The next generation of power plants will be virtual

Your next home or electric vehicle could be part of a virtual power plant

Increasing numbers of homes outfitted with solar panels and batteries have the potential to help power entire regions with renewable energy. Working together, homes with solar setups are turning neighborhoods into virtual power plants that can feed power back to the grid and prevent blackouts.

These interconnected solar power systems are popping up across the globe — from apartment complexes in California and Utah, to public housing in South Australia. In the future, virtual power plants might even be made up of fleets of electric vehicles. It’s the next generation of solar power technology.

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Now all your home’s Alexa devices work like an intercom

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Amazon’s ‘Drop In’ feature now works across the entire house.

Amazon Alexa users can now use the “Drop In” feature to talk with all of their Echo devices at once, Amazon announced on its blog. Previously, Drop In messages could only be sent to one other Alexa-enabled device at a time — a user with an Alexa device in the bedroom could “drop in” on a device in the kitchen and have a two-way conversation.

Now, you can use a device to send a message to all Echo devices in the house at once. This could be helpful with asking group questions like, “Does anyone want anything from the grocery store?” according to the Amazon blog. To start a group Drop In conversation, you can ask Alexa to “Drop In everywhere.”

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Smart toilet checks you’re healthy by analyzing you wees and poos

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The new ‘smart toilet’ technology can look for signs of disease, scientists claim, from cancer to kidney failure.

Going to the loo may never be the same again thanks to scientists who claim to have invented a device that can be fitted on toilets to detect signs of various diseases in stool and urine.

The gadget, which fits inside the bowl, uses cameras, test strips and motion sensing technology to analyse the deposits and sends the data to a secure cloud server.

The researchers said their so-called “smart toilet” technology could be useful to individuals who are genetically predisposed to certain conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, prostate cancer or kidney failure.

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Why America is losing the toilet race

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I just got back from my first trip to Japan, and I’m now in love with the country. The ramen, yakitori and sushi. The gorgeous volcanoes. The fascinating people and culture. But of all the things I fell in love with, there’s one that I can’t stop thinking about: the toilets.

Japanese toilets are marvels of technological innovation. They have integrated bidets, which squirt water to clean your private parts. They have dryers and heated seats. They use water efficiently, clean themselves and deodorize the air, so bathrooms actually smell good. They have white noise machines, so you can fill your stall with the sound of rain for relaxation and privacy. Some even have built-in night lights and music players. It’s all customizable and controlled by electronic buttons on a panel next to your seat.

In Japan, these high-tech toilets are everywhere: hotels, restaurants, bus stations, rest stops and around 80% of homes. It’s glorious. Then, I come back to the United States, and our toilets are stuck in the age of dirty coal mines and the horse and buggy. They basically have one feature: flush. No heated seats. No nice smells and sounds. No sanitizing blasts of liquid. It’s like cleaning your dishes without water. It’s gross. And it got me thinking: Why can’t we have high-tech toilets too?

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You can light this candle with your phone, and it’s officially the future

 

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 Apparently, smartphones really do have everything we need, from cameras to calculators to flashlights to even… matchsticks?

You read that right. But instead of shooting flames out of a port, your phone can now create fire by activating a Bluetooth-enabled scented candle called Candle Touch, currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter. Said to be the world’s first smart-connected real-flame candle, the device has an electronic base that connects to a scented coconut-wax candle body. At a press of a button using the accompanying iOS/Android app, the base sends a current up a wire, which ignites the cotton wick like magic.

You’ll never have to risk getting burned ever again. Plus, you’ll have a neat party trick to show to all your friends.

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Unique ultrasonic cleaner cleans more efficiently than a washing machine

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A unique ultrasonic cleaner has been created which is more efficient than a washing machine and takes the form of the Sonic Soak. The compact ultrasonic cleaner has been specifically created to offer users with the “ultimate portable cleaner” says its creators, providing state-of-the-art powerful ultrasonic cleaning technology in the palm of your hand.

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The Cube One Prefab is a space-age dream – and it starts at $30k

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With dazzling lighting, a curvilinear design, and a fortified shell, the Cube One is a prefab for the future.

Want a peek at the future of prefab design? Meet the Cube One—a 156-square-foot dwelling with built-in furnishings, voice-controlled tech, and a galvanized steel shell that can withstand extreme heat and natural disasters. Singapore-based Nestron will ship the Cube One anywhere in the world, and it’ll be ready for move-in the day it arrives.

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New, slippery toilet coating provides cleaner flushing, saves water

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Penn State researchers have developed a method that dramatically reduces the amount of water needed to flush a conventional toilet, which usually requires 6 liters. Credit: Wong Laboratory for Nature Inspired Engineering, Penn State

Every day, more than 141 billion liters of water are used solely to flush toilets. With millions of global citizens experiencing water scarcity, what if that amount could be reduced by 50%?

The possibility may exist through research conducted at Penn State, released today (Nov. 18) in Nature Sustainability.

“Our team has developed a robust bio-inspired, liquid, sludge- and bacteria-repellent coating that can essentially make a toilet self-cleaning,” said Tak-Sing Wong, Wormley Early Career Professor of Engineering and associate professor of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering.

In the Wong Laboratory for Nature Inspired Engineering, housed within the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Materials Research Institute, researchers have developed a method that dramatically reduces the amount of water needed to flush a conventional toilet, which usually requires 6 liters.

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Researchers used a laser to hack Alexa and other voice assistants

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San Francisco (CNN Business)Usually you have to talk to voice assistants to get them to do what you want. But a group of researchers determined they can also command them by shining a laser at smart speakers and other gadgets that house virtual helpers such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant.

Researchers at the University of Michigan and Japan’s University of Electro-Communications figured out they could do this silently and from hundreds of feet away, as long as they had a line of sight to the smart gadget. The finding could enable anyone (with motivation and a few hundred dollars’ worth of electronics) to attack a smart speaker from outside your house, making it do anything from playing music to opening a smart garage door to buying you stuff on Amazon.

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Amazon’s Ring wanted to use 911 calls to activate its video doorbells

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Ring wanted 911 calls to activate its doorbells.

 The company worked with police and cities to build in this real-time feature, emails showed.

Ring considered building a tool that would use calls to the 911 emergency number to automatically activate the video cameras on its smart doorbells, according to emails obtained by CNET. The Amazon-owned company isn’t currently working on the project, but it told a California police department in August 2018 that the function could be introduced in the “not-so-distant future.”

In the emails, Ring described a system in which a 911 call would trigger the cameras on Ring doorbells near the site of the call. The cameras would start recording and streaming video that police could then use to investigate an incident. Owners of the Ring devices would have to opt in to the system, the emails said.

“Currently, our cameras record based on motion alerts,” Steve Sebestyen, vice president of business development for Ring, said in an email that CNET obtained through a public records request. “However, we are working with interested agencies and cities to expand the device owners controls to allow for situations where a CFS [call-for-service] event triggers recording within the proximity of an event.”

It’s unclear how long Ring had contemplated this idea and how many cities it proposed this plan to, but the project is no longer being pursued.

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Home energy storage capacity breaks records in U.S.

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Additions of new residential energy storage capacity in the United States reached a record high in the second quarter of the year, exceeding 30 MW, a new report by Wood Mackenzie says. The market for energy storage in the country is growing fast, the authors note, driven by customer interest and government incentives.

In May this year, IHS Markit forecast grid-connected energy storage capacity would jump twofold by the end of 2019, from 376 MW last to 712 MW. There may be a good chance of such an increase taking place: total new storage additions during the first half of the year were over 200 MW, with 148.8 MW deployed during the first quarter and 79.5 MW deployed during the second quarter.

According to Wood Mac, the reason for the slowdown in total storage capacity additions was due to a sizeable fall in front-of-the-meter storage additions. These, however, would pick up in the second half of the year, the consultancy said, with the pipeline for new FTM storage projects soaring 66 percent from a year earlier.

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3D printer builds 500-square-foot home in under 12 hours

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S-Squared 3D Printer’s Autonomous Robotic Construction System, (ARCS)

ARCS is a patent pending technology that allows multiple machines to work together to create a home with little or no human assistance. Delays in building projects are a thing of the past now that building a 3D printed home is possible in hours — not days or months. The 3D building process ushers in a new level of affordability for homeowners and businesses like never before. In addition, this new technology can reduce construction costs by as much as 70%.

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