Gondolas for DC? How about Tucson

Georgetown and DC could be connected via sky trams

What's good for the goose is often good for the gander, or so goes the saying. A recent study commissioned by local business and transportation authority members shows a sky tram to be one of the only feasible methods of getting a public transport option to Georgetown, VA from DC.   

While it's an interesting option for DC and Georgetown residents, many of the same drivers present in the congested cities around the Beltway exist in what some would say is a sleepy town called Tucson, Arizona. Tucson is one of the last bastions of a "no freeway town" in America. the NIMBY contingent has successfully fought off neighborhood divisions created by multi-lane freeways, but at the expense of getting across a large expanse of low-density development. Over 20 miles of east to west travel in town often takes over 45 minutes to traverse creating more pollution and congestion and delay in getting business done and inconvenience in daily activities. 

Tucson might want to take a page out of the DC and Georgetown playbooks and look at one of the easiest and least expensive mass transit modalities that exist. it's also one of the most inexpensive to operate and just might be able to be operated mostly on solar electricity so it would be one of the cleanest public transportation projects in the US. 

Call us crackpots or crazy or just plain nuts, but take a few minutes and give this some serious thought. Tucson could have the best of both worlds. No freeways, great and inexpensive public transport and cleaner air and a great tourist attraction all in the same system, All at a lower cost than what was recently spent on a few miles of light rail. Food for thought.....


IoT and Lighting


The Internet of Things or IoT is getting more and more pervasive. Here's an idea you might not have thought of. Using LED lights to help you navigate inside a store.
Phillips decided about 10 years ago they were going to be a leader in the LED space and to do that they have been working with how to leverage the special characteristics of LED lighting. One of those special characteristics is the ability to pulse the light in specific ways. One of those ways is to allow lights to create specific communication patterns that aren't perceptible to our human eyes but are perceptible to technology. It turns out our smartphones can detect these light patterns when we load an app and point our phones to the ceiling.
Phillips and other vendors are developing applications that can direct us to within inches of a specific location inside a space. Which means, if we decide to participate, the store can let us know about other merchandise we might be interested in, help us navigate the store more quickly, (for us guys, getting in and out is a good thing) and even helping those who have special needs, when they need it.

This is just another way the IoT's are enriching our lives and enhancing our built environment. If this is interesting or you have a thought, leave it below. Let's start a conversation about how tech and the space you live in works together. 


Designers IoT comes to your world, today!

Arduino's DIY kit turns anything into an IoT device 

The opensource folks at Arduino have created a developer's toolkit that anyone can use to create devices that connect via the internet. Yes your own DIY IoT toolkit. Your own DIY baby monitor, cat monitor or exercise and location monitor.  For a modest fee they will sell you all the parts to create a unique DIY monitor that looks at temperature, moisture, voice, location, stress, activity or other inputs in combination with  each other to come up with unique ways to determine if something happens and then record that event and notify you of it, if you like.

So how does this effect the Built Environment? So now I can create simple and easy to prototype energy and activity sensors for specific activities in a space. I can determine if someone visits a space, and when they visit it and for how long. Does their presence coincide with the sunlight or another environmental aspect of the space?

As designers, we are always wondering if our ideas work or not. Now we can begin to think about how people can interact with the space and get immediate feedback from our ideas. Now we can create flexible experiments about how people and space work together or not. IoT becomes a design lab.
Watch their video


Rural Cities and Towns Get noticed.


Rural has a future. Small towns have long-standing relevance in growing food, raising livestock, processing foods, producing natural resources and protecting the environment. That relevance is never going to go away as long as we need food, utilize natural resources and care about our environment.   



In celebration of my extended Hiatus I just had to Send this Along

Not As Green As He's Cabbage looking!

A proud and confident genius makes a
bet with an idiot.
The genius says,
"Hey idiot, every question I ask you
that you don't know the answer, you
have to give me $5. And if you ask me
a question and I can't answer yours
I will give you $5,000."

The idiot says,

The genius then asks,
"How many continents are there in the world?"

The idiot doesn't know and hands over the $5.

The idiot says,
"Now me ask: what animal stands with two
legs but sleeps with three?"

The genius tries and searches very hard
for the answer but gives up and hands
over the $5000.

The genius says,
"Dang it, I lost. By the way, what was
the answer to your question?"

The idiot hands over $5.


Just goes to show it's not the answers that count, but the questions.

Please feel free to pass this one along, that is if you feel so inclined, don't put yourself out, just pass it along I know you will feel better if you do. Really. 


Renewable Energy Continues to Grow

Buildings Magazine recently published an article "Renewable Energy Surges Ahead" which indicated that wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower are giving coal and natural gas a run for their money. While that may be good news on the surface the total percentage of renewable energy production is still is only 11.2% of total generation for 2012. 

While this is laudable and an important step for renewable energy, the important fact I saw was that over the report period of 2000 to 2012 renewable energy accounted for 56% of all new generation capacity. That in itself is pretty astounding. Most of that is reportedly from wind and PV solar.

These are impressive numbers, but for all the increased capacity from renewable sources, commercial buildings are only getting about 1% of their power needs from renewable sources. More reform needs to be done at the legal organization level of power generation. Many states regulate power generation for the benefit of large, centralized power companies. Most of their new generation from clean sources have come from large wind and solar farms at some distance from the consumer of power. This continues to perpetuate the centralized generation paradigm they are most familiar with. So much so, in some western states there is a movement from the utilities to stop roof-top solar PV installations because they say it is an unfair advantage to the homeowner to use their distribution systems without any cost. The reality of these arguments is that it really makes the utility distribution systems more effective and reduces the overall transmission energy losses because as the energy comes in from one house it can be immediately used by a neighbor close by. 

If distributed, clean energy is ever to work effectively our state governments are going to have to realize distributed energy production is in everyone's best interest, including the power generation companies. As the markets and technolgy change, so our utilities are being called on to change and grow too. 

If you support clean energy production and more sustainable power generation, then you should be in support of all generation, recovery, and conservation opportunities. One of those is to allow small groups of individuals and companies to form local power cooperatives which reduce transmission losses by generating power close to the point of use and encourage local diversity at the neighborhood level, rather than relying on singular power generation sources. That diversity also provides greater security and reliability for all users. 

To gain this benefit we have to change the state laws and regulations on the formation of utilities and power cooperatives. The large utilities don't want to give up their regional monopolies they have held for decades, but it's time we moved ahead and looked seriously and thoroughly at the benefits and risks involved with distributed, multi-source power generation. Write your state legislators about this issue and help them learn about the benefits of distributed power generation in your state.


Google and your eyes, Round 2

Good news for those of our population who suffer from diabetes. Google X, the secret "skunkworks" development lab at Google unveiled a prototype of a medical device which gives diabetics the ability to know their glucose levels without a prick to test blood.
Recode's article Inside Google X’s Smart Contact Lens is interesting on several levels.
(See related article on Hospital Monitoring)

First, point of interest is the breadth of interest Google seems to have in our lives. 
Second, all of these interests are tied to data about how we live
Third, they seem to be able to move beyond the traditional technology platform form factors, reversing the Moore's Law paradigm from bigger, faster, less cost to smaller, efficient, cost less important.

So this seems to be the second round of Google using our eyes as a portal to our lives. First it was Google Glasses and now the diabetic monitor contact lens. The old saying that our "eyes are the windows to our soul," may have some significance when it comes to devices which monitor the use we put to our eyes. Google glasses could be used to control our environment around us by turning lights on and off around us or controlling heating and cooling equipment by noticing our activity levels and location within a structure. Even working with our cars to help them make it safer for us to use the road by integrating our steering decisions with where we have looked just prior to the decision to change direction with a vehicle. 

Sensing the nature of our bodily functions and performance opens a new gateway to the brave new world of implanted sensors to augment our sensory perceptions, memory and even how we interact with each other socially.

Many of you know I'm often a proponent of advancing technology, just as long as it is a beneficial and safe tool for our lives. Yet, this being said, there are often unintended consequences for these seemingly benign tools. So, while I applaud the efforts of ex-professor Brian Otis from the University of Washington, I'm also wary of how any corporate entity would use and protect such sensitive personal data about me, should I decide to use such a device.

It is up to all of us to continue our education and raise our awareness of how our technological world both benefits us and puts at risk while delivering those desired benefits.

Also see a related article on the transformation of hospital care delivery when remote monitoring is added. 

This article is based on information appearing to be reliable. It is a continuing thread of ideas about the connections of ideas which link seemingly unrelated ideas and technology as strings of connected realities.