The past month has been an active and not always very positive one on the news front. At times when politics and events around the world can seem to be broadly negative, it can be nice to remind ourselves of ‘good news’ going on in the background. Over the past few months, we have shared quite a lot of positive technological advances on our Twitter and Google+ feeds. In this blog post, we have included some of our favourites for you to enjoy.
1. Using solar power for air conditioning
A large shopping centre in Victoria, Australia was in the news recently as its owners are using solar-concetrating thermal technology to power the centre’s air conditioning system. The innovative system heats and cools air within the building, without having to introduce external air, using drying wheels to act as dehumidifiers and remove moisture from the air. Heat is captured in the winter to hear the centre’s ambient air, and provides power to cool the centre in the summer. Researchers testing the system believe that it will drastically reduce electricity requirements, while also being about 40% smaller than a comparable air conditioning system.
2. Using lasers to uncover our past
Airborne laser scanners have recently been used to reveal several undiscovered cities hidden in jungles in Cambodia. Using a helicopter equipped with state-of-the-art Lidar technology to survey the landscape, it was possible to generate images of the ground which filter out surface vegetation and reveal hidden details on the surface. In this case, the technology allowed researchers to make great advances in our knowledge of Angkorian civilisation.
3. Transforming disabled people’s lives
Advances have been made in ‘assistive technology‘, which enables disabled people to do things that would have previously not been possible. Recent examples include ‘EyeGaze technology’, which allows people to control the movement of a mouse on a computer screen using just their eyes. Other versions allow users to control the mouse with their head, knee, foot or mouth. Verbal communication technology such as ‘Liberator’ also allows disabled people to communicate verbally using just eye movements to send commands to a computer.
4. Helping female refugees
Recognising that half of refugees are women, a groups of coders, designers, NGOs and academics have been working to develop technology that can help to educate and provide information to female refugees. The development of apps is a key activity, with individual projects linked to NGOs to ensure delivery. Hababy, an app that provides prenatal and postnatal information for refugee women, is one example.
5. Driving on solar-powered roadways
An idea initially mooted a while ago, the notion of ‘solar roadways‘ is starting to become a reality. It was announced this month that the Missouri Department of Transportation in the USA plans to become the first US public highway department to test the technology. By collecting the substantial solar energy that hits surfaces such as roads, the idea would give roads a dual purpose: both a part of modern transport infrastructure and a ‘smart’ power grid.