Category Archives: IEEE Spectrum

How a New Middleman Might Help Balance Electricity Grids

A few years ago almost two thousand bold households on the Danish island of Bornholm joined a surge pricing experiment run by their electricity utility. It was supposed to empower the utility and consumers with a simple, direct market (“The Smartest, Greenest Grid,” IEEE Spectrum, April 2013).

The EU-funded project, called EcoGrid, won widespread buy-in from residents, who could also earn small payoffs when they reduced demand.  Yet researchers reported last year that they could reduce demand by only 1.2 percent of peak load, despite early predictions of up to 20-percent reductions for so-called virtual power plants. The market model was missing something. Continue reading

Ronnie Nader: Ecuador’s One-Man Space Program

Ronnie Nader is practically a one-man space program. Nader, a systems engineer and Ecuador’s only astronaut candidate, completed four years of cosmonaut training in Moscow in 2007, subsequently helped establish Ecuador’s own “vomit comet” zero-gravity training program, and managed the design, construction, launch, and operations of the country’s first two orbiting satellites in 2013. Continue reading

Robot Cars To Join Formula E Racing

The Formula E electric motor racing series is adding a robotic opening act: autonomous cars will race just before the human-driven race begins. The races, scheduled for the 2016-2017 season, will comprise a parallel championship called ROBORACE.

The robo-cars won’t have the same specifications as the human-driven ones. Free from the burden of meat and safety hardware, the robot cars could have an hours’ endurance, organizers say, which is about double that of last year’s human-driven Formula E cars.

Read the rest of this blog post on IEEE Spectrum’s Cars That Think blog: [html].

4G for All

Conventional cellphone networks aren’t for everybody. In the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, rural communities high in the Sierra Juárez mountains have been building their own 2G cellular networks using mostly open-source and low-cost software and hardware. These communities have liberated themselves from dependence on large commercial networks that had neglected their sparsely populated region.

They can do this in part thanks to software able to take over functions that once required hardware and to a parallel movement to make such software open source and almost free. So-called software-defined radios make it easier for tinkerers and researchers to prototype their own components for a 4G LTE technology cellular network. While a full open-source version of 4G LTE is not yet complete, a proposed agreement between some academic and industrial partners would ensure that open versions in the works will be interoperable with commercial systems. Continue reading