Thursday, September 5, 2013

Solar-powered tablet designed to work in the wild

We recently covered the SatSleeve, an iPhone case that turns the device into a powerful satellite phone capable of making calls from any location. Now the Earl is a tablet specifically engineered for rigorous outdoor use and featuring a built-in solar panel. Running on Android 4.1 with an E-Ink screen, the rugged tablet is stripped back, but features precise GPS and orientation sensors to give users detailed information about their location, direction and elevation. The tablet also has internal weather sensors that offer accurate data about the climate and FRS, GMRS and MURS transceivers that provide resilient two-way multimedia communication with Walkie-Talkies and other Earl devices. The tablet comes with 16 gigabytes of hard-drive space, as well as a USB socket, and is equipped with useful survival guides in PDF format. Users can get over 20 hours of life out of the tablet battery, which can be charged with the built-in solar panel. The touchscreen can be used even with gloves on and the device is water, dust and shock-proof, withstanding submersion in three feet of water for 30 minutes. The team behind Earl created their own crowdfunding platform to fund the development of the device, reaching 195 percent of their target. Although the campaign is over, customers can still pre-order the tablet for USD 299 in either the Coal or Snow design. Although designed for explorers and mountain climbers, it’s easy to see how a device like Earl could be used in emergency scenarios or in remote environments.

Platform helps food trucks go digital

We’ve already seen Eu que Fiz help those in Brazilian favelas to start their own catering businesses. Now New York City-based wants to get immigrant workers running food trucks to learn how to use digital technology to boost their businesses. Founded by 26-year-old Deepti Sharma Kapur, the company is hoping to make ordering online from food trucks as easy as it has become for customers of large restaurants and takeaways. has a large, searchable database of independent food retailers – both small restaurants and food trucks – from which its users are able to order meals for delivery or pick-up without hassle. Rather than relying on footfall, the platform opens up those businesses – which are often run by immigrants or workers without the resources to set themselves up online – to a much larger audience. When a customer makes a payment through the site, a ticket is printed on a GPRS device at the food truck with the order details. Diners can then simply pick up their meal after a short wait.

App helps organizers bring local community events to life

Platforms such as Gidsy have already offered a way for locals to find new experiences in their city. Now a new app called Commune enables event organizers to promote community projects and recruit volunteers to bring them to life. Initially created for students at Colombia, and later launched at New York University and Oxford University in the UK, the app aims to provide a way to raise awareness of events among local communities. It is currently trialling its Neighborhood NYC Beta to expand its features for larger regional groups in order to residents become more aware of the projects happening in their area. Organizers can upload details of their event and then choose to invite individual friends, members of a network such as a college, anyone living in a particular part of the city, or the entire city. As well as recruiting attendees for their event, planners can also put out calls for help and volunteering. Users can potentially use the app to ascertain interest in an event before they even start planning it, making it a Songkick-style platform for community events. Bringing event promotion and information to the hyperlocal scale, Commune hopes to foster better connections between the different communities that live in the same district. It is available for free on the App Store. Are there other ways to make it easier for local residents to collaborate on projects that will benefit them all?

Through app, physical books become more like e-books

For an industry that is currently undergoing a shift from analog to digital products, it’s no surprise that we’ve seen innovations that merge the two – such as Poland’s Elektrobiblioteka. Now the Booke app is a companion for readers of physical books, offering digital search, copying and note-taking facilities. While e-readers come with the convenience and features connected with digital media, there is still a large demand for physical books and the tactile experience they offer. The team behind Booke take advantage of a large database of fiction and non-fiction titles, which have already been transferred to a digital format. When users are reading a physical book, they can take a picture of the front or type in the ISBN code into the app. Users can then either type or speak commands, such as searches for key terms, copying and saving specific paragraphs or sentences for later and make comments and notes on particular pages. Readers can also share their activity with friends, allowing others to read a book with their own personalized footnotes.

Revolutionary tech amplifies breaths of air to inflate airbed in seconds

Outdoors types are always innovating and looking for ways to make items more practical – as our recent coverage of the Earl survival tablet proves. Similarly, the Windcatcher is a portable air bed that can be fully inflated in seconds. Traditional air mats for campers can be cumbersome and take time and effort to inflate and deflate. The Windcatcher takes advantage of the physics of air pressure – fast moving air has low pressure, and high-pressure air is drawn to it. When users blow into the airbed’s valve, which is much wider than typical plastic toggles, its size enables it to take in all of the high-pressure air that is dragged alongside the breath of the user. The creators of the Windcatcher estimate that the system is ten to 15 times more efficient that current models and therefore fills up the bed with air after around five short blows. Without need for a separate pump, the airbed doesn’t take up much space in hikers’ backpacks and is even smaller than a traditional roll mat at around 9 x 3.5 inches. The Windcatcher recently raised just under USD 150,000 on Kickstarter, and the product’s usual retail cost is USD 120.

Lightweight flatpack truck can be assembled in a day

Netherlands-based Sandwichbikes has already enabled consumers to build their own bikes from a self-assembly kit. Now UK’s Global Vehicle Trust wants to bring the OX – a lightweight flatpack truck that can be built in a day – to African regions in need of cheap transportation. Designed specifically to cater for the kind of terrains found in the remote villages of the developing world, the OX weighs 1,500 kilograms and can carry up to 13 people at a time. In order to cut down assembly time, the vehicle is made out of simple parts, can be prepared for delivery by UK engineers in around 5 hours, and takes three people 11.5 hours to assemble the truck fully. It’s size when flatpacked is small enough that six packed trucks can be loaded into the assembled OX itself. It is hoped that the truck could be a cheap way to transport those who otherwise have to travel far distances for water and other resources, while also providing quick assembly when the trucks are needed for medical emergencies in the case of natural disaster, epidemics or conflict. However, as the Global Vehicle Trust points out, there has been demand for the vehicle even in developed countries – from farmers, estate owners and those dealing with rough terrain. It is hoped that the OX could become an essential part of the infrastructure of village communities, vastly improving the quality of life for those in remote areas. Are there other complex vehicles that could be redesigned for flatpack assembly?

When To Say Thank You In Writing

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