Your new urban life? Just maybe…

Wed, 2013-08-21 06:05 -- Liz Enbysk

We've rounded up a handful of just-plain-interesting smart technologies that have the potential to redefine smart city living – some sooner, some later. Scroll down for a sneak peek.

On the road to electrically conductive concrete -- The idea of electrically conductive concrete, according to a story in the Txnologist, intrigues researchers around the world who are looking at how it could sense when infrastructure needs repair or perhaps create cyber-secure buildings. In Canada, where harsh winters are frequent, researchers are testing how new conductive concrete can be used to de-ice roadways, bridges and sidewalks, and even heat floors. The Building Envelope and Structure research group at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) has patented the technology and proven it in small-scale applications, the Txnologist reports.

Making smart windows smarter still -- Researchers have been working on the concept of smart windows for some time now. But recently a team from the Berkeley National Lab created a new material – basically a thin coating of nanocrystals embedded in glass -- that can dynamically modify sunlight as it passes through a window. Unlike existing technologies, the lab says the coating provides selective control over visible light and heat-producing near-infrared light, so windows can maximize both energy savings and occupant comfort in a wide range of climates. “In the US, we spend about a quarter of our total energy on lighting, heating and cooling our buildings,” says Delia Milliron, a chemist at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry who led this research. “When used as a window coating, our new material can have a major impact on building energy efficiency.”

Food poisoning? Twitter to the rescue -- We told you a while back about a data scientist who believes digging through the deluge of social media data could lead to safer cities. Now here's a report on how social media could lead to healthier cities. Digital Trends has a report on researchers at the University of Rochester who think Twitter can be used to reduce food poisoning. Here's why, as Digital Trends explains it: "The researchers came up with a system called nEmesis, which they describe as an end-to-end system that ‘listens’ for relevant public tweets, detects restaurant visits from geo-tagged Twitter messages, tracks user activity following a restaurant visit, infers the likelihood of the onset of foodborne illness from the text of user communication, and finally ranks restaurants via statistical analysis of the processed data.” The researchers scoured 3.8 million tweets from 94,000 Twitter users in the New York area and reportedly found 480 counts of food poisoning based on their tool.  And as they point out, there are many other ways the tool could be used.

Getting down to the nitty gritty on energy usage -- Wonder exactly how much energy a microwave oven or big screen TV uses? Whether you left your refrigerator door open, or how much money can be saved by turning off a home computer while at work? A new research study by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) will test technology that can measure in-home electricity consumption down to the individual circuit and appliance level. Approximately 30-50 SDG&E customers living in the Civita master-planned development in Mission Valley will be selected to participate in the study.  Civita is an SDG&E "Smart Community" project where smart grid technology is being integrated, including solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations, fuel cell generation, battery storage and enhanced energy management tools for residents. "This research will take smart grid technology to a new level by providing among the most detailed energy usage data to customers through technology that is not even on the market yet," said John Sowers, SDG&E VP for generation and resource planning. "Through the research study, SDG&E will learn how this in-depth data can help customers to make smarter energy decisions and save money."

You're wearing your smartphone now -- It used to seem like a pretty far-out concept, a smartphone you can wear like a wristwatch and use to check your email, surf the web or make a phone call. But Bloomberg is reporting that Samsung will release its Galaxy Gear wristwatch-like smartphone in early September, racing other manufacturers (Apple, for instance) to get a jumpstart on the multi-tasking wearable device market. Bloomberg sources say the Galaxy Gear will be powered by Google's Android operating system.


Get SmartCitiesNow, a weekly newsletter highlighting smart city trends, technologies and techniques from the Smart Cities Council.