Exciting News...

I haven't blogged in a while, which seems to be the way I start every post here...

Radweb logo

If you've visited my nameplate (alasdairsmith.org.uk) site in the last few months you might have seen a big banner at the top, shamelessly promoting myself :) I'm really pleased to announce that I can now take it down! For the next year, I'm officially part of the small but growing team at Radweb. We (feels weird to write that) create awesome stuff for the web, from WordPress and Magento sites to full blown, built from the ground up, web apps.

I'm going to mainly be working on InventoryBase, a brand new web app that is designed to help landlords keep track of their inventories. We just released a promo video, with an insanely catchy tune that's been playing all week in the office:

InventoryBase is built on BackboneJS, with a backend built from FuelPHP. This is a pretty big step up in level of coding complexity for me, and I'm really excited to dive in some more. At the moment it looks like I'll be full time on this project at least until September, to help bring it fully up to it's potential.

In addition, I'm going to open-source my big coursework project that I've been working on for the last couple of months. Check the blog post, or view the source code.

PS. Try the super-secret cheat code on inventorybase.com - press up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A on your keyboard to see what I mean.

Solar Cellphone Towers in India to Save 5 Million Tons of CO2 and $1.4 Billion

Indian Solar Powered Cellphone Tower

India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is poised to mandate that telecom operators power their cellphone towers with solar panels instead of the diesel generators that are currently used. This may not seem like such a big deal until you think about the numbers - India has approximately 500 million mobile phone subscribers (more than the population of any country except China) and still continues to be one of the two fastest growing telecom markets. That means that even more cellphone towers are going to be set up in the near future. According to Cleantechnica, the switch over to solar power translates to a reduction of 5 million tons of CO2 emissions as well as a savings of $1.4 billion!

(via inhabitat.com)

Why can't we (in Britain and the West in general) do this? Seems like such a stupid move not to! Or is it simply the the huge companies that control our world are so short sighted they can't invest in the future - its a saving of $1.4 BILLION.

Or this for that matter:

Korea famously invested in its national broadband infrastructure and was able to vault itself into a position as a world leader for mobile, Internet and consumer electronics innovation. Can the country do the same for the smart grid? It will certainly be spending the money to try - according to Pike Research the Korean government and private industry expect to spend $15.8 billion on building out smart grid infrastructure in the country between 2009 and 2016.

Automate Your Home Using ioBridge and Twitter

Earlier this week we brought you the story of the house that twitters. In this post we explore another experimental system that uses Twitter to automate tasks. Matt Morey, by day an engineer for Texas Instruments, has developed a two-way, home automation application using Twitter and ioBridge. We all know about Twitter, the now massively popular 140 character messaging service. ioBridge will be new to many. It's a web platform for remote control and monitoring, which bills itself (no doubt with tongue in cheek) as "one step closer to Skynet."

Those with sensitive natures about the Singularity are advised to look away now. For the rest of you, let's see what Matt has built using these two services.

ioBridge skynet

Using Twitter and ioBridge, Morey has built a house monitoring system which allows him to control lights, LCDs, temperature, and more.

Matt's office twitter

Many of the Twitter automation apps we've seen up till now send data from objects to a Twitter account - for example this Twitter account for a toaster, which sends a tweet every time the toaster is used.

However Morey's app does the opposite: he controls objects by updating his Twitter account. For example he can send a message to an LCD screen, turn on lights, and take a temperature or light reading. He also has a Twitter account at @MattsOffice that updates with the temperature and light readings. So this is truly a two-way system.

Here's a video showing this in action:

But wait, there's more. Morey has also developed an extension that allows you to see the (admittedly unexciting) view from his office by sending him a tweet. This automatically takes a photo from a digital camera and posts it on TwitPic.

For all of these processes, ioBridge acts as a gateway between the home objects and Twitter.

More About ioBridge

ioBridge is a company based in Gainesville, Florida. It was born because the founders saw "a demand for interfacing real world devices with the web." Their first beta release was in November 2008 and since then the company has been busy building out its product line and watching what developers like Matt Morey do with them.

In an email to ReadWriteWeb, ioBridge's Hans Scharler explained that "we make a DIY (do it yourself) gateway for sensors, controls, home automation, etc. that requires no programming." He claimed that users of all skills can "get started quickly and start making things." Primarily what ioBridge enables is sending data to - or controlling objects from - social networks, email, text messaging. Engadget has a list of other recent projects that use ioBridge, all of them showcasing the beginnings of automation via the Web.

Skynet? Probably not. But a fun way to experiment with automating your home or office using the Internet, yes!

(via readwriteweb.com)

This is pretty awesome, especially considering it was posted back in July 09. I've seen similar products before - aiming to control everything in the house. These are destined to fail though, because nobody wants to long into a website to close each individual curtain. More general controls like "keep living room warm" or or "switch on air-con in kitchen at 6:00" are needed and that is where tools like Twitter are really useful. A quick message that is more like a conversation rather than a laborious list of things to be done.

The best gadget from CES 2010 - WiFi signals harvested to make electricity

Airnergy Wifi Hotspot

By Evan Ackerman

This thing is, seriously, the highlight of CES for me (so far) this year. 3D TVs and eBook readers are fine, but there's nothing amazing about them.

The Airnergy Charger is amazing.

This little box has, inside it, some kind of circuitry that harvests WiFi energy out of the air and converts it into electricity. This has been done before, but the Airnergy is able to harvest electricity with a high enough efficiency to make it practically useful: on the CES floor, they were able to charge a BlackBerry from 30% to full in about 90 minutes, using nothing but ambient WiFi signals as a power source.

The Airnergy has a battery inside it, so you can just carry it around and as long as you're near some WiFi, it charges itself. Unlike a solar charger, it works at night and you can keep it in your pocket. Of course, proximity to the WiFi source and the number of WiFi sources is important, but at the rate it charges, if you have a home wireless network you could probably just leave anywhere in your house overnight and it would be pretty close to full in the morning.

Airenergy Wifi Hotspot

Here is the really, really unbelievable part: RCA says that the USB charger will be available this summer for $40, and a battery with the WiFi harvesting technology will be available soon after. I mean, all kinds of people are pushing wireless charging, but this would hands down take the cake... It doesn't need a pad and it’s charging all the time, for free, in just about any urban environment.

(via ohgizmo.com)

I am totally blown away by this - by far and away the best thing I have seen coming out of CES 2010

In the YouTube video they state that they wish to squash all the technology down into a mobile phone-sized device. Now that'd be pretty cool - your phone charged overnight by the WiFi in your house.

Or on a different scale if you could increase efficiency over great distances then wireless power, for say your car, would not be out of the question. And as a bonus you'd have a wireless network to cover the country.

UPDATE 12/1/10

This article on Boing Boing says that it would take 34.5 YEARS to recharge the Blackberry in the video. The simple math seems sound but it feels a bit bold to say it recharges in 90 mins, but in reality it takes 34.5 years!

UPDATE 13/1/10

This article on CrunchTech suggests that the technology does exist and it would work

Is AudioBoo's BrowserBoo the future of radio?

About 10 days ago we tentatively rolled out the ability to record in your desktop browser or upload pre existing audio files. That now works with all audioboo accounts at audioboo.fm.

What we're now testing, for Pro users (currently The Royal Opera House and Open University but a few more are on the way), is the ability to embed that functionality within their own websites. So, for example, if you're a radio station and want to easily allow people to send you audio that you can moderate before publishing on your own site and at audioboo.fm. Or a news site that wants a centralised account to which named reporters can easily publish too.

We're currently implementing this as a pop up, which can cause all kinds of problems in certain browsers. So, I've embedded the functionality here in order to be able to test it in as many different browsers and operating systems as possible. You can too, if you like! Note: for this test, you'll need to be logged into your account at audioboo.fm.

(via blog.audioboo.fm)

Looks like you'll have to go to the website to see the embed.

This is looking more and more like the future of audio. AudioBoo for those who don't know is a free audio recording/uploading/distributing app and website. You sign up, you download the app, record a Boo and then upload it to the website where it's autoposted to wherever you like.

The big step foward, for me anyway is the BrowserBoo - the ability to upload any audio file on your computer or to record straight into the browser. It enables anyone to AudioBoo, not just those with smartphones (like me!). This new feature (embeddable uploader) makes it easy for the public to record audio, for example radio stations. I can see performance halls (eg Royal Opera House) using it to get people's opinions and then using that for promotion. I can see it being really useful for podcasts - audio comments are like gold to them, and this makes it really easy.

The future of audio? I think so...