Category Archives: Emerging Technology

Police departments nationwide are encrypting their radio communications, just as the public is demanding transparency

Radio “Scanners” have long been used by media, press, and volunteer responders[1] to listen to public safety communications in the U.S. Now, police departments nationwide are digitally encrypting their radio communications, cutting off access – just as the public seeks greater transparency and accountability from the police.

Portland police started encrypting officers’ radio communications June 3, days after nightly protests against racism and police brutality began. The switch came without public input or notice.

Source: Despite push for police accountability, PPB, local agencies latest in U.S. to encrypt radio communication – oregonlive.com

[1] In the past I have been a volunteer firefighter, a search and rescue volunteer, a Red Cross Disaster Services volunteer, and also an ARES/RACES communications volunteer. I often left a scanner running to have a “heads up” on potential call outs – this was especially the case for SAR, Red Cross and ARES/RACES communications in support of public safety agencies. As police – and some fire departments – encrypt their communications, this harms volunteers ability to respond. (Volunteers respond from their homes, don’t have red lights and sirens, and preparing to respond to a likely call out can save time.) Journalists are also cut off and this harms their ability to report on events occurring in their communities. Secrecy also harms public relations, obviously. But the truth is, scanner listeners are generally supportive of their local public safety agencies; cut them off and police lose that support.

Some agencies are encrypting their communications but distributing a non-encrypted audio stream on the Internet with a delay, ranging from 2 to 30 minutes.

The Adjustment Factor Tesla Uses to Get Its Big EPA Range Numbers

EPA mileage estimates are sort of bizarre. In EVs, once the range is 200+ miles, the more important factor is probably speed of fast recharging and availability of DC fast charging networks.

But looking at the “range” value is probably what most consumers focus on when making decisions. Tesla has mastered the “Adjustment factors” to get higher EPA ratings.

Source: The Adjustment Factor Tesla Uses to Get Its Big EPA Range Numbers

I used an online tool to calculate charging options for several EVs traveling over a specific route. One model, we will call Model 1, required 3 stops for 30 minutes each, plus one stop for about 45 minutes, to reach the destination. It’s maximum charging rate is about 50 kwh. That’s just over 2 hours of charging time.

One of the other cars is the Tesla Model 3 – which has access to high current DC fast charging stations along the route at up to 150 kwh.

Clearly, the Model 3 can be re-charged at a much faster rate than the “Model 1”.

In fact, the Model 3 required about three 10-12 minutes DCFS stops at 150 kwh stations, followed by one 25 minute charge near the end.

“Model 1” had over 2 hours of charging time on the route while the Model 3 had just under one hour.

The ability of the vehicle to accept the truly high powered chargers – and the availability of fast charging networks at high current makes a big difference.

Another factor is EVs do their fastest charging in sort of the bottom half of the battery capacity. Once the charge cycle refills past 50-60%, the charge rate starts to drop. It takes longer – a lot longer – to charge up the last 20% than it did to charge from 20-40%!

This means you’ll recharge to 70%, drive down to 20%, recharge back to 70% – and so on, to minimize charge time. But that is only possible if DC fast chargers are located in the right places along your route.

Battery capacity, the charging rate and charge curve, and availability of fast charging stations – all factor into your ability to drive long distances in a given amount of time.

I’ve concluded a charge rate of at least 75 kwh is going to be an important feature to make EVs practical for my sort of long distance travel here in the west where distances can be quite long. The vehicles charging rate, the charging curve, and your availability of fast chargers should all be considered when evaluating EVs.

Honda introduces the Honda e, an electric vehicle targeted at city driving (mostly)

The model will only be sold in Europe and Japan, where it goes on sale in late October. Honda expects annual sales of only around 10,000 in Europe, and 1,000 at home, where it will also introduce the model into its car-sharing fleet.

The automaker said it had no plans to market the car in North America or China, its biggest markets where SUVs dominate.

Source: Honda goes small with first mass-produced all-electric car – Reuters

Car makers have successfully persuaded the U.S. consumers that bigger is better – people only buy huge SUVs and pick up trucks in the U.S.

VW has introduced the ID.3 EV but it will not be available in the U.S., either.

Instead, VW will launch the ID.4 next month – a larger (mini SUV?) electric vehicle.

Too bad for those of us in the U.S. I drive a compact Honda Fit and love it. Would not mine having a future EV that is a similar size. The Bolt EV is nearly a clone of the Honda Fit – but limits its charge rate to about 50-55 kwh, and ratchets down the charging rate after about 50-60% of battery charge is reached. That means taking a Bolt EV on a long distance trip requires twice as much charging time as other options that accept 100 kwh or higher charging power.

Renewable energy confronts reality in California

Millions of homes in California are enduring rolling black outs. The power system operator acknowledged that as demand spiked, due to high temperatures and AC demand – they lost 1 gigawatt of wind energy and nearly 1/2 gigawatt of a conventional power plant.

Peak energy use occurs late in the day – when solar power production is in decline relative to peak demand. Related – the internal resistance of solar panels goes up in high temperatures. From personal experience, I lose up to 10% of potential solar array power production during extreme heat events versus “normal” temperatures.

Because solar and wind cannot be “revved” up on demand, like conventional power plants, the utilities have to reduce demand by shutting off power to customers.

This is a well known engineering problem –  one that California  pretends does not exist. This week reality and physics intervened and they discovered that it does actually exist. Yesterday, Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged that California’s heavy reliance on renewable energy is a significant factor in their current rolling shutdowns.

Continue reading Renewable energy confronts reality in California

AM radio getting killed off by electric vehicles?

Newer Tesla EVs and the BMW i3 do not provide AM radios. The Bolt EV does but there are reports that reception may be poor (they might be using an attenuator to knock down electric motor noise).

In addition to the potential electrical noise problem of EVs, car makers want to push you into a monthly subscription for Sirius Radio via satellite. Or to stream radio via cellular data. Unfortunately I live in the eastern half of a state that has very, very, very limited cellular service coverage – literally, half the state is a cellular free hole – no service.

An estimated 31 million Americans tuned into AM radio every day in 2016.

The next logical step may be to remove FM radio support. They will require you use cellular data streaming or satellite radio.

The argument is that AM is “old” technology and should just go away. They don’t care what actual customers and consumers think.

Source: Radio Reception | Chevy Bolt EV Forum

The “hovercover” – very interesting concept

Throughout the week commencing June 8th, Griffon Hoverwork & Stuart Canvas Group successfully delivered and installed…

Posted by Griffon Hoverwork on Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Interesting concept, using hovercraft-like technology to create a “floating” covered area on a sensitive surface. See the above for more information.

I am a hovercraft enthusiast. I just finished re-coating the surface of my 14 foot hovercraft from its original blue color to Piper Cub Yellow. This is a homemade hovercraft, covered in aircraft fabric on the top surface, and powered by a 16 hp lawn mower engine. Top speed is about 25 mph. Total weight is about 300 pounds and can carry 2 adults (3 adults if not too big and you are patient about getting up on the air bubble).

The original blue covering was peeling and cracking. That was painstakingly removed from the old fabric over a period of weeks. The fabric was repaired (several torn sections had to be fixed), cleaned, vacuumed, re-shrunk (heat shrinkable fabric), and then coated with an adhesive layer, then 3 coats of a “filler” layer and ultraviolet light protectant, and then five coats of Piper Cub Yellow. I used the Stewart Systems water-based coating system, rather than the traditional nitrate dope and butyrate dope method. Really liked using the Stewart Systems products, their tech support was very helpful, their online downloadable e-book is excellent – and I would recommend their products for similar fabric coverings.

When operated with 2 people, the hovercraft exerts a force of perhaps 7 to 9 pounds per square foot – vastly less than a person standing on their feet! A 200 pound person is putting 200 pounds on the ground – over may be 1/2 square foot of surface, by comparison!

EV Charging issues

If you live in California, you can pretty much charge any EV, nearly anywhere. About 1/3d of all EV charging stations in the U.S. – are in California.

This is not the case, though, in other parts of the country. The other 49 states have only 2/3ds of all available charging stations in the country!

I have been researching EVs since last fall. One EV I like uses the J-1772 standard plug for Level 2 charging (up to about 7 kwh or may be 25 miles per hour of charging) and the CCS/SAE (or Combo) standard for up to 50 kwh charging (up to 90 miles in 30 minutes of charging).

Looking around, I discovered in my area, CCS/SAE chargers do not exist. In fact, there are none at all in my town. There are 4 chargers at one location in the next town, 20 miles to the south, and 1 about 35 miles to the north.

If I were to head south from my house, the next fast charging station is about 230 miles down the road – which may or may not be do-able due to crossing mountains. The alternative is to stop for quite a bit at Level 2 charger. Do-able, but not a quick trip.

Continue reading EV Charging issues

“Low code” app development surges amongst pandemic

The shift to remote work has led some companies to come up with quick digital solutions for tasks that have become hard to tackle during the coronavirus pandemic.

Source: Emptying Offices Prompt Adoption of Low-Code to Build Work Apps

– WSJ

“Low code” means using “drag and drop” tools to create software applications. These systems make the creation of user interfaces easy, and provide functionality through similar drag and drop interfaces. We used to call this “Rapid Application Development” or RAD.

I have long though future software would be created with advanced tools that simplify the development process, particularly for straight forward applications of modest size. MIT App Inventor, and Scratch, are examples of drag and drop programming interfaces. Scratch is for teaching programming concepts to children. App Inventor leverages the Scratch concept into developing mobile apps for Android. You can learn about Microsoft’s Power Apps feature here.

Covid tracking apps summarized

When people mention “Covid tracking apps” it would be useful to first define what is meant by “Covid tracking app”. There are many approaches in use and many that are proposed. The various methods are remarkably different. When you hear that “Country X used a tracking app and they have fewer cases”, this does not mean they used a tracking app like you have in mind.

Most apps use location data provided by the cellular network itself or on GPS/Wi-Fi position fixes stored on the phone and shared directly with public health authorities.  Some use the data for contact tracing, coupled with free Covid-19 testing, while others use location data to enforce strict geo-fenced quarantine procedures that if violated, may result in arrest and imprisonment. Few existing apps use  close contact tracing based on Bluetooth.

Contact tracing apps, by themselves, appear to provide little value. As we will see, to be useful there needs to be supporting infrastructure outside the app – such as Korea offering Covid-19 testing to those in close contact. And the app must be installed by nearly all smart phone users (and this will miss about 15% of phones that are not smart phones). Most countries are not using  phone-based apps to track location – they are using the phone network to report locations on 100% of phones in use, which is very different than voluntary installation of a tracking  app.

Consequently, when you hear someone refer to “contact tracing app”, you need to ask them to define what they mean by “contact tracing app”.

What follows is a review of various “contact tracing” apps used in different countries.

Continue reading Covid tracking apps summarized