Daily Archives: February 11, 2013

iwatch v a proper folding watch computer

Some people work hard to get rich. Some work hard so they can change the world. Some work hard to build political power. Some work hard to make their families proud of them. Some, because they simply enjoy it.

Me, I work hard because I love saying “I told you so”. When I were a lad… OK, in the early 90s when I was still a budding futurologist, I was writing about where PCs might go. Here is one of my imaginings from back then: a folding screen touch sensitive watch computer.

Watch computer

Folding Touch-Screen Watch Computer

The file has been dragged between so many computers now I can’t even find when I wrote it, but it is probably datable from the clip art, and when 28 Feb was a monday. Anyway, the idea is starting to become feasible now. The icons are for what we now think of as apps of course, a few of which I don’t even have yet on my iphone or Nexus 10.1. The display could easily be built now, and it would fold up into a watch. Lots of watches are quite big so it would be a decent size too. And the idea was that the strap would act as both battery and antenna. All of that is buildable. Now.

Compare with Apple’s latest dream:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/apple/9861891/Apple-testing-smart-watch-designs.html

iwatch__1__2439172b

I think Apple needs a better vision, but although it looks even more pants than mine it does more or less the same things, albeit via an iphone. I bet Samsung do the full folding watch one soon.

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Hydrogen cars are the wrong solution

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/ingear/cars/article1209612.ece says that the UK government has produced a report saying that 1.5 million hydrogen cars will be on UK roads by 2030.

Hydrogen cars are part of the future that falls firmly in the category of ‘can do but shouldn’t do’.

I don’t doubt that hydrogen could be manufactured and sold from special filling stations to be used as fuel for fuel cells to make electricity to drive cars, or maybe even used in a modified internal combustion engine, or directly burned to make steam for a steam engine. It can. I don’t even doubt that the government is entirely capable of legislating subsidies for ridiculously expensive and inappropriate solutions just to appease lunatic fringe pressure groups. They are already doing so for wind turbine farms and rooftop solar panels, so why not hydrogen cars. It would just be another shovelful of idiocy on what is already a huge pile. What I do doubt, because I am a futurologist and an engineer, is that it makes any sense.

Hydrogen was once seen in futurist circles as the fuel of the future, for a year or so anyway before anyone did the analysis properly. When they did, they noticed:

Burning hydrogen (even in a fuel cell) produces water as the main product. Water is a greenhouse gas, a much more powerful forcing agent than CO2. It may be condensed by the car, but even then, at least in dry weather,  the water will evaporate from the road surface and enter the water cycle. It acts as a greenhouse gas until it becomes rain again. If it is raining already, the water produced will probably be a harmless addition. Hydrogen cars will therefore have a small but possibly significant effect on the water cycle, weather and climate, just as regular cars do, and probably not that much different. They certainly can’t be assumed to be in any sense environmentally neutral.

Hydrogen needs special containment systems to make it safe, and these are likely to add significantly to the cost of a car.

Fuel cells are still very much more expensive than competing power sources and there is little sign of any imminent major progress.

Making hydrogen generally requires electricity, and it is really just a proxy for the electricity used in its manufacture. It would be just as easy, as cheap, and much safer to just deliver this electricity direct to the cars without going through the hydrogen stage. Electric cars will have batteries and some potential synergy using them as storage for intermittent renewable energy manufacturing such as wind farms. If we are going to have to put up with wind farms anyway, then the economics shift in favour of this approach.

Also, development of new materials and supercapacitors, together with new directed induction technology (that allows large distances between the inductive components), allow for a Scalextric approach to car powering. It is hard to see the point in using an intermediary like hydrogen when this would be a better solution.

I don’t know where the pressure has come for government to think down this path. But it is the wrong path and they should change direction before they waste yet more money on inappropriate, expensive and inefficient infrastructure.