Category Archives: Green Technology

Allure Energy Intelligent Thermostat with Proximity Control

Allure Energy graphicAllure Energy introduced their latest energy management product, EverSense, at CES 2012. Andy learns how to save money on your electricity bill from Kevin, Allure Energy.

Allure Energy’s EverSense, a thermostat replacement technology, is based around a tablet device that can make intelligent energy decisions on your behalf. The proximity control feature raises or lowers the temperature in your based on how far away you are from your home. By using a GPS app on your iPhone (or Android smartphone) that sends back your location, EverSense knows where you and if you are coming home, it adjusts the temperature to your preferences. Cool.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net.

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Nest Learning Thermostat at CES

Nest Smart ThermostatThe nest thermostat has received more than its fair share of press coverage recently, but that’s because it’s both smart, cool and well-designed. Todd chats with Kate from nest about this great new product.

The nest thermostat is a smart thermostat that learns from your habits and behaviours and adjusts itself to match them, turning the heat up when you want it and down when you are out of the home. It’s exceptionally easy to use – you turn it up, you turn it down, that’s it. The nest has several learning modes, including schedule learning and activity detection, which help it keep you comfortable but the energy costs down.

The nest thermostat costs $249 but it’s on back order because it’s been so popular. The thermostat comes with everything you need to install the devices yourself, including a screwdriver!

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

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PowerSkin Charges Smartphones and Portable Gamers

At CES International 2012, PowerSkin has announced new portable power solutions for smartphones and other rechargeable devices. SolarCharge, Key Charge and Gaming Skins are all designed to keep the mobile user going for longer.

PowerSkins SolarChargeThe SolarCharge is a universal charger for all types of smartphone including iPhone, Android and Blackberry, and it comprises a 1000 mAh battery paired with a solar panel in a one-piece housing. The SolarCharge recharges smartphones (and other devices) via a supplied micro-USB connector and other connectors are available for non-standard devices. The battery in the SolarCharge itself is recharged via USB from a PC, via a micro-USB mains charger or from the sun through the solar panel, so there are plenty of options for the mobile user. The blue rubberised skin has embedded LEDs to show the battery’s charge level.

PowerSkins KeyChargeThe KeyCharge has a smaller capacity at 750 mAh and is intended for a quick boost rather than a full recharge. Small enough to fit on a keychain, the KeyCharge only comes with a micro-USB connector and consequently is not suitable for use with iPhones or iPods. Two variants are available to cater for the different positions of the micro-USB connector on smartphones, i.e. side or bottom. As with the SolarCharge, the KeyCharge is recharged via a micro-USB connector, either from a PC or from a mains adaptor.

Also on display at CES will be PowerSkin’s Gaming Skins for iOS and Nintendo 3DS, which were announced in December 2011, along with an array of battery-boosting smartphone skins for all the popular makes.


PowerSkin’s SolarCharge, $69.99, and KeyCharge, $24.99, will both be available beginning February on Visit PowerSkin’s booth at the Hilton Suites, Booth # 28-128.

Orange “Sound Charge” T-Shirt for Glastonbury

The music festival season is underway in the UK, with Glastonbury Festival starting tomorrow. To celebrate, Orange have invented a t-shirt that recharges mobile phones using a piezoelectric material to convert sound waves into electricity. Over a weekend of music, the t-shirt will produce enough juice to charge a smartphone.

The t-shirts were developed by Orange in conjunction with GotWind, renewable energy specialists. The piezoelectric film charges a battery pack from which the wearer can then charge his or her phone. At the Festival, user testing will determine which musical performances give the best charge. Personally, I’d guess the loudest.

Andrew Pearcey, Head of Sponsorship at Orange UK said: “In a vibrant festival environment such as Glastonbury, sound is such an obvious medium that it seemed like a natural fit to use it in the development of this year’s prototype….It could even influence trends in fashion, with designers looking to integrate this passive charging solution into clothing.

Orange has a history of innovative phone charging solutions for festivals. Last year, the Power Welly generated power from walking and in previous years there have been the Power Pump and the Dance Charger.

You can read the full press release here – it’s hilarious and there’s a video too. You couldn’t make this stuff up.


Electric Vehicles of the Past

A few weekends ago, I visited the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Northern Ireland and in the transport part, I came across some electric vehicles. One was a bread delivery van from 1948, one a milk float from 1954 through to 1986, and finally a Post Office van from 1994. Clearly, electric vehicles are not new and as you’ll read later on, the performance of electric cars doesn’t seem to have changed much in the last few decades.

I’ve reproduced the salient parts from the exhibit placards below each photograph.

Bernard Hughes Bread Delivery Van, 1948. This battery electric delivery van was one of a fleet of vehicles used by Bernard Hughes bakery to deliver bread door-to-door. Drivers had a short regular route as the vans could not travel over long distances. With age, the batteries became less reliable and the sight of a battery-powered bread van being towed back to the depot was fairly common.

Co-op Milk Float, 1954. This battery-electric vehicle delivered milk for the Co-operative Society Ltd. from 1954 to 1986. By the 1970s, it was also being used to deliver cream, yoghurt and fruit cordials. Driving the milk float was a slow but simple task. It had an electric motor, powered by batteries. Each night the batteries were recharged at the depot for the next day’s milk round. The maximum speed was 30 mph (48 km/h). It could travel up to 40 miles (64 km) before its batteries needed recharging.

Electric Royal Mail Van, 1994. This electric Ford Ecostar was used by the Royal Mail to enable Ford to test the effectiveness of electric vehicles for working purposes. About 100 of the vans were produced and they were tested throughout North America and Europe.
This van had a top speed of 70 mph (112 km/h) and its charge would last for about 100 miles. Drivers would connect the specially developed battery to a normal domestic supply and wait between five and seven hours for it to charge fully.

This last vehicle is probably the most interesting because it’s not too far off the plug-in electric cars being promoted today.

Ford Ecostar – top speed 70 mph, range 100 miles and charge time approx 7 hours.
Nissan Leaf
– top speed 90 mph, range 109 miles and charge time approx 7 hours.

Note – the UK domestic supply uses 240 V.

So, in nearly 20 years, all we’ve managed to do is increase the top speed?

Somfy Tahoma – Beyond Home Automation

Steve Iommi chats to Todd and Tom about Somfy‘s new Tahoma system which takes home automation to the next level. It’s based round the concept of “scenes” – a scene might be “weekday-morning” which has certain set of actions, e.g. open blinds at 7.30am, whereas the “weekend-morning” opens the blinds at 8.30. With a whole a range of scenes, everything from blinds to thermostats can be controlled according to the day of the week and the activities of the owner.

As with all things these days, the Tahoma system is connected to the Internet via the homeowner’s Wifi, meaning that the owner can connect via a web browser back to the system to make any changes that might be needed, say, because of changes in the weather.

The underlying technology is the Z-Wave RF home automation wireless standard, so upgrading a home to for automation doesn’t involving lots of recabling. It’s simply a case of replacing the controllers with Z-Wave-compatible ones.

A basic Tahoma system can be professionally installed for under $2000.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Tom Newman of The Fogview Podcast.

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Horizon Portable Fuel Cell

Tom interviews Kyle from Horizon Fuel Cell Technology which is introducing the world’s first consumer hydrogen fuel cell to the market. It’s been a long time coming and I think we’ll see more of these over the next few years.

Marketed as a USB charger for portable electronics, the hydrogen-filled HydroStik plugs into the MiniPak (the fuel cell) and generates electricity by combining with oxygen from the environment within the fuel cell. There’s a complementary home hydrogen generator, the HydroFill, that will re-fill the HydroStiks.  The MiniPak is hand-sized and each HydroStik will be able to re-charge a smartphone a couple of times.

The system will be priced at $99 for the MiniPak and two charged HydroStiks. The ‘Stiks alone are $9.99 and the HydroFill charger is expected to be in the $150-$200 range. Available towards the end of 2011.

Interview by Tom Newman of The Fogview Podcast.

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Gazelle – Convert Your Unwanted Gadgets Into Money

Andy talks with Anthony Scarsella, Chief Gadgets Officer at Gazelle, purchasers of previously-enjoyed (second-hand) gadgets. Now over 4 year’s old, this is big business with over 250,000 gadgets models available for trade-in.

When compared to ebay or craigslist, Gazelle simply gives a superior customer experience. Free shipping is included, boxes are sometimes provided and there’s no question about whether the purchaser is reliable or not – payment is typically made in week or less. Gazelle provides an online chat where people can ask questions about models or condition.

Basically, there are three steps…first find your gadget on the Gazelle site and put in some information about condition and accessories. Gazelle will then make you an offer: if you accept, you ship the gadget to them. On receipt, Gazelle checks the gadget over and if it matches what you told them, they send you the money within 5-7 days. Easy-peasy.

Anthony reveals some of the economics of the market, including how sales of previous generation phones peak when new models are announced.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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GE Southwest Skystream 600 Wind Turbine

Andy Cruise from GE Southwest Windpower discusses the GE Southwest Skystream 600 Wind Turbine. It is designed for consumers who have at least an extra half acre of land and of course, wind !!!

Interview by Scott Elliot of Geek News Central.

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GE EV Watt Car Charging Station

Jeffrey Powers talks to David Wang and Joshua Caillavet of General Electric about the GE EV Watt station, which is a charging station for electric cars. This is a level 2 charger, operating from 240V, rather than 110V, giving shorter recharge times for EVs (electric vehicles), say 4 to 8 hours, rather than 15 to 18 hours associated with a level 1 charger.

Fortunately, common sense seems to have prevailed with electric cars and a charging connector standard has been agreed by the manufacturers, so there shouldn’t be any compatibility problems between chargers and EVs.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of The Geekazine Podcast.

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