shopping than a bunch of tatty plastic bags.

To get the 2Bag off the ground, Ohyo has a Kickstarter campaign with early birds getting in at GB£49 (about US$65). The campaign needs a little help, as it’s just under 50% funded with only a week to go, so don’t delay if you want one. Delivery is expected in December 2017 so it could make a good Christmas present.

Ohyo has a good track record on Kickstarter with two successful campaigns for the earlier Ohyo bag but as with all things Kickstarter, just be aware of the risk.

The Kickstarter campaign video is below.

 


Verv Shows Where Your Energy Goes



London-based firm Green Running have launched Verv, a home energy assistant that uses AI technology to automatically figure out which appliances are running and how much they’re costing. It’s clever stuff and they’ve got 6 patents to prove it.

The UK’s smart meter programme has taken a bit of hammering in the press recently with The Register covering the debacle along with a healthy dose of cynicism. In agreement, Peter Davies, CEO & Founder of Green Running points out, “Smart Meters are being rolled out across homes but they simply don’t provide enough detail to tell the consumer what is actually costing them money. They just provide a total cost of your electricity usage. We are able to sample data at extremely high frequencies enabling us to read the ‘energy signature’ of individual electrical appliances. This means we can show the user in real time how much their appliances are costing them, in addition to an array of other functions such as alerting them if an appliance is deteriorating or if they’ve left something on.

Being able to tell which appliances are electricity is handy, especially if it reveals when an older unit is consuming too much power either through slow failure or that newer models consume far less.

Verv doesn’t need to be installed by an electrician – there’s no fiddling with electricity here. Simply, there’s three parts. A Verv hub, a sensor clamp that goes round the main power cable, and an app for both iOS and Android. The only snag I can see from the installation video, is the hub needs a power socket near the meter.

Verv is electricity supplier neutral too and it doesn’t matter who supplies the power. In fact, it’s probably a good way to check that the supplier is billing correctly as 60% of consumers don’t understand their utility bills.

Integration with Amazon Alexa is touted on the web site though there’s no detail at present on what features might be supported in the skill. There’s also no mention of an interface to any smart home gear, such as Samsung SmartThings, but I would imagine that’s on the priority list as Verv’s competitor, Smappee, is already there. IFTTT would be good too but it’s early days.

Verv is currently open for pre-orders at GB£249 with delivery expected in the autumn (the website says October, the press release says November…)


Pushing Power Back into The Grid



Phase Two Array ResizeI have always been fascinated by solar power. There’s something quite intriguing about the idea of simple sunlight hitting a solar panel and instantly producing electricity.

Home solar systems can take a few different forms. There are power backup systems that require the use of battery storage, as well as systems that allow people the luxury of electricity that live completely off-grid. Today, the most popular form of solar by far is known as grid-tie or Net Metering.

Grid-tie Net Metering

With grid-tie net metering solar power systems, no batteries are used. Grid-tied solar panels feed power back directly into the public electrical grid and can actually make the power meter run backwards. The more solar panels integrated into the system, the more potential power can be fed back into the connected electric grid. Power bills can either be reduced, or in some cases, completely zeroed out, depending on local electric power company policies.Solar Phase One

Solar panels produce DC or direct current. The power grid is AC or alternating current. Therefore, to sell power back to the electric utility, it is necessary to convert the DC power coming from solar panels into AC so it can be fed into the power grid. This is accomplished with DC to AC power inverters.Inverters Resize

I recently visited a home solar system installation where the home owner has been slowly expanding his net metering system over the past seven years. He initially began seven years ago with forty-three 100 watt 12 volt solar panels, placed on top of his workshop.

With this first system, it was necessary for him to run wires down the length of the interior roof to a bank of mounted micro-inverters that needed to be protected from the weather. One of the lessons he learned from this initial installation was that lengthy wires carrying 12 volt DC results in power loss. The longer the lines, the more the efficiency drops. Higher voltages don’t experience as much line loss.

The best way around this problem is to mount weatherproof micro-inverters directly to the backs of the solar panels. Once the power is converted to 120 volts AC, the length of the wires to the grid connection point are somewhat less critical because the voltage is higher.Grid Tie Inverter Resize

With the second phase of his foray into solar, he built a rack on a metal pole complete with a sun tracking mechanism that he built and wrote control software for himself. The rack contains nine higher efficiency 280 watt 24 volt panels with weather proof micro-inverters attached to the backs of the panels.

The weatherproof micro-inverters are of a modular design that can allow additional inverters to be plugged in to the to the system. The rack-mounted system produces as much power as the workshop roof-mounted panels, even though they have less surface area, primarily because they are higher-efficiency panels.Solar Porch Canopy

He is currently working on phase three of his system, which consists of panels that form a sort of porch canopy over the garage door entrance to his workshop.These are also 280 watt panels, each with its own micro-inverter. He is in the process of slowly adding additional panels to continue expanding his overall system capacity.Meter Output

At the moment when I took this picture of the system output meter, the total output was about 5.4 kilowatts.

A great way to learn more about solar panels, inverters and net metering is YouTube. Good search terms include solar power, grid-tie, and inverter.

Many recreational vehicle enthusiasts have developed a strong interest in attaching solar panels and power inverters to their RV’s, which can allow them to have a measure of generator-free and thus noise-free AC power and engage in extended off-grid camping.


Ohyo Folds Bag to Size at Gadget Show Live



Ohyo_400x400Several areas of the UK now charge for plastic grocery bags as a green tax and reusable shopping bags have become very popular. Mind you, carrying round a scrunched up bunch of old bags is never a good fashion statement. Fortunately Ohyo has designed a good-looking accessory which morphs from a pouch to a messenger bag before completely opening up as a shopping bag. Participating in the British Inventors’ Project at Gadget Show Live, I chat with Guy from Ohyo about his thing for folding.

Ohyo Folding Bags

Guy and Ohyo has worked with designer Felix Conran, the grandson of Sir Terence Conran, to create a flexible bag that changes shape to meet changing needs. The bag can be arranged into four different configurations, a tablet bag, messenger bag, a back-pack and a grocery bag. Available in four colours, the RRP is GB£79, but Ohyo are currently running a Kickstarter campaign where you can get in at £59. There’s just two days to go, so get in quick.

Ohyo have a track record in folding things – Guy’s previous invention was a collapsible bottle, which sold over 700,000 units and might be familiar to parents in Britain as it’s been previously sold in Marks and Spencer’s and Boots.


Biomethane Bus sets new Land Speed Record



Reading Buses logoWe don’t usually think of buses as being speedy things. And usually, we don’t actually want them to be going too fast. But a new type of bus, dubbed “Bus Hound” in England, has set a new land speed record for vehicles of its type. What’s even more surprising about this is that the bus is powered by biomethane made from cow manure.

While on a test track, Bus Hound reached a top speed of 76.785 miles per hour, earning it the accolade of fastest bus on Earth. Normally, these types of buses aren’t capable of exceeding 56 miles per hour. But Reading Buses, the company responsible for Bus Hound, made some adjustments to the vehicle in order to give it the 20+ extra mph needed to eclipse the previous record.

Bus Hound is painted with black and white spots, similar to the dairy cows that are responsible for most of the UK’s milk production. This paint scheme is also indicative of the bus’s biomethane system which is powered by fuel that’s created when special bacteria digest cow manure inside a bioreactor. The fuel is then compressed, liquefied, and stored in tanks on Bus Hound’s roof. Biomethane works in a combustion engine in a way similar to natural gas. The fuel is considered to be a green alternative to gasoline because it requires no extraction of fossil fuels from the ground and it also keeps the methane that would’ve happened naturally thru manure decay to enter the atmosphere.

No word yet as to just what Bus Hound smells like when it’s causing by at 56 miles per hour, however.


Safety First with the Babel Bike



British Inventors ProjectSafety (or lack thereof) is one of the main reasons cited why people don’t take up cycling for commuting and with over 20,000 bike accidents in London alone in 2013, it’s a reasonable concern. To prevent the most common cycling accidents, the Babel Bike has been designed for a new era of cycling safety with innovative features​ including a safety cage, seat belts and integrated lights. First shown at Gadget Show Live, the Babel Bike is launching on Indiegogo today, hoping to raise £50,000.

Babel Bike

Babel-Logo-GIFCrispin Sinclair at Sinclair Innovation, founder of Babel Bikes explains, “Our dream is to put a million more cyclists on our roads, and therefore take a million cars off them, and to do that we need to give cyclists their safety back. As a recent report put it ‘If we can tackle the safety issue, we could open the floodgates to a new era of mass cycling participation’, and that is exactly what we hope to do and with the help of the Indiegogo community.”

The bike has a custom-built frame and seat with the rider enclosed in an advanced safety cell and seatbelt restraint. Additional safety equipment includes Front and rear lights, indicators, brake lights and rear view mirrors. No mention of wet weather gear which would certainly help with the other reason for not cycling to work in Britain.

The Babel Bike isn’t cheap at £1,999 for the pedal-powered version and £2,999 for the electric version and if you are interested get in early for the best offers at Indiegogo. Delivery is expected in May 2016.


Voltz Electric Bikes at The Gadget Show



Personal electric vehicles were very much in evidence at The Gadget Show with bicycles, scooters and skateboards all on show from different vendors. Voltz Bikes covered two of these categories; bicycles and scooters.

First up is the Voltz eTrail, an electric mountain bike which was recently road-tested on The Gadget Show itself. With a range of up to 50 miles, the 1.9 kW motor can give some serious “oompf”, technically speaking. Looking over the bike, the attention to detail and component quality is impressive, which is not entirely unsurprising given that it costs around GBP £8,500, which is not cheap.

Voltz eTrail

Next is the brand new eScoot is a electric scooter with a range of 30 miles and a top speed of 20 mph. A range of accessories will be available including the neat trailer shown in the photo below. Also not cheap at £2000 but I could see myself buying one of these or similar – my job requires me to travel between sites that are usually no more than a few miles apart and a vehicle like this would be ideal for those journeys. No worries about parking either! Both the eTrail and eScoot are made in Britain which is great to see in these economic times.

Voltz Bikes Scooter

Dan, who helps make “awesome fun products”, reviews Voltz range with me at The Gadget Show.


Ford Electric Concept Car



Ford LogoTodd takes a look at Ford’s C-Max Solar Energi concept car, which amongst other things, features a solar panel roof that uses a special light concentrator lens similar to a magnifying glass to improve the efficiency of the photovoltaic cells. Ford reckons that a day’s worth of sunshine is enough to charge the hybrid’s battery, which is good for 21 electric-only miles.

This is good news for the environment as it would reduce yearly carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions from the average US car by as much as four metric tons – the equivalent of what a American house produces in four months. This probably assumes a perfect sunshine record and maximum electric mileage each day, but, hey, every little bit helps.

Review by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Xi3 Low Power PCs



Xi3 Corporation LogoDavid shows off Xi3‘s latest developments including the X7A modular computer and the Z3RO Pro. If you haven’t seen Xi3’s offerings before, you need to check them out – they’re small cube-like units totally unlike your normal case.

The X7A is aimed at the power user with a quad core AMD Trinity processor, Radeon graphics, 8 GB RAM, SSD (up to 1 TB) and more ports than you can shake a stick at. The modular part means that in future you’ll be able to upgrade components without replacing the whole unit. Prices start at $1099.

The Z3RO Pro is more budget friendly, starting at $549. With only a dual core processor and 4 GB RAM, it’s more suited to general office activities, but it will run two monitors. The killer feature here is that it consumes only 15W of power.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Switch Lighting LED Lamps



Switch Lighting Co.LED lamps are undoubtedly one of the most energy efficient ways of producing light, but even then the conversion from household AC to low voltage DC creates extra heat that needs to be dissipated. Switch Lighting Co have developed a technique that not only keeps the lamps cool but provides are more natural diffuse light. Todd and Don are illuminated by Gary Rosenfield from Switch Lighting.

Switch’s Infinia lamps are filled with a liquid silicone solution that distributes waste heat throughout the bulb, letting heat leave from a larger surface area. The warm white (2700 K) light is diffused over 300 degrees as well and the lamps can directly replace traditional 40W and 60W bulbs with equivalent Infinia bulbs of only 10W and 6W. The lamps are on-sale now with the 60W bulb available for around US$15 from good retailers nationwide.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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