Tag Archives: Technology

What Happens to ‘Smart Cities’ When the Internet Dies?

By Lee Gardner – One of the chief criticisms of smart city technology is that it’s very generic. These technologies are very much off-the-shelf solutions—and “solutions” in quotation marks, because a lot of the smart-city stuff views cities as a problem that needs to be solved.

My view—and Bristol is a good example of this—is that cities exist as a bunch of different conflicts between different priorities and different communities and different infrastructures, and those conflicts are unique to every city. The idea that a top-down solution can be dropped onto every city is really dangerous.

One thing that cities and the internet have in common, it seems, is that they both embody these contradictory impulses people have to be together, and also to maintain privacy.

What’s public and what’s private is increasingly blurred by technology and the internet, and the privatization of public spaces is an issue that the book was trying to tap. What were previously common spaces, or public spaces, are increasing corporatized, even if just by advertising or through surveillance technologies.

In most cities in the world, there’s very little regulation. The use of surveillance technology by the city itself might be regulated, but it’s less regulated for people that own property.

That idea that you are being watched, that you don’t have privacy in public spaces, which sounds, I guess, oxymoronic in some ways—I think we should be allowed to have an anonymity in public spaces to a certain extent. That’s a real conflict, and I hope the book makes that something that people think about.

We buy into that saying that if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide. I think that’s an incredibly dangerous expression, because it simplifies the surveillance argument down to one about law and order. I come from the perspective that that kind of law and order is probably incredibly dangerous in itself. But it’s more to the fact that we are being surveyed for our behavior and our data rather than for moralistic or legal reasons. more>

Updates from Siemens

Bearings manufacturer meets stringent accuracy requirements while improving productivity
Siemens – Humankind has been trying to improve the mobility of people and materials by reducing friction between moving parts for centuries. The creators of the pyramids and Stonehenge were able to move massive structures by placing cylindrical wooden rollers beneath great weights to reduce the coefficient of friction and the force required to move them. These world wonders were made possible by some of the earliest known applications of bearings.

Modern bearings with races and balls were first documented in the fifteenth century by Leonardo da Vinci for his helicopter model. Since then, the design, mobility and precision of bearings have developed dramatically in many application domains. In the semiconductor and medical device industries, miniaturization and increasing product complexity have revolutionized motion systems and their components. The precision and accuracy of motion systems are highly dependent on bearings assemblies and how they are integrated into systems. Precisie Metaal Bearings (PM-Bearings) is one of only a few manufacturers in the world that provide high-precision linear bearings.

PM-Bearings specializes in the design and manufacture of high-precision linear bearings, motion systems and positioning stages, and supplies the high-end semiconductor, medical device and machine tool industries. The company was founded in 1966 as a manufacturer of linear bearings, and has expanded to include design, manufacturing and assembly of custommade multi-axis positioning stages with complete mechatronic integration. Located in the Netherlands at Dedemsvaart, the company employs 140 people and supplies customers worldwide.

The company’s products range from very small bearings (10 millimeters in length) up to systems with footprints of 1.2 to 1.5 square meters with stroke lengths of one meter. The portfolio encompasses linear motion components including precision slides, positioning tables and bearings stages. PM-Bearings is part of the PM group, along with other companies specialized in hightech machining. Its global customer base extends from Silicon Valley to Shenzhen.

To maintain a competitive edge, PM-Bearings knew that complete control of the product realization, from design to delivery, was essential. This is why the company chose a comprehensive set of solutions from product lifecycle management (PLM) specialist Siemens PLM Software. These include NX™ software for computer-aided design (CAD), Simcenter™ software for performance prediction, NX CAM for computer-aided manufacturing and Teamcenter® software for PLM to make certain that all stakeholders use the same data and workflows to make the right decisions. more>


Why Autonomous Vehicle Developers Are Embracing Open Source

By Chris Wiltz – GM Cruise is turning loose its tool for autonomous vehicle visualization to the open source community for a wider range of applications, including robotics and automation. But its only the latest in a series of similar developments to happen over the course of the year.

This time the General Motors-owned Cruise is open-sourcing Webviz – a web browser-based tool for data visualization in autonomous vehicles and robotics. Webviz is an application capable of managing the petabytes of data from various autonomous vehicle sensors (both in simulation and on the road) and creating 2D and 3D charts, logs, and more in a customizable user interface.

Cruise is making that tool available to engineers in the autonomous vehicle space and beyond. “Now, anyone can drag and drop any [Robot Operating System (ROS)] bag file into Webviz to get immediate visual insight into their robotics data,” Esther Weon, a software engineer at Cruise, wrote in a Medium post.

Difficulties in testing autonomous vehicles have played in a key factor in major automakers rethinking their timetables on the delivery of fully-autonomous vehicles. Simulation is becoming an increasingly common solution in the face of time-consuming real-world road tests. But simulation comes with its own challenges – particularly around data and analysis. A robust autonomous vehicle is going to have to be intelligent enough to navigate and respond to all of the myriad of conditions that a human could encounter – everything from bad weather and road hazards to mechanical failures and even bad drivers.

To create and train vehicles to deal with all of these scenarios requires more data than any one company could feasibly gather on its own in a reasonable time frame.

By open sourcing their tools, companies are looking to leverage the wider community to take part in some of the heavy lifting. more>

How the marvel of electric light became a global blight to health

By Richard G ‘Bugs’ Stevens – Light pollution is often characterized as a soft issue in environmentalism. This perception needs to change. Light at night constitutes a massive assault on the ecology of the planet, including us. It also has indirect impacts because, while 20 per cent of electricity is used for lighting worldwide, at least 30 per cent of that light is wasted. Wasted light serves no purpose at all, and excessive lighting is too often used beyond what is needed for driving, or shopping, or Friday-night football.

The electric light bulb is touted as one of the most significant technological advancements of human beings. It ranks right up there with the wheel, control of fire, antibiotics and dynamite. But as with any new and spectacular technology, there are invariably unintended consequences. With electric light has come an obliteration of night in much of the modern world; both outside in the city, and indoors during what was once ‘night’ according to the natural position of the Sun.

Life has evolved for several billion years with a reliable cycle of bright light from the Sun during the day, and darkness at night. This has led to the development of an innate circadian rhythm in our physiology; that circadian rhythm depends on the solar cycle of night and day to maintain its precision. During the night, beginning at about sunset, body temperature drops, metabolism slows, hunger abates, sleepiness increases, and the hormone melatonin rises dramatically in the blood. This natural physiological transition to night is of ancient origin, and melatonin is crucial for the transition to proceed as it should.

We now know that bright, short-wavelength light – blue light – is the most efficient for suppressing melatonin and delaying transition to night-time physiology; meanwhile, dimmer, longer-wavelength light – yellow, orange, and red, from a campfire or a candle, for example – has very little effect. Bright light from the Sun contains blue light, which is a benefit in the morning when we need to be alert and awake; but whether we are outdoors or indoors, when bright, blue light comes after sunset, it fools the body into thinking it’s daytime.

The current ‘lightmare’ traces back to the 1950s, when a road-building frenzy, including construction of the Interstate Highway System, aimed to solve the problem of congestion in the United States. But the roads turned out to increase congestion and pollution, including light pollution, too. In retrospect, the result was preordained: build a bigger freeway, and more people will use it to the point where there is more congestion than before the new road.

To understand the phenomenon, economists developed the idea of induced demand – in which the supply of a commodity actually creates demand for it. So the more roads one builds, the more people drive on them, and the more that congestion results. more>

Updates from Siemens

Well control equipment: Metal hat, Fireproof coveralls… CFD
nullBy Gaetan Bouzard – In the Oil & Gas industry, the integration of possible risk linked with well control — such as subsea plume, atmospheric dispersion, fire and explosion — is critical for minimizing impact on the entire system or on operations efficiency, and for ensuring worker health and safety. Risk to system integrity must be prevented at the design phase, but also addressed in case hazards happen along equipment lifetime or system in operation.

Last September 25th, Mr. Alistair E. Gill, from company Wild Well Control demonstrates the value of advanced structural and fluid dynamics mechanics simulation for well controls, emergency response and planning, as part of a Live Webinar organized by Siemens and Society of Petroleum Engineers. In this article I will try to summarize his presentation. To have more insights feel free to watch our On-Demand Webinar.

To be honest when talking about well control for Oil & Gas industry, people usual conception is that some disaster happened and guys wearing protections are trying to light off a big fire. Actually companies such as Wild Well Control are using modern and innovative techniques as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulation to support practical team on a well control incident trying to keep asset integrity at the same time.

Mr. Gill provides several examples to demonstrate simulation techniques that were used from

  • Subsea plume and gas dispersion modeling to understand where hydrocarbons go in the event of a blow out
  • Radiant heat modeling in case of a fire
  • Erosion modeling
  • Thermal as well as Structural analysis

There is basically three major categories of simulation used, starting with everything related to the flow within the well bore, looking at kick tolerance, dynamic kill or bull heading; next anything to do with 3D flow using CFD simulation which is the main focus of this article; finally structural analysis using Finite Element modeling. more>


Scholarly publishing is broken. Here’s how to fix it

By Jon Tennant – The world of scholarly communication is broken. Giant, corporate publishers with racketeering business practices and profit margins that exceed Apple’s treat life-saving research as a private commodity to be sold at exorbitant profits. Only around 25 per cent of the global corpus of research knowledge is ‘open access’, or accessible to the public for free and without subscription, which is a real impediment to resolving major problems, such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Recently, Springer Nature, one of the largest academic publishers in the world, had to withdraw its European stock market floatation due to a lack of interest. This announcement came just days after Couperin, a French consortium, canceled its subscriptions to Springer Nature journals, after Swedish and German universities canceled their Elsevier subscriptions to no ill effect, besides replenished library budgets. At the same time, Elsevier has sued Sci-Hub, a website that provides free, easy access to 67 million research articles. All evidence of a broken system.

The European Commission is currently letting publishers bid for the development of an EU-wide open-access scholarly publishing platform. But is the idea for this platform too short-sighted?

What the Commission is doing is essentially finding new ways of channeling public funds into private hands.

At the same time, due to the scale of the operation, it prevents more innovative services from getting a foothold into the publishing world. This is happening at the same time as these mega-publishers are moving into controlling the entire research workflow – from ideation to evaluation. Researchers will become the provider, the product, and the consumer. more>

Updates from Ciena

SD-WAN Gets (More) Real for Service Providers

By Kevin Wade – Interest in Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN), which is designed to offer enterprises cohesive end-to-end visibility and control of their multi-site WAN, continues to grow. Although SD-WAN was originally envisioned to give enterprises a ‘DIY’ approach to WAN management, most industry analysts and experts agree that managed SD-WAN services are the predominant consumption model for enterprises today, and into the foreseeable future.

The trend toward managed SD-WAN services is good news for service providers, many of which were initially cautious that SD-WAN might reduce their revenues and/or weaken their relationships with key business customers. To the contrary, SD-WAN services have emerged as a rapidly growing new source of revenues, as well as one that offers service providers new opportunities to improve the customer experience.

I’ve been following the SD-WAN movement closely since nearly the beginning, and have been pleased to see some recent developments that signal the increasing maturity of SD-WAN services.

Without a doubt, SD-WAN services are becoming more established and accepted. And while Blue Planet isn’t inherently an SD-WAN solution, the deployment of SD-WAN services is one of Blue Planet’s biggest drivers and most common use cases. more>


Updates from Siemens

Gruppo Campari: Brand spirits leader digitizes its business operations with the SIMATIC IT suite
Using Siemens technology, Gruppo Campari has created a unified repository for all product specifications and increased the efficiency of product development and manufacturing processes
Siemens – With so much talk about securing the Italian control of key businesses, a few companies play offense and take the Italian lifestyle and “Made in Italy” all over the world. Among them is Gruppo Campari, which closed 26 acquisitions in the spirits industry in the past two decades to become the world’s sixth player, with over 50 premium and super-premium brands. Besides aperitifs of international renown (Campari, Aperol), the portfolio includes bitter liqueurs (Averna, Cynar, Braulio) and spirits (Skyy, Grand Marnier, GlenGrant, Wild Turkey, Appleton). In 2016 the group exceeded €1.7 billion in consolidated revenues, with most sales in Americas and the Southern Europe, Middle East and Africa (SEMEA) region.

With each acquisition, Gruppo Campari needs to integrate new products, plants and assets into its operations management systems. Recent examples include J. Wray & Nephew, a company with more than 2,000 employees producing Jamaica’s 225-yearold top rum Appleton Estate, Grand Marnier in France acquired in 2016 and Bulldog London Dry Gin in 2017. Currently, the group operates 58 sites: 18 owned factories, 22 co-packers and 18 distribution centers, counting up to thousands of materials and specifications.

The turning point for the management of such a complex and constantly evolving organization came in 2012. Until then, Gruppo Campari had maintained an unstructured approach to the management of product specifications, which were created locally using Microsoft Word documents or Microsoft Excel® spreadsheets. Besides creating documents in different formats and languages, there was no standard workflow for document authoring and validation, and information was shared via email or phone.

In 2012, the Group launched an extensive digitalization of operation processes, selecting SIMATIC IT Interspec from Siemens PLM Software, a configurable solution for product specification management in process industries, and embracing the Siemens “digitalization” philosophy.

SIMATIC IT Interspec allows the company to develop, configure and manage all product specifications (raw materials, intermediate and finished products and packaging materials), storing all specifications in a single, controlled data repository. more>


Re-made in China

By Amy Hawkins and Jeffrey Wasserstrom – The dominant image of China in the West is of a closed, dark place; a country where what reigns supreme is an authoritarianism based on an ancient imperial past that today’s leaders claim to have renounced, while simultaneously extolling China’s 5,000-year history.

It’s not a wholly false perception, but the notion of China as a fortress state, impervious to foreign influence, is something of a smokescreen. So too – as the opposite but equally flawed assumption goes – is the perception of China as forever on the brink of being Westernized by the liberalizing forces of globalization and the free market, as if, whenever the fortress gates are opened, the country were barely capable of withstanding the influx of ‘contaminating’ or ‘corrupting’ ideas.

This idea of China received a powerful boost from Francis Fukuyama’s ‘End of History’ fantasy that the civilized world would converge around liberal democratic norms, leading many Western observers to believe that China’s economic boom and flirtation with freemarket forces was both inevitable, and would transform it completely.

In reality, China’s longstanding suspicion of foreign influence has not prevented the government or the people from becoming remarkably adept at marshalling the flow of overseas cultural touchstones into the country’s borders, remoulding them into something that isn’t entirely Chinese, but is also totally different from its original form.

Like authoritarian leaders everywhere, China’s are anxious about the population’s interaction with foreign ideas, and the state tries to police this closely, adapting cultural imports to fit national and regional needs. Still, the various ways that the government, villagers and city dwellers of different social classes and generations handle these mutations demonstrate that Chinese concepts of national identity are much more flexible than first impressions suggest.

Appreciating this is especially important now, as tensions between China and the United States rise. A strident form of Chinese nationalism is gaining ground. more>

Eye diagrams: The tool for serial data analysis

By Arthur Pini – The eye diagram is a general-purpose tool for analyzing serial digital signals. It shows the effects of vertical noise, horizontal jitter, duty cycle distortion, inter-symbol interference, and crosstalk, all of which can close the “eye.” While engineers have used eye diagrams for decades, oscilloscopes continually get new features that increase its value.

Oscilloscopes form eye diagrams—the separation between the two binary data states “1” and “0”—by overlaying multiple single clock periods on a persistence display. The accumulation shows the history of multiple acquisitions.

Additive noise tends to close the eye vertically while timing jitter and uncertainty closes the eye horizontally. Duty cycle distortion (DCD) and inter-symbol interference (ISI) change the shape of the eye. The channel will fail if the eye closes to the point where the receiver can no longer recognize “0” and “1” states.

In the days of analog oscilloscopes, the eye diagram was formed by triggering the oscilloscope with the serial data clock and acquiring multiple bits over time using a persistence or storage display. This technique adds the trigger uncertainty or trigger jitter to the eye diagram for each acquisition. Digital oscilloscopes form the eye by acquiring very long record with many serial bits.

The clock period is determined, and the waveform is broken up or “sliced” into multiple single-bit acquisitions overlaid in the persistence display. In this way, all the data is acquired with a single value of trigger jitter that’s eliminated by using differential time measurements within the eye. more>