Monday, September 10, 2007

Technology Quarterly Summary

Every quarter, The Economist comes out with a special report on new and interesting technological innovations. I find it to be an important read for investors, in order to learn about what is going on in the world and also to know of trends that could affect investment decisions. But, it is also a very long read. Below is a summary of some of the noteworthy ideas mentioned.

1. The idea of transferring information through light (optical wireless) is being researched, promising better security and faster speeds than traditional radio-based communications. Advocates also like it for its convenience, and the cost to install is very low; the main drawback is that atmosphere conditions can affect the signal.

2. Researchers have developed an environmentally friendly light bulb that is cheap, uses very little energy and should last for decades. The traditional light bulb emits 5% of energy as light, fluorescent about 15%, and the new Ceravision lamp has efficiency greater than 50%. With lighting accounting for 20% of electricity use worldwide, this more efficient system could reduce energy demand as well as emissions. (Plus, reducing light bulb demand)

3. Using photosynthesis to capture exhaust gases from power plants could reduce the emissions produced by coal-fired stations, and could be re-used in the power plant as energy or converted to biodiesel. It is not yet commercialized, but a preliminary test suggested it can remove 75% of carbon dioxide from a power station’s exhaust. There stands the possibility that rather than paying for carbon emissions, power companies may soon be able to profit from them.

4. Offshore oil technology is becoming more efficient by outsourcing tasks off of rigs and by developing multiple fields from one platform, allowing for reduced levels of workers needed on rigs and resulting in lower production costs.

5. Germany is working on solving a 600 million piece puzzle from the shreds and torn papers of the documents of Stasi, the former secret police which tried to destroy the documents to keep from getting into public hands. This of course, due to the help of computer technology.

6. German engineers have created the “SeaFalcon”, a ship that flies about two metres above water, allowing it to travel far faster than a ship (80-100 knots) and for cheaper than a plane of equivalent size.

7. A new 3-seater car named “The Aquada” has the ability to fold up its wheels and convert into a boat of sorts. It will go into production in 2008 and cost $85,000.

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