Driverless trains are moving ahead


A lot of the talk is around self-driving cars, but driverless trains are moving ahead and could overtake them.

While Silicon Valley tech companies and other car manufacturers compete to develop driverless cars, advances in driverless trains continue to evolve unhailed.

The trains that can operate without a supervising driver are able to regulate their own starting and stopping mechanisms and speed. Newer models are even fitted with advanced on-board computers and rechargeable batteries, and some don’t even require rails to run.

However, you cannot ignore the drawbacks. As a form of transportation, driverless trains are not versatile. They cannot navigate roads and are limited to elevated and unobstructed tracks.

Yet self-driving trains may become more and more relevant as municipalities look for greener transportation for last-mile routes between a main transport interchange, such as an airport, and a destination, like a city’s downtown area.

2getthere, a Dutch tech firm, is among the companies trying to evolve versions of driverless trains. Known as automated people movers, 2getthere is working to make these metros more accessible to commuters outside of downtown areas and more attractive to municipalities.

With driverless cars starting to interest urban dwellers, 2getthere saw an opportunity to attract people to its own automated vehicle technology.

“You have to convince people to leave their cars at home,” says Robbert Lohmann, chief operations officer at 2getthere and one of the company’s co-founders.

“The automated transportation system has to provide an added value to the passenger. Whether it’s a quicker trip time, a lower cost, or a combination of both, preferably,” he added.

In April this year, 2getthere announced a project with Dubai, where the world’s largest fleet of non-rail-guided automated people movers will be employed.

The people movers will connect Dubai’s inner-city metro system to one of the city’s planned waterfront developments, Bluewaters.

Each of the 25 automated people movers will carry as many as 24 passengers to complete the 2.5km journey in 4.5 minutes.

The people movers will not operate on a rail track, but rather on an elevated, bi-directional line. The vehicles will also have the ability to navigate public roads, however, this has not yet been specified in the project.

“The Bluewaters application demonstrates the capability of 2getthere’s systems to provide significant capacities, making them a financially attractive alternative for the expensive, traditional rail-guided APM systems at airports and campuses,” says 2getthere CEO and co-founder Carel van Helsdingen.

The line is set to run parallel to a road bridge, competing with ground transportation for traffic. Lohmann says the large fleet size and a new type of rechargeable battery will keep the automated system almost always accessible to its commuters.

The batteries of each vehicle will operate for 1.5 hours between charges, and recharging will only take 10 minutes, maximizing the system’s operating on-time. Additionally, the batteries will help decrease the vehicles’ strain on Dubai’s urban power grid.

If a success, the Bluewaters project may serve as an example to other cities to follow on how automation will bring value to their transportation grids.

“Cities and authorities at this time are still very much trying to come to grips with what automation and automated transit can mean for them,” Lohmann says. “Cities are actively working on getting experience to be able to answer that question better and quicker.”

Capelle aan den Ijssel, a town in Netherlands, already has an automated people mover system in place from 2getthere.

But next year, 2getthere is looking to build a new loop into the city’s line where 2getthere’s automated vehicles will drive alongside road vehicles, sharing public roads with other traffic.

If this trend continues to gain moment, it may overtake driverless cars.

Also read: Drone Taxis: Dubai announces passenger drone plans


Image credit: 2getthere

Technology company putting ‘chip’ implants in employees

microchip placed in employees

A company based in the US has taken the unusual step of being one of the first in the world to implant chips in its employees.

Wisconsin company Three Square Market (32M) sells “micro market technology” running over 2,000 kiosks in break rooms and other locations worldwide.

The company has recently been offering to implant its employees with an RFID microchip the size of a grain of rice.

50 out of the 80 employees of the company reportedly took it up on this offer and accepted the implants voluntarily, which were built by a Swedish company, Biohax International.

The device containing an RFID chip can be used for basic functions such as opening doors around the building or paying for food at the company’s cafeteria.

“We see this as another payment and identification option that not only can be used in our markets but our other self-checkout/self-service applications that we are now deploying which include convenience stores and fitness centres,” said 32M COO Patrick McMullan.

The chip will also allow company employees to use copy machines, log into computers, share business cards and store health information.

“Eventually, this technology will become standardised allowing you to use this as your passport, public transit, all purchasing opportunities, etc.” commented 32M CEO, Todd Westby.

However, this is an employer-owned chip in your body and while an RFID chip doesn’t provide a record of all your movements, such as, your smartphone can, it could easily provide enough data to a curious or unethical supervisor on any employees’ actions.

With this in mind, the implementation of this technology could, in the short-term harm the PR image of an organisation and damage its prospects for attracting high-end talent, at least until use of this tech is normalised.

But, it’s important to keep in mind that the company’s chip program is completely voluntary and directly related to its product offerings.

Still, this is not how technology should progress when becoming more integrated into our biology. Anyone who values their privacy and right to own everything that goes into their body will not agree with this procedure.

A future where employees are pressured to have chips like the ones 32M is offering, even if it’s technically voluntary, is not a step in the right direction.

This is why it’s highly important to establish a new standard as soon as possible, which should include individual ownership and control over all implants, as well as widespread literacy on what exactly they can do and how they work.

Also read: Unusual Staff Benefits: Puppy parental leave & covering wedding costs


Image source: The African Exponent

Voyager 1: Reporting back from space 40 years after its launch


Voyager 1, the only spacecraft ever to travel beyond the solar system, will mark its 40th anniversary next month.

On 5 September 1977, humanities Voyager 1 took to the far-flung corners of the universe, finally leaving the solar system five years ago.

Its twin, Voyager 2, which left Earth on August 20 1977, is expected to enter interstellar space in the next few years.

Both these crafts feature long-lasting nuclear-powered batteries and continue to communicate with the US space agency from billions of miles away.

Distance covered and findings so far

Now almost 13 billion miles away from Earth, Voyager 1 is currently travelling northward, in relation to our world, at over 30,000 mph.

Voyager 1 has told its controllers just how harsh the interstellar environment is, with cosmic radiation levels four times higher than they are around the Earth.

In roughly 40,000 years, the vessel is expected to fly past a star 17.6 light years away called AC+79 3888 in the constellation Ophiuchus.

Voyager 2 is nearly 11 billion miles away from Earth and travelling in the opposite direction, allowing scientists to compare the two regions of space.

You can follow the live Mission Status here.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator at Nasa’s Science Mission Directorate, said: “I believe that few missions can ever match the achievements of the Voyager spacecraft during their four decades of exploration.”

“They have educated us to the unknown wonders of the universe and truly inspired humanity to continue to explore our solar system and beyond.”

Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to have ever flown by all four outer planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Between them, Voyager 2 has made a number of discoveries, including:

  • The first active extra-terrestrial volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io
  • Hints of a subsurface ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europe
  • An Earth-like atmosphere on Saturn’s moon Titan
  • Icy geysers on Neptune’s moon Triton

What next for Voyager 1 and Voyager 2?

US controllers expect to have switched off the last Voyager science spacecraft by 2030, but even then the vessel will continue silently coasting on an endless odyssey that will see them complete an orbit of the Milky Way galaxy every 225 million years.

Voyager project scientist Ed Stone, based at the California Institute of Technology, said: “None of us knew, when we launched 40 years ago, that anything would still be working and continuing on this pioneering journey.

“The most exciting thing they find in the next five years is likely to be something that we didn’t know was out there to be discovered.”

Evolving technologies

Its astronauts have circled the world, walked on the moon, piloted the first winged spacecraft, and constructed the International Space Station.

Fifty years ago, the U.S. Congress introduced newfound technologies to the public. Decades down the line, NASA continues to develop new technologies that have evolved immensely from those used in previous years.

Daring to challenge the impossible and brave new frontiers of exploration and technologies – has brought NASA, and indeed mankind, endless discoveries, revelations, and dramatic moments of pride and wonder.

Exploring the cosmos has transformed medicine, transportation, public safety, recreation, environmental monitoring and resource management, computer technology, industrial productivity, and our perception of the planet on which we live and the universe of which our Earth is one small part.

Also read: Space-based solar power: Powering the earth



Image Source: Motherboard

Bringing back conversation in the Digital Age

business conversation

Phones. Tablets. Laptops. Ironically, are these obsessions hurting, not helping, real communication?

We live in a technological universe in which we’re always communicating. And yet we’ve sacrificed conversation for mere connection.

Leading author and researcher Sherry Turkle has been studying digital culture for more than thirty years.

She discusses how we behave at work, at home, in politics, and in love – finding ways around conversation, tempted by the possibilities of a text or an email in which we don t have to look, listen, or reveal ourselves.

Along with affecting our social behaviour with family and friends, we also retreat to our screens in the workplace.

Business doesn’t happen face to face as often as some would like. Rather, today’s communication relies on conference calls and emails that make it challenging to get to know your colleagues and business partners.

With so many workers worldwide now working in virtual teams, many business relationships depend on technology. And that’s not a bad thing – just as long you’re using the right technologies in the right way.

Here are some innovative ways in which brands are helping bring back conversation.

The world’s most sociable shoe

Designer shoes company Anatomic & Co has created a shoe that helps you take a break from the digital world, allowing you to connect with those around you in person.

In a world addicted to smartphones and distracted by social media notifications, Anatomic and Co created the world’s first sociable shoe that doesn’t just connect you to the Internet – it disconnects you.

The ‘In Good Company’ shoe allows men to switch off their interfering mobile and social app notifications by simply wearing the shoe.

Anatomic & Co redefined the meaning of “smart shoes” by matching style, technology and connectivity in a meaningful way.

The shoe also allows you to personalise your preferences to make it work around your lifestyle with one simple app.

Unplug without missing out

A new app called Offtime doesn’t just identify your bad habits, it also helps you break them.

The app is designed to let you unplug without missing urgent matters. It lets you whitelist contacts who able to pierce through your downtime, like your spouse or children, but otherwise shuts down apps, calls, texts, and emails.

It can also auto-respond to incoming messages on your behalf, while maintaining a careful activity log of everything you missed while away so you can quickly catch up.

Offtime also provides similar insights about your usage of your phone, as its predecessors did, charting out hours spent on the device, and even detailing which individual apps are the largest time-sucks.

And while in Offline mode, the app is smart enough to identify certain patterns – like someone who dials you six times in a row probably has an emergency and needs to get through.

No emails day

Recently, the 7th annual global ‘No Email Day‘ took place on 7th July 2017.

The proposition is simple enough – avoid email for 24 hours so that you can be more productive, social and collaborative at work.

All other means of communication such as phone, text messages, face-to-face, social media, or handwritten notes are allowed. It’s just email that needs to be avoided.

Realistically not everyone is able to go a full 24 hours without checking their email. However, the main purpose of the campaign is to get people to think about how they are communicating and whether it’s the best way to work or if they are creating more work for themselves and recipients.

Innovating to disrupt the energy market


Experts believe the world hit peak coal in the late 1990s. The consensus between industry experts and analysts is that we’ll hit peak oil any time between 2010 and 2030. However, at last week’s Energy News Live Future Energy event, I learned that the UK hit peak horse power in 1922.

It’s a quirky fact and I should credit it to Robert Llewellyn, of Red Dwarf legend and a true energy tech evangelist, who joined me on a panel to discuss the future of energy at the conference.

When discussing the future of energy, the word ‘innovation’ is used a lot. It’s a top answer in buzzword bingo, with ‘disrupter’ running a close second. It’s only natural for businesses to go after something which could transform how and what they do and there is no denying that innovation and energy tech is really changing the energy market. The clear trends I see are:

  • The energy market is moving from a centralised, planned world to a local model.
  • Businesses will move from monthly planning to real-time decisions.
  • There will be flexible two-way models, where users may consume or generate energy depending on market conditions.
  • The definition of an ‘energy supplier’ will become blurred – you could be a supplier to a local community one day, and customer the next.

british gas

There are massive opportunities for businesses to take control of their energy and become more efficient. British businesses are still spending around £20bn a year on energy and we believe that could be brought down by up to 20 per cent through energy efficiency improvements alone.

As part of Centrica, British Gas business is in a unique position in having access to an in-house team of distributed energy experts and traders that can help customers to navigate the complexities of the changing energy landscape and unlock real value from their assets.

A first step for many businesses is to understand exactly how they are using energy – to have better insight. Working with the Panoramic Power team, we can give customers real-time visibility of their electricity use – armed with this data they can identify opportunities to drive down their energy use and/or install new technologies.

With clear insight businesses can better optimise their assets –we want to help customers make the most of what they already have.

I often wonder how many companies and organisations which have back-up generators appreciate that instead of standing idle they could be earning money by exporting power back to the grid. 

We’re also working with the Distributed Energy & Power business to help UK businesses design energy solutions, install and maintain systems to help them generate their own energy on site such as solar, combined heat and power (CHP) and heat pumps.

Investing in on-site generation can reduce costs, generate income, improve resilience and reduce carbon emissions.

It’s clear that innovation and disruptive technology will be critical for the future of any business, and how they harness either new technologies or solutions will set successful organisations apart.

That’s why we joined together with Energy Live News at Leicester Space Centre, with some of the most forward thinking companies in the world, to showcase how the changes happening in the energy system are providing massive opportunities for businesses to take control of energy and become more efficient.

Toyota Mirai: Everything you need to know about the hydrogen car


The Toyota Mirai uses of hydrogen – an important future energy source – to generate power.

The vehicle mixes environmental performance, with the convenience and driving pleasure that is expected of any car.

The Miraiuses Toyota Fuel Cell System (TFCS), which features both fuel cell technology and hybrid technology, and includes Toyota’s new proprietary FC Stack and high-pressure hydrogen tanks.

The car is much more energy efficient than internal combustion engines and emits no CO2 or pollutants when driven.

Drivers can also expect the same level of convenience offered by gasoline engine vehicles, with a generous cruising range and a hydrogen refuelling time of about three minutes.

Are Hydrogen fuel cell cars safe?

Hydrogen cars are perfectly safe. According to the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association’s website, “Hydrogen has been proven to be as safe as or even safer than other flammable fuels such as gasoline or natural gas.”

The precaution however is that, “…hydrogen can leak easily and ignite at relatively low temperature.”

The 2017 Toyota Mirai has proper safety features in place, which are described in a four-point process on how to keep the hydrogen from exploding:

  • Leak-proof tanks hold the hydrogen
  • In case of a collision, sensors stop the flow of hydrogen
  • Any leaked hydrogen is quickly dispersed
  • Hydrogen escapes safely into the atmosphere

Hopefully, these safety measures will change the minds of those who are unsure about hydrogen fuelled cars.

Toyota Mirai Features:

E performance:

The vehicle features a fusion of fuel cell technology with hybrid technology. The system uses Toyota-developed components including the Toyota FC Stack, FC boost converter, and high-pressure hydrogen tanks.

Toyota FC Stack:

The new Toyota FC Stack achieves a maximum output of 114 kW (155 DIN hp) and a world-leading power output density of 3.1 kW/L (2.2 times higher than that of the previous Toyota FCHV-adv limited-lease model).

FC Boost Converter:

A new compact, high-efficiency, high-capacity converter has been developed to boost power generated in the Toyota FC Stack to 650 volts.

High-pressure Hydrogen Tanks:

Tanks with a three-layer structure made of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic and other materials are used to store hydrogen at a very high pressure of 70 MPa (70 megapascals, or approximately 700 bar).

The Japanese car manufacturer is offering three years’ of complimentary fuel or $15,000 worth of hydrogen. New Mirai owners, or lessees, will be provided with a debit card, which they can use at fuelling stations.

You’re not going to find a hydrogen station as easily as a gas station, however, if you do find a hydrogen station, it will only take about five minutes to fill up. On just one refuelling, you’ll be able to travel approximately 312 miles.

Also read: World’s first green energy boat prepares for voyage around the world



Google: £1bn super headquarters planned for Kings Cross


Google recently unveiled its massive plans for its very trendy new £1billion London headquarters that is longer than the Shard is high.

Google unveiled its final plans for its luxury £1billion UK headquarters, which will feature sleep pods, sports pitches and a rooftop field with a 200 metre running track to ensure health and wellbeing for up to 7,000 employees.

The tech giant’s 870,000 square foot building planned for Kings Cross in London will be the first office Google has designed for itself outside of California.

Google has submitted plans for approval to Camden Council, two years after boss Larry Page ordered previous extravagant proposals to be discarded because they were too boring.


The building was redesigned by US-Danish architect BIG and Heatherwick Studio after the tech giant parted ways with previous architect AHMM.

The building is described as the ‘groundscraper’ because it will be as long as the Shard is tall. According to designers, it will be one of the best places to work in the world.


The building is set to include a massive playground, a half Olympic sized swimming pool, wellness and fitness centre with a gym and a huge indoor sports hall for football and basketball.

Its remarkable 300 metre long landscaped roof terrace will have fields, gardens, meadows’ and a rooftop café which will provide free food and drink to allow Google employees to take a break and relax.

Inside, the open plan office will have ‘pause areas’ surrounded by greenery and ‘living walls’ – and sleeping pods if staff need a nap or stay overnight after a busy day.


An events centre will also be used by Google for product launches, talks, presentations and events. Google also anticipates the space to be used by technology-focused organisations and community groups or charities.

Google currently has three main offices in central London – two close to Victoria station and the other near Covent Garden.

Joe Borrett, director of real estate and construction, said: “We are excited to be able to bring our London Googlers together in one campus, with a new purpose-built building that we’ve developed from the ground up.”

“Our offices and facilities play a key part in shaping the Google culture, which is one of the reasons we are known for being amongst the best places to work in the industry”.

Also read: Unusual Staff Benefits: No official work hours


Smartphones: More powerful than all of NASA’s combined computing in 1969

High quality Earth image. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

“Today, your cell phone has more computer power than all of NASA back in 1969, when it placed two astronauts on the moon.” (Michio Kaku)

It seems hard to believe, but this statement is in fact true – a handheld device we all own has greater computational capabilities than the machines used for guiding spacecrafts through outer space some 45 years ago.

Numerous IBM System/ 360 Model 75 mainframe computers, costing around $3.5 million apiece, all while taking up a lot of space were running at NASA at the time.

These machines could perform a couple hundred thousand-addition operations per second, with their total memory capacity in the megabyte range.

As for the 32 kilogram Apollo Guidance Computer, which the Apollo 11 Command Module had on board, it was a machine that had 64 kilobytes of memory and operated at 0.043MHz.

The iPhone 5s, which can easily fit into any pocket, has a CPU running speed of up to 1.3GHz, which can execute millions of calculations per second.

The phone also includes 1GB of RAM, which can easily store the 6 megabytes of code that NASA developed to monitor the status of its spacecrafts and astronauts in 1969.

A couple years later, in 1975, a supercomputer called Cray-1 emerged. It was capable of 80MHz, and generally used for scientific projects, such as simulating the interaction of fluids. This device helped render the CGI for the first Tron movie, which was released in 1982.

However, the Cray-1’s raw computational power of 80 million floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) is nothing compared to the standard graphics unit inside the iPhone 5s, which produces around 77 GFLOPS – almost 1000 times more.

10 years after the Cray-1 was created, the Cray-2 was released in 1990, and was the world’s fastest supercomputer. But even with a performance of around 1.9 GFLOPS, the machine still ranks behind the iPhone when it comes to GFLOPS ratings.

So, when you consider all those amazing manned missions to the moon, and what it required to get there, remember that had the complexities of the final AGC been understood when the NASA began to design it, they would have likely never started, as they would have considered the computer far outside the available technology of the day.

In years to come, people will look at the iPhones and smartphones of today, so obsolete and so out-of-date toys that humans had to deal with to communicate.

Also read: Space-based solar power: Powering the earth



Commute in luxury: hop on board Japan’s Shiki-Shima

ultra-luxurious train

Designed to give you the ultimate luxury experience – the Shiki-Shima train is equipped with a full bar, two-storey suites, and bathtubs made from cypress trees.

The Shiki-Shima is a remarkable creation: a futuristic 10-coach train that runs on 3ft 6in-gauge lines and carries a maximum of 34 passengers, who enjoy the most luxurious experience on the rails.

The name Shiki-Shima means “Island of Four Seasons” and the train takes passengers from Tokyo to the northernmost island Hokkaido.

Shiki-Shima 2

The exclusive train was designed by Ken Kiyoyuki Okuyama, the Japanese auto designer behind various Porsche, Ferrari and Maserati models. The train features two-storey suites, a lounge and panoramic observation cars.

Everything on board aims to rival the experience of a top-end luxury hotel.

Michelin star chefs prepare the food on board and uniformed butlers provide service. After dining on the first night, passengers, passengers can enjoy a live performance of the traditional Japanese “Dance of the Dead”.


The train’s maximum speed is only 70mph, only one-third of that achieved in a normal Bullet Train in Japan. Just like the new Japanese-designed trains for the Great Western Railway in the United Kingdom, the Shiki-Shima is equipped with both electric motors and diesel engines.

The plans for the train were announced by the East Japan Railway Company in 2014 and since then there has been a high demand.

ultra-luxurious train 2

You’ll need a little more than loose change to hop on board the Shiki-Shima. Tickets range from £2,220 to around £7,730 and you can choose between a two or four day trip.

Despite the hefty price tag, the Shiki-Shima has completely sold out until April 2018. In fact, bookings have been so high that they are now allocated by lottery.

You may also want to read:

Drone Taxis: Dubai announces passenger drone plans



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F1 car vs. electric vehicle: which is more energy efficient?

Spanish Grand Prix

Formula 1 plays a big role in the development of next-generation automotive technologies, but are F1 cars more energy efficient than electric vehicles?

You wouldn’t think that a car built to go as fast as possible would be the most efficient car in the world. But, believe it or not, Mercedes 2016 W07 Hybrid Formula 1 race car model was in fact more energy efficient than the average electric vehicle on the road.

According to a report in 2016, the thermal efficiency of Mercedes’ class-leading hybrid Formula 1 engine was over 45 per cent.

Laurence Edmonson, a Formula 1 editor at ESPN, argues that a Formula 1 car is greener, since in the U.S., “at least 66 per cent of electricity comes from coal- and oil-fired energy stations, with just 13 per cent coming from renewables.”

Coal and oil power stations have a thermal efficiency of roughly 33 per cent, meaning the power used to drive an electric car is likely coming from a less efficient source compared to a Formula 1 engine.

Former Mercedes technical director, Paddy Lowe, says: “Electric cars are seen as green and the solution to all carbon emissions, but they are absolutely not.”

“It all depends where you get the electricity from and in a typical country with a regular profile of electricity generation, a Formula One car is massively more efficient than any electric car being charged from a power plant which is burning hydrocarbons. It is incredible that we’ve done that, but nobody is really talking about it that much.”

He added: “And while we have already achieved 45 per cent, we are not even stopping and so we will probably in two or three years’ time achieve 50 per cent efficiency. When you bear in mind that road cars have been stuck around 30 per cent for the last 50 years that is just mind blowing.”

Although this is hardly a direct comparison, the key fact here is that F1 cars can help push the development of energy-efficient technologies – influencing the production of new vehicles.

Spanish Grand Prix 2

Mercedes new WO8

With the Spanish Grand Prix just around the corner, the three leading F1 teams Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull are all bringing big upgrades for the first European race of the season in Barcelona.

Andy Cowell, the head of the Mercedes engine division says that they have put a lot of effort into improving the cooling system in the new W08 to make sure the most efficient package possible.

“One of the consequences of having an extra 5kg of fuel and an extra 10 per cent used per lap is that the waste energy – the engine is very efficient but not 100 per cent efficient, so there is some waste energy – how do you get rid of that waste energy?”

“We have put a lot of effort into the cooling system on the engine to get that waste energy out of the piston, out of the cylinder head, out of the crankcase and out of all the bearings, transmit that to the car and the cooling packages on the car need to increase as well.”

The Spanish Grand Prix will reveal the different upgrades of the F1 cars, and if Mercedes energy efficient engine will pay off for them.


You may also want to read:

Ferrari looks to piston innovation and 3D printing for F1 2017




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