Does the New $100 Light Phone Hail the End of our Tech Obsessed Culture?

While it seems the majority of the world have been becoming more and more obsessed with the latest in technology – specifically when it comes to smartphones – there is growing resistance to counter this trend. An increasing number of people are shunning the connected culture, uninterested in spending countless hours messaging friends from their cell, browsing Facebook on their iPhone, and being contactable via work email 24/7.

a prototype of the Light phoneA recent Kickstarter campaign by Light, to generate funds for their new mobile concept based on “old” technology, and it’s incredible success thus far, exemplifies this. The phone which is the size of a credit card and has a battery that last for up to 20 days, has easily surpassed its funding target with over  30 days left until the campaign ends.

The phone has attracted so much attention due to is versatile nature, and the fact that it can help people disconnect from their digital worlds; something that a lot of people seem to want to do. The phone can connect with the users smart phones so ensure the users never miss a call, but don’t have any fancy gadgetry or complicated applications, so all you can really do with them is call. Being only millimeters thick and the size of a credit card, the light phones aren’t going to weigh you down either.

Take a look at this video from Light, to find out more about their new offering which is expected to be available for sale mid-2016.

The key selling points of the Light phone are obviously its size and the fact that it can help people disconnect from the mobile phone obsessed world while still allowing them to be contactable when necessary. The phone does not contain any really new technology, however it brings about something that people seem to really want, a phone that does just what cell phones were intended to do; make and receive calls.

Another new innovation to hit the cell phone market in recent times is the increase in mobile phone buyback or recycling stores. We’ve noticed a number of these second-hand mobile phone purchasing websites popping up. These sites offer a service where you can sell your old mobile phones for an instant cash rebate; some in-store but most online, for those of us eager to sell their old mobile device or just get rid of the smartphone that’s taking control of our lives to trade up for something like the Light phone.

sell iphone page of Sold My Device
The Sell iPhone page on the Sold My Device website. Sold My Device offered the best buyback prices of all the sites we tested.

These online stores will give a refund on most cell models, especially the newer ones. We reviewed a number of the sites and found the best average prices on a cross-section of 5 phones comprised of an iPhone 5, and 6, Samsung Galaxy S4and Note 3 and an LG G3 at Sold My Device.

Some of the buyback stores will not only take the latest smartphones but they’ll also give you a cash refund for your second-hand ipad, tablet or notebook as well! With the constant evolution in technology and the continual upgrading of devices that so many of us are inclined to partake in, it makes sense to recycle our old devices rather than throw them away or have them sitting around in a cupboard in our homes. So many of us have old mobile phones lying around at home, why not get something back for them and help other, less-fortunate people get connected as well.

If you’re in the market for a new phone, be it a Light phone or the latest from Apple, Samsung or LG, do yourself a favour and recycle your old cell phone. Not only will you end up with a bit of cash for your troubles, but you’ll also help to recycle and keep the world in better shape, and help someone else update their own mobile phone.

 

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The Future of Wireless Technology

Wireless technology has always lagged behind wired technology somewhat. Slower internet speeds, frustrating mobile browsing experiences, cause many users and especially high-end gamers to adopt the ‘wired’ accessories due to concerns over lag issues. Will wireless ever catch up, or are we doomed to live in a world whereby the wired solution will always be one step ahead? Movies based in the future can often be scarily accurate, and how they portray future wireless technology is probably no exception.

Why has Wired Always been Better?

wirelessDuring a thunderstorm you’ll notice that you hear the thunder up to a few seconds after seeing the lightning. This is because sound travels slower than light. This is the basis of the problem we’re experiencing with wireless technology. Light always travels the fastest. This is why optical was such a big deal when they first came out – because they are based on data transmission using light technology in a cost efficient and reliable consumer product.

Much of computing technology today relies on electrical transmission of data, which moves at one tenth the speed of light. It’s widely believed that in the future we will be using computers based on light, and quantum technology. Optical (light) technology has been used for quite a while now, but only for relatively basic applications such as the simple transmission of data from one place to another.

Using this optical technology in more advanced areas is a different task altogether and involves the clever manipulation of light, effectively making the light behave how we choose.

What uses Optical Technology?

Computer mice are a great example of how we use optical technology today. They work using a diode that emits light to determine where the mouse is on your mouse pad, and which direction it’s moving in. This is how your mouse pointer moves across your computer screen.

Newer technology even includes a laser diode for enhanced resolution and precision. This is a selling point for high-end gaming mice which employ the use of ‘DPI’ or ‘dots per inch’. This number has recently gone over the 10,000 dots per inch mark, which effectively translates to 10,000 pieces of movement tracking data per inch. The reason that optical mice often don’t work on glass tables is that the light can’t be beamed back to the mouse, but simply goes through the table and the data is effectively lost.

It’s been around for quite a while too!

That’s right, optical data has been around longer than you may realize, and was even a basis for the way CD players gathered data from CDs to play back on a music. With every new area optical technology has been employed on a consumer grade level, it has changed the product entirely. From cassette tapes to CDs, video game cartridges to CDs and DVDs, and analog sound cables to optical sound cables.

Where is Wireless technology headed?

The University of Minnesota has engineers that have developed a chip which employs the use of sound waves, as well as light waves which are tightly confined together within the same space. This might not sound amazing on its own, but the breakthrough here is that the sound waves are able to control the light waves. This new technology could be used to improve wireless communication systems in the future, along with the possibility of being used with computation in quantum physics. Quantum computers have been considered one of the holy grails of technology and great progress has been made in recent years in making them a reality. There have been some workable models which could be applicable for very specific situations, but nothing that can yet be used on a consumer grade level.

This new chip uses a silicon coating, with a layer of aluminum nitrade. The aluminum is the part that conducts the electrical charge. An ‘earthquake’ like effect is then used to deform the material on the surface of the chip, thereby creating soundwaves which look like an earthquake. This has been done before, but the difference here is that the integration of optical circuits has made the harmony between sound and light much stronger.

What this boils down to, is the faster transmission of data due to the fact that sound and light are now working together and not against one another.

Engineers at the University of Minnesota have also begun looking closer at the possible applications for this chip in quantum devices. Photons are the smallest units of light, and phonons are the smallest unit of sound. In order to apply this chip to quantum devices, the interactions between photons and phonons needs to be better understood.

How Far Away is the Application of this Technology?

No one knows for sure, but progress is being made every day and wireless advancement is believed to be one of the great viable stepping stones by which progress can be made. You may have noticed the computing speed advancement has slowed down over the past couple of years. We’ve somewhat reached a limit in how fast computers can ‘think’ with our current technology. This is part of the reason why research and development is taking place in these areas, in order to overcome these restrictions and barriers currently holding us back.

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Tilt Slab – A New Method means Faster Construction and Lower Costs

When it comes to big dollar industries like mining and construction, small improvements in efficiency can lead to massive overall savings. A recent advancement in concrete construction has helped to collectively save millions of man-hours on construction work and is reducing the costs of building commercial and large-scale residential projects around the world.

Tilt slab construction; also known as tilt up or tilt up slab is a relatively new technology when it comes to building with concrete. The slabs are manufactured on-site on a horizontal concrete slab. Once the concrete has cured the large solid panels are “tilted” to sit in their vertical positions using a crane and held there until other supporting panels or structural components are put into place.

Tilt slab panel being erectedThis technology is gaining popularity due to its economic and time benefits and is now being utilized regularly throughout North America, Australia and New Zealand. Many other areas of the world are embracing this new construction technology as well, however Europe and the majority of Asia have been slow on the uptake, and tilt slab construction is still fairly uncommon there.

One of Australia’s leading tilt up slab construction companies, Vati Projects, have been working on commercial developments using the technology since it was founded. We spoke with them about the benefits and problems associated with this sort of technology.

The biggest issue with tilt up is the need for significant organization and collaboration on the building site as the slabs are molded and positioned. In order for a tilt slab project to be completed successfully there are a number of steps that need to be taken. These are (in chronological order):

  1. Evaluation of the worksite
  2. Engineering
  3. Laying floor slabs and footings
  4. Construction of the tilt slab panels
  5. Placement of structural steel
  6. Embeds and inserts
  7. Placement of the panels
  8. Panel erection
  9. Finishing the panels

The completed panels can be extremely heavy, in some cases weighing as much as 150 tons. A skilled team of construction workers are always necessary to ensure the development and erection processes all run smoothly.

Early tilt-slab construction was boxy and boring, however newer methods have expanded the range of shapes and changed the aesthetic possibilities. As this technology improves even further we expect its use to increase throughout developing nations and into Europe reducing the cost of large commercial building.

For more information on tilt slab construction and its uses take a look at the variety of articles, case studies and photos at Tiltup.com.

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Top 5 Benefits of LED Lighting

With LED and solar lighting, it’s easier than ever before to save energy, and improve your environment’s lighting conditions. There is a lot of chatter around the benefits of LED light emitting diodes compared to conventional lighting with good reason. LED’s are far and away the most energy efficient solution on the market and with further improvements to LED design as discussed in our previous blog, it won’t be long before production costs begin to fall, in turn passing those savings on to the public.

It’s not just for indoor fixtures either, solar lights using LEDs have improved dramatically over the last few years, to a point where they are comparable to lights using mains power. These high powered solar garden lights are the perfect example, working off as little as 10 watts for 10-12 hours all from the sun’s rays!

Led-Pool-Lights

1. Energy Efficiency – LED lighting is by far the most energy efficient lighting available. LED bulbs can use about 10% of the power that traditional incandescent and halogen bulbs use and about 50% of the power that fluorescent lights use, for the same lighting result. To give you an example, we recommend that you replace your 50w halogen down light bulbs with our 5w LED down light bulbs. A lot of modern homes these days contain a high number of lights and most of them are running for several hours a day. Reducing your lighting power consumption by 90% can save you big $$$ off your electricity bill, especially with the continually soaring price of electricity. It is not just electricity bills that benefit from the reduced power consumption of LED lighting. Most battery operated lights, such as torches and solar lights, are reaping the rewards of LED lighting also. The batteries in a torch will now last around ten times longer with LEDs than with other bulbs and solar lights using LEDs require a much smaller battery capacity to run them through the night.

2. Long Life – LED bulbs have an outstandingly high life expectancy when compared to their lighting counterparts. Typically, incandescent and halogen bulbs run for about 1,000hrs, fluorescent bulbs can last for about 10,000hrs and a quality LED bulb can last for 50,000hrs. That means if you left an LED light switched on, it should continue running for over five and a half years. Unlike fluorescent bulbs, LED lights are not affected by how many times they are switched on and off. The advantage of longer life does not only mean that you are saving $$$ on having to purchase new bulbs all the time, but you are saving the expense of having to physically change the bulb over frequently. In some residential cases and many commercial circumstances, this can reduce the cost of having to hire electricians and equipment required just to change the bulb.

3. Environmentally Friendly – If you are looking for a way to help preserve our planet for future generations, then converting your lighting to LED is a great place to start. A great advantage of LED lights requiring far less power to operate is that it reduces the amount of power needed to be created by natural resources. LED bulbs do not contain any hazardous chemicals such as mercury, unlike fluorescent bulbs. Even with strict disposal guidelines in place for fluorescent bulbs, reports suggest that up to 17% of the total mercury content is released into the atmosphere when a fluro bulb is broken, which can often happen during transportation to a disposal facility.

cfl replacement
LED fluro (CFL) replacement

4. Health and Safety – As discussed above, fluorescent bulbs contain the toxic substance mercury. Mercury is particularly harmful to small children and unborn babies, but anybody who cuts themselves on a broken fluro bulb can be at serious risk. Fluorescent bulbs also emit UV and are known to cause a flicker effect which can be troublesome for people suffering from epilepsy. Learn how to dispose of fluro lights.

Another advantage of LED bulbs being so efficient is that they emit very little heat. There have been a lot of house fires started by the heat emitted from halogen down lights causing the roof insulation to catch fire. You can remove the risks caused by the heat from halogen and incandescent bulbs by switching them over to LED.

5. Durability – LEDs are extremely durable and can withstand rough and rugged conditions. Their resistance to shock, vibrations and impact damage, along with their minimal power consumption, make LEDs very popular for vehicle and caravan lighting. These features also make LEDs very beneficial to be used in any outdoor lighting that may be exposed to the elements.

 

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Advancements in Tyre Design push China onto the World Scene

Long gone are the days when people would equate Chinese products with cheap quality goods. Following in similar footsteps to Japan and South Korea before them, who also built their manufacturing base on lower quality consumer goods, and improved their methods and technology over time to become world leaders in their various fields; China is in the process of building a new reputation for itself.

Low cost production has made China an export powerhouse, now the number one manufacturer and exporter on the planet. While this may have begun with counterfeit electronics, machines with cheap parts, technical and lighting equipment of dubious quality etc., this is no longer the case. Many large Chinese manufacturers have seen the benefit in creating higher-quality branded products and building their own reputation around the world to become leaders in their fields.

tyredesignIn no single industry is this more apparent than with Chinese tyres. A host of well-established firms as well as several relative newcomers to the field have seen the benefit in investing in research and development to boost technological innovation and give their brands an edge over the competition. Global tyre manufacturers like Michelin, Goodyear and Bridgestone have had to suffer a loss in marketshare as an onslaught of Chinese companies push their way onto the growing global market. Fueled by a booming domestic marketing the the ever-developing China and with continual investment back into R&D to upgrade performance, tyre design, and quality, these companies have made a huge impact on the world scene in a veritably short amount of time.

A few of the most notable Chinese tyre brands which you are sure to hear about in the coming years if you haven’t already are: Triangle Tire, who are now in the top 10 tyre manufacturers in the world and Durun Tyre, one of the largest Chinese tyre manufacturers who produce both car and truck tyres and have their DMack tyres used in the World Rally Championships.

These firms invest billions of renminbi each year into further developing their products, marketing, and global reach which is aiding in further increasing their marketshare. Smaller and less profitable tyre manufacturers in countries with higher taxes and labour costs are struggling to keep up with the Chinese powerhouses and their massive production capacities and we expect the Chinese to increasingly dominate the global market in the coming years.

While many foreign brands have moved their manufacturing facilities to China or other countries where taxes, labour and other production costs are cheaper, they are still unable to keep up with the Chinese firms and their massive and ongoing expansions. Several forward-thinking tyre brands saw the threat coming and have built partnerships with Chinese tyre companies to benefit from their growth and investment in research and development.

Well-known brands like Triangle Tire and Durun as well as lesser known Chinese manufacturers such as Windforce, Landsail and Aufine who strongly focus on continual R&D reinvestment are an perfect example of the way China is changing the way the world perceives their products. No longer will Made in China be seen as a negative, and these successful and innovative companies are the reason why.

 

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The New Data is Big Business

Data is all around us. It always has been. However it is only through the development of the digital age that it has really come into focus. Prior to the past decade, data was mostly considered to be laboratory notes and school science projects, but now it is collected and traded as a valuable commodity. Technology and marketing companies are interested in the collection of all information that can be observed and measured, in the hope they may be able to benefit from it through advertising etc. Personal information is a prime target for collection and something big business and governments are collecting and collating for future reference. While almost unheard of in the ‘90s, data is now an important part of the lives of many of us, and it’s collection and usage affects us on a daily basis.

Why is Data so Important?

So why is there so much focus on the collection of data for analysis? Forecasting is one of the major reasons. People always want to know what is going to happen in the future, and by extrapolating data based on up-to-date information reasonably accurate predictions can be made. Data based forecasting is so important that business proposals in the digital era without any data-backed forecasting are usually seen as being incomplete.

dataA time series is a collection of measurements of well-defined items obtained through repeated measurements. For example, measuring the value of retail sales at any particular store each month of the year would comprise a time series. This is because sales revenue is well defined, and consistently measured at equally spaced intervals. Data collected irregularly or only once cannot be considered to be a time series. A time series can be decomposed into three components: the trend component (long term direction), the seasonal component (systematic, calendar related movements) and the irregular (unsystematic, short term fluctuations). The decomposition is important in data analysis, because what we see in a chart doesn’t necessarily happen in real life. For instance, consider the example of turkey sales over a year. If we look at turkey sales around Thanksgiving, we would estimate that sales were much higher over the entire year than they would be in actuality. Alternatively if we only looked at turkey sales in February we would get a lower estimate than the actual number of sales. This is why it is important to look at an entire time series to get a real long-long term picture.

Data can behave in a large number of ways. Depending on the situation it may have a rhythmic behavior or be highly erratic. It may have a stiff and dull attitude, being insensitive to external influence; or it may have a flexible nature and be very sensitive to externalities. It may also just behave erratically without having any major controlling parameters. We’ve discussed how data can affect a business or an organization based on data forecasting. Now we’re going to talk about the second reason why data is important in business. A collection of data can be seen as more than just a time series chart; people also needs to know what correlation can be drawn from data.

Ellison and Marks brought a simple correlation case in a paper entitled Practical Data Analysis: Business Case Studies, in 2013. They showed a case of data set containing measurements taken on customers at an Australian women’s clothing store that specialises in boho maxi dresses and other gypsy clothing. The variables included number of clothing items purchased,  total amount spent, gender of the bill payer, and day of the week. They wanted to see what variable or variables had or have the strongest influence to purchases. They also compared the amounts spent between women, and the men who were shopping for gifts for women.

From their study we learned that women tended to purchase more expensive items from the store later in the week, possibly due to its proximity to the weekend, whereas men’s purchases were more erratic and did not follow any sort of pattern. For single purchases males spent more on average than females, however women were much more likely to purchase numerous items of clothing. Over the week the study was conducted several women bought over 5 items at a time including boho dresses, pants, tops and accessories, however this was definitely not the norm. Much can be learned about consumer behavior in women’s clothing outlets by reviewing thisstudy, and all of this information is useful for the owners of the store (and their competitors) so that they can adjust their services to work with the data and increase profitability.

It is not just small businesses that can benefit from data. Big corporations have recently come under fire for their collection of people’s personal data. To the point where some people consider what they are doing to be an invasion of privacy. Corporations profit from the sale of personal information that can be used to target people for marketing purposes, to profile them, and for other more nefarious means. Anybody who has heard or the allegations of Andrew Snowden can attest to that.

The Future of Data

It was not until around a decade ago that a new kind of profession was created. These people are named “data scientists”. A data scientist represents an evolution from the business or data analyst role. These people are familiar with statistical analysis and trend prediction and generally have a background in computer science and applications, modeling, statistics, analytics and math. We are talking about a powerful career where people can essentially predict the future, through forecasting and analysis. A good data scientist will not just address business problems, they can also pick the right problems to solve, ones that will bring the most benefit to the organisation.

The work of a data scientist generally covers the following aspects:

  • Formulation of context-relevant questions and hypotheses to correlate with scientific research
  • Interpret data sets for the production of statistical evidence which could then be communicated in written form
  • Build models based on new data types, experimental design, and statistical inference

Aside to the proficiency in computer science, math, and statistics, a good data scientist must have the curiosity, creativity, focus and attention to detail.

Data scientists are always needed as far as there’s data involve in any operation. Companies that hire data scientist include:

  • Federal, provincial/state and municipal government departments
  • Online marketing companies, especially those involved in advertising
  • Transportation companies
  • Telecommunications companies
  • Insurance, finance, and banking organisations
  • Real estate companies, especially those involved in Managing Property
  • Management consulting companies
  • Advertising agencies
  • Manufacturing companies
  • Construction companies
  • Retail companies with potential for repeat customers such as hairdressers
  • Utility companies
  • Oil, gas and mining companies
  • Online retail stores selling repeat purchase items such as t-shirts
  • Hospitals and health care organizations
  • Colleges and universities

The list goes on. As long as it remains lucrative for people to collect data, there will be people collecting it. Right now you yourself are probably included in the datasheets of hundreds, if not thousands, of companies and associations. While you may not be aware of it data is all around you. It can be used to benefit your life, your business and your education however it can also be used to do the opposite. Data is the next big thing in business and our consumeristic societies. Numbers are not just numbers, they can speak. It’s up to us to listen.

Even if you’re not doing it, you can be sure somebody else is.

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Pushing The Limits With Computing Breakthroughs

Computing power generally follows Moore’s Law which in summary states that computing power will nearly double every two years. This means that systems we have today are exponentially more powerful than what we had just 10 years ago. This is enabling many incredible technologies to emerge across a variety of industries. Here are a few new markets that have exploded due to increased capabilities of computers, servers and specialized electronics.

Data CentreI’m sure you have heard the word datacenter before, but how are they changing? You would assume that the size of these locations would decrease as disk drives are able to hold more and all other surrounding components become smaller, but this hasn’t been the case. Hundreds of new advanced datacenters have been popping up all over utilizing advanced hardware and technologies to create the most efficient form of storing and delivering data, whatever that might be.

This is partly in due to many services moving from older style formats to a web based delivery system such as Blockbuster being replaced by Netflix. You can only imagine the amount of traffic and load that is placed on a datacenter to keep up with the number of shows and movies being watched. Something else that has had a heavy influence on the size and capacity of these locations is the gaming industry which has well exceeded the growth rate of Moore’s Law throughout the last decade.

Games such as Minecraft have enlisted tens of millions of players who spend many hours each week playing the game. This is related to the server industry as most games are now installed on a local computer, but played while connected to a server. One datacenter can easily be packed with thousands of different servers running at the same time hosting everyone’s game. In the game of Minecraft, individual players are given the ability to create their own world through a Minecraft server hosting company. http://apexminecrafthosting.com allows them to have their world available 24 hours a day 7 days a week as the datacenter team works tirelessly to make sure that the services are always available. It is easy to see why these datacenters are becoming very profitable in a competitive environment and being built on a regular basis.

Another driving factor for the rapid development of computing power is almost comparable to the arms race. In today’s age, there is an competition continuing on from what was seen many years ago, but it much more secretive. One of the most important pieces of a military now is intelligence and information. Supercomputing power has allowed for governments to monitor every single bit of communication taking place all over the world while being analyzed by these systems. On the front it is known as the push for the fastest supercomputer in the world, but we all know what lies beneath the surface.

These advanced computers can perform research, development and analysis of advanced problems that would otherwise be impossible to reach conclusions. Currently, China houses the fastest supercomputer named the Tianhe-2. This isn’t all bad news though, as these systems becomes more affordable, they can be applied in more markets such as healthcare. This would enable researches to enlist to the power of a supercomputer to help solve the toughest health related issues in the world.

Looking forward, there is still much potential and opportunity for intelligent systems to be developed to assist in any of these markets. Right now every device needs to be perfectly programmed to perform a specific task, while computing of the future offers a more flexible and intelligent design, which will be able to adapt to the task at hand.

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LG Innotek’s Breakthrough LEDs

LG Innotek has been making enormous gains in the world of LED lighting since they started LED development back in 2000. Their first major achievement was the development of a mass production white LED chip in 2004, followed by their patented ultra-slim, world first wafer chip on board LED chip in 2009. Fast forward five years and LG Innotek are again creating world firsts. With the help of an Australian company by the name of LED Arts, LG Innotek’s world class LED chip-on-board devices are now 100% replaceable!

The new COB LED lighting boards are available for LED flood lights, LED spotlights, and LED downlights. The new clip-out, clip-in design means that a qualified electrician is no longer required to change the diodes (just remember to turn off the power).

This breakthrough design is a huge step forward in making LED flood lights, downlights, and spotlights even more affordable for the average home owner. Not only do these lights lower energy usage but with the new design, home owners can replace the lights themselves without the need to buy new housings, further reducing maintenance costs.

LG Innotek’s LEDs are also worth mentioning. The announcement of their new high power LED (mainly used in flood lights and spot lights) saw a 30% increase in lumen efficacy when compared to their previous products. These LED chips put out a whopping 167 lumens per watt, moving LG Innotek into pole position for high power LED production.

As with all lighting products in the past, brighter light is usually accompanied by higher temperatures. LG realised that this high power LED lighting could lead to performance degradation over time and built in their new LED epitaxial growth technology which offers improved heat dissipation than previous products, ensuring the LEDs can maintain their intended lifespan of over 54,000 hours (they passed the US EPA tests with flying colours and were awarded an LM-80 rating).

opticallg

Along with the new diode technology, LG began to assess the optical design of their LEDs to ensure the optical characteristics of the flood lights and spot lights in particular met the requirements of the consumer. To do this a range of illuminance tests were undertaken. Various optic designs such as uniformity, beam angle control, and omni-directional lamp designs were explored and ray tracing simulations were run, along with real view consumer based tests. All this technical research has led to lighting designs that offer the most efficient, bright, and long lasting LED lights on the market. It’s no wonder the likes of Philips and Samsung are scrambling to catch up.

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New Zealand’s Newest Pest Control and its Potential for Use in Australia

In the lands across the Tasman where possums are considered an invasive species and not a protected one, a new technology has been born. The brainchild of the New Zealand based Goodnature team, The “Henry” possum traps are lightweight units that fire automatically to quickly and humanely kill the problematic animals. In a land where over 30 million possums run rogue, decimating native flora and fauna, the traps have been well accepted.

possumtrapThe lightweight traps automatically fire and reset 12 times; reducing labour costs compared to regular single catch possum traps. This enables more money to be allocated to the purchasing of more traps. The traps are toxin free, and are placed in trees or off the ground where possums dwell. They work by shooting a compressed gas powered, polymer piston into the skull of the animal. This action kills the pest immediately and humanely; the instant the trap is triggered. Once the animal has been struck, the piston retracts and the carcass of the deceased possum drops to the ground. The traps then reset themselves ready to lure in their next victim.

The traps were first tested in 2011 as part of a $4 million pest control initiative announced by the Green Party and the Government in 2010. “These traps are effective at killing possums and helping protect the birds and forests that New Zealanders love,” said Green Party conservation spokesman Kevin Hague.

Since their inception a few years ago the team at Goodnature have expanded their trap range to work on other pests including rats and stoats, and there is much more potential for further expansion. If it’s possible to create traps that can specifically target other pests, while not attracting or harming native and protected species then the sky is the limit.

We spoke with a possum removal expert from Brisbane about the potential for the traps in Australia. “Possums are a protected species in Australia.” She said. “So these specific traps would be illegal to use here. However there is definitely scope to expand the same technology to control other pests. If Goodnature could work out a trap that could target rabbits, foxes or even the cane toad, then they would sell like hotcakes!”

Rabbits were originally introduced with the First Fleet, and became a problem after an outbreak caused by an 1859 release. Since then they have cause untold billions of dollars damage to crops and land across much of Australia’s arable regions. Foxes were also release after European settlement, in the 1870’s. The reason for this was as a target for recreational hunters. The spread of foxes closely followed the spread of rabbits and today foxes are thought to have spread across most of the mainland south of the tropics and even as far as Tasmania. These pests are a problem because they prey on native wildlife and also farm livestock including calves, lambs, poultry, and goats.

The cane toad problem in Australia needs no introduction, with the story of their invasion and expansion being infamous around the globe. A trap that targets these pests specifically might be a bit more difficult than one for other animals though because there are so many other small animals, reptiles and amphibians that might also be lured into the traps.

In their current form, the Goodnature traps have been used as far away as Hawaii, Puerto Rico and even Sweden. While the current model rat trap already offers significant benefit to Australians in need of respite from pests of that nature that plagues our shores, if their technology can be expanded there is a bright future for it’s usage here to aid our endangered wildlife and frustrated farmers.

 

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Are Solar Panels Worth Investing in for Australians? Case Study.

Geographical Context 

We decided to base our case study in the typical everyday suburb of Klemzig, a suburb of Adelaide, South Australia, 8kms northeast of the Adelaide CBD. It’s located at the eastern end of the City of Port Adelaide Enfield, adjacent to the suburbs of Hampstead Gardens, Hillcrest and Windsor Gardens. This was chosen as our area of investigation as it is easy to replicate this study to other cities throughout Australia. The purpose of this study is to evaluate whether photovoltaic solar panels are worth investing in, considering their current social, economic and environmental aspects.

Klemzig’s profile is quite similar to other suburbs in the City of Port Adelaide. Klemzig has a total area of 2.5 km2, with a population of 5086 in 2006. Compared to its local council, there is a higher proportion of managers and professionals in Klemzig and a significantly lower proportion working in manufacturing, the median weekly household income is around $725.00.

Summary Statistics
Total Population 5086
Area 2.5 km2
Median Age 40 years
Average Household size 2.1 persons
Median Weekly Household Income $725.00

 

Government rebates are available for eligible households, giving assistance with the cost of installing a solar photovoltaic system through small-scale technology certificates, solar credits and the solar feed-in scheme.

At present, there are no direct federal rebates available for small-scale solar photovoltaic, wind power and micro-hydro systems. However, small-scale systems are eligible for support under the new enhanced Renewable Energy Target (RET).

The enhanced RET allows for the creation of Small Technology Certificates (STCs) for small-scale solar, small wind and micro-hydro systems. STCs are issued by the government for the generation of renewable energy, which electricity retailers and other ‘liable parties’ (such as large users of electricity) are then obliged to purchase in order to fulfil their mandatory commitments under the RET legislation. The RET seeks to ensure that 20% of Australia’s electricity supply come from renewable sources by 2020, as imposed by the federal government’s Mandatory Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000.

The Solar Credits program is part of the enhanced RET. Solar Credits are available to households and businesses that install small-scale solar PV, small wind and micro-hydroelectricity systems. The scheme works by multiplying the number of tradeable STCs able to be created for eligible installations. If the system is installed between 9 June 2009 and 30 June 2011, the homeowner will receive five times as many STCs as under the deeming arrangements for the existing RET scheme. From 1 July 2011, the multiplier will reduce to three times, and will decrease by a factor of 1 each year until it reaches and stays at a multiplier of one from 1 July 2013.

Households, small businesses and community buildings that have solar panels installed may be eligible to receive payment for any electricity that is exported back to the grid. The scheme is open to electricity customers that consume less than 160MWh per annum. The average household uses less than 10MWh per annum. According to the Clean Energy Sector there were 105,520 solar power systems installed in Australia in the 10 months from January to October 2010, more than the 81,232 installed from 2001 to 2009.

Adelaide is Australia’s first solar city according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. It is one of seven regions in Australia to trial new approaches to producing and using energy as part of the Australian Government’s Solar Cities Program. From 2009 until 2013, Adelaide’s local governments, businesses and the community will support the uptake of 1700 solar panels for homes and business. Consumers installing solar systems are given and will be given financial help to do so. There will also be 7000 ‘smart meters’ installed in homes and business and a campaign to inform the community about energy efficiency and encourage the uptake of green power. The trial is expected to cut energy usage by 28GWh, representing an annual saving of $5 million in electricity costs and a minimum of 30,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

Findings 

Figure 11 shows that there has not been any installed solar panels on households for more than two years. This is due to solar panels being more affordable and economical in the past years, also government rebates have been available for eligible households. More than half of the locals surveyed (54%) have had their solar panels installed for only1-2 years. None of the respondents have had their solar panels longer than 2 years.

Solar system undergoing installation- photo taken July 2013.
Solar system undergoing installation- photo taken July 2013.
Solar system have been installed- photo taken 7 September 2013
Solar system have been installed- photo taken September 2013

Many households have been recently investing solar PV systems (figure 11) as rebates are becoming lesser and lesser because the solar industry have already been established.  “It is becoming stronger and can now compete with other power suppliers such as gas and do not need any more government support”, said Verity Sanders, the Strategic Planner (Environment Policy) of Port Adelaide Council.“Solar panels reduce electricity bill costs as much as a third and also reduce the cost of running a home”, stated Verity Sanders.

Kilowatt output of solar systems of the respondents
Kilowatt output of solar systems of the respondents
main reason for solar
respondent’s main reason for getting solar panels installed on their roof

Social Findings

There are some council restictions that households are need to be aware of when they are installing solar panels.  There are requirements of adjacent dwelling to make sure they don’t overshadow a next door roof of solar collection panels. Solar panels should be mounted upright at least 10cm of the roof.

The number of complaints against solar power installers has increased over the last few months according to the Clean Energy Council. But the Klemzig area has received zero complaints.

Respondent’s opinion on the aesthetics of solar panels installed on their roof.
Respondent’s opinion on the aesthetics of solar panels installed on their roof

Inspections carried out by the Clean Energy Council have have found systems installed in an unsafe way; increasing the risk of fire. In other instances, systems have been installed in such a way that performance is substantially decreased and complaints have also been lodged about exaggerated system performance information being provided by some companies.

A large percentage of respondents believe that having solar panels on their roof has made them more energy conscious. In Lochiel Park, where it is mandatory for households to have solar panels, the respondents believe that it has influenced them to become more energy conscious and 100% of the local residents surveyed believe that solar panels set a positive example for the community.

Has having solar panels on your roof made you more energy conscious?
Has having solar panels on your roof made you more energy conscious

Verity Sanders, the Strategic Planner of the Port Adelaide Enfield was interviewed, her responses are shown below.

Interview Question Response from Verity Sanders
Do you believe that the government should provide more funds to help low-income earners invest in solar panels? “The State government is providing services to work with low income households (including through Housing SA) on reducing the actual energy consumption in households wherever possible, through audits or better use of appliances, which is actually the most important first action, and ultimately just as important (and much cheaper for the householder) than installing solar panels in most instances”,
Do you think that solar panels should be mandatory for new housing developments in the city of Klemzig? I think that the State government could look at the option of requiring houses (and businesses) to have some solar or other renewable source as part of a new building – some houses however may not have the roof room – so the practicalities have to be considered in each case. It’s a regulation that would have to be put in place by the State Government, as Councils don’t have any legislative powers to mandate that requirement just in their own Council area.

 

Economic Findings

The initial cost of investing solar panels depends on the kilowatt output of the system but generally it is expensive. Most respondents agree that the initial cost of investing solar panels cost a lot but it is worth the money.

Examples of prices of solar systems
Examples of prices of solar systems

The local residents surveyed agreed that the government should offer larger rebates and that the scheme should be extended. They also believed that the government should provide more funds to help low-income earners invest in solar panels.The table below shows the interview done with Verity Sanders regarding government rebates on solar PV systems. Households may be eligible to receive assistance with the cost of installing a solar system through the small-scale technology certificates (STC), solar credits and the solar feed-in scheme.

Interview Question Response from Verity Sanders
What do you think about the government rebates and incentives? Do you think they should offer larger rebates? I think that once the cost of solar panels becomes much cheaper ( which they certainly are now), then there will be a time when the public funds (government rebates) no longer need to support the industry, and they can stand on their own two feet, as other power sources are required to do.
Do you think the government should extend the scheme? The current scheme seems to have been extremely successful, to the point where the industry is struggling to keep up with demand, so I think there’s a limit to how long the scheme needs to run for. As solar panels become cheaper ( as they are doing) they will become a standard option for any house, and particularly for new houses where the cost of installing panels becomes part of the overall cost of building the house, and can be absorbed into a home loan over a period of time.

 

Environmental Findings

None of the respondents have ever had any problems with their solar panels since they were installed, which is great news for prospective solar panel owners. From an environmental standing there have been no concerns from the respondents but rather a positive increase in their views towards living environmentally.

Conclusion

Solar panels have positive environmental implications resulting in reduced dependency on mains electricity, which means we will need less new major power stations to be built in the future – this is particularly important given that Adelaide will continue to grow in the next decades, so for that growth to be sustainable, we have to reduce our demand on the system in many ways as possible to allow for that increased growth. Solar panels reduce pressure on fossil fuel resource. It also reduces Australia’s carbon emissions thus reducing the impact of the enhanced greenhouse effect. Solar panels can also result in an increased environmental awareness and energy consciousness of citizens. On the negative side, the construction of solar systems consumes high amount of energy therefore there is high embodied energy put into solar panels.

Socially, solar panels set a positive example to the community and encourage adjacent streets to consider investing solar systems. Solar panel installations are quick and easy and don’t need much maintenance. It doesn’t cause any hazard to humans as it is manufactured without using toxic products. Solar panels may reduce base load demand during peak periods thus limiting black outs in communities. There are council restrictions to make sure that solar panels don’t overshadow a next door roof of solar collection. Solar panels are expensive to buy, but they pay off themselves over a period of time. Low income earners and eligible households are supported by the government through federal government support such as the small scale certificate and solar credits. State government supports are available as well through the solar feed-in scheme.

Economically, it helps create ‘economies of scale’ as there is enhanced investment in green renewable energies such as solar. It results to an increased revenue for solar retailers and provides employment therefore result to positive flowback to the community. Government rebates such as the small scale certificates, solar credits and solar feed-in tariff are available for eligible households.  The running costs of houses with installed solar panels are low and are not greatly affected by the projected increase on the price of gas and electricity. On the negative side, solar panels are expensive to invest in therefore it can be difficult for low income earners to afford. Solar rebates for households are ending which will then result to an increase price of solar systems.

Recommendations

  • The government (Federal, State, and Local) should educate people, especially the working demography, on benefits of solar PV systems.
  • The government should invest more into large scale solar generators all over Australia.
  • Government departments should plan to install more solar PV system on their building chambers as it sets a positive example for the community.
  • Solar panels should be mandatory for new housing developments.
  • Government should continue to give incentives to house developers who choose to use renewable energy.
  • Government should continue to reward or give money back to individual households with installed solar panels (photovoltaic power cells).
  • The government should offer larger rebates and extend the scheme.
  • The cost of installing solar panels should become part of the overall cost of building the house and should be absorbed into home loan.
  • The government should continue to plan strategies on how they can support low income earners to invest in solar panels.
  • Improve the energy efficiency of house and business appliance

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