Dutch solar road makes enough energy to power household

You may remember a previous article on my web site about solar roadways. Well looks like somebody has succeeded.



Engineers in the Netherlands say a novel solar road surface that generates electricity and can be driven over has proved more successful than expected.

Last year they built a 70-metre test track along a bike path near the Dutch town of Krommenie on the outskirts of Amsterdam.

In the first six months since it was installed, the panels beneath the road have generated over 3,000kwh. This is enough to provide a single-person household with electricity for a year.

“If we translate this to an annual yield, we expect more than the 70kWh per square metre per year,” says Sten de Wit, spokesman for SolaRoad,   which has been developed by a public-private partnership.

RELATED: Netherlands rolls out ‘SolaRoad’

“We predicted [this] as an upper limit in the laboratory stage. We can therefore conclude that it was a successful first half-year.”

The project took cheap mass-produced solar panels and sandwiched them between layers of glass, silicon rubber and concrete.

“This version can have a fire brigade truck of 12 tonnes without any damage,” said Arian de Bondt, a director at Ooms Civiel, one of consortium of companies working together on the pilot project.

“We were working on panels for big buses and large vehicles in the long run.”

The solar panels are connected to smart meters, which optimise their output and feed the electricity to street lighting or into the grid.

“If one panel is broken or in shadow or dirt, it will only switch off that PV panel,” said Jan-Hendrik Kremer, Renewable Energy Systems consultant at technology company Imtech.

Five years of research

The research group spent the last five years developing the technology but during the first six months of the trial a small section of a coating, designed to give grip to the smooth glass surface without blocking the sun, delaminated.

This was due to temperature fluctuations causing the coating to shrink. The team is now working on an improved version of the coating. More than 150,000 cyclists have ridden over the panels so far.

“We made a set of coatings, which are robust enough to deal with the traffic loads but also give traction to the vehicles passing by,” said Stan Klerks, a scientist at Dutch research group TNO.

He said the slabs also had to “transfer as much light as possible on to the solar cells so the solar cells can do their work”.

The group behind the project is now in talks with local councils in the Netherlands to see if the technology can be rolled out in other provinces. A cooperation agreement has also been signed with the US State of California.

“Solar panels on roofs are designed to have a lifetime, which is typically 20/25 years,” said de Wit.

“This is the type of lifetime that we also want for these types of slabs. If you have a payback time of 15 years then afterwards you also have some payback of the road itself so that makes the road cheaper in the end.”

Source: Dutch solar road makes enough energy to power household – Al Jazeera English

Court says Skype’s name is too similar to Sky’s

Video chat software Skype’s name is so similar to the broadcaster Sky’s that the public is likely to be confused between the two, an EU court has ruled.

The judgement prevents Microsoft from registering a trademark for Skype’s name and bubble-design logo.

The US company intends to appeal against the decision.

Judges at the General Court of the European Union said: “Conceptually, the figurative element conveys no concept, except perhaps that of a cloud.”

“[That] would further increase the likelihood of the element ‘Sky’ being recognised within the word element ‘Skype’, for clouds are to be found ‘in the sky’ and thus may readily be associated with the word ‘sky’.”

Sky logo
Sky first challenged Skype’s trademark application before the video chat service was bought by Microsoft

Microsoft had brought the case to challenge an earlier ruling by the European Union’s Office for Harmonisation of Internal Markets, which, following a 2005 complaint by the broadcaster, also said Skype branding was too similar to Sky’s to be granted an EU-wide trademark.

This is not the first legal clash between the two companies.

In 2014, Microsoft changed the name of its cloud storage service from SkyDrive to OneDrive after the High Court in London ruled Sky’s trademark had been infringed.

However, a spokeswoman for Microsoft said it was not now facing the prospect of another imminent rebrand.

“The case was not a legal challenge to Skype’s use of the mark, it was only against the registration,” she told BBC News.

“We’re confident that no confusion exists between these brands and services and will appeal. This decision does not require us to alter product names in any way.”

Microsoft believes it still had the means to prevent anyone else from trying to call their product Skype.

Smartpen battle

In theory, Sky could now try to pursue Microsoft for a licensing fee even if it did not want to block the use of Skype’s name outright.

However, the firm did not directly address this point in a statement released following the ruling.

“Sky notes today’s decision from the General Court of the European Union,” it said.

“This relates to a long-running dispute with Skype over the extension of its trademark applications to cover a broad range of goods and services that overlap with Sky’s own trademark registrations – including, but not limited to, TV related products and services.

“Our intention has been to protect the Sky brand with our research showing that similarities in name and logo have the potential to confuse customers.”

Sky previously threatened legal action against Livescribe

Sky has acted in the past against another US company to protect its identity.

In 2012 it threatened to sue the smartpen-maker Livescribe for trademark infringement.

The American company opted not to fight the case and instead changed the name of the product in question from the Sky Wifi to the Livescribe Wifi pen in the UK, while retaining the original name elsewhere.

Source – Court Says Skypes Name is too Close to Skys – BBC News

How to Go From Being Busy to Being Productive

Being busy and being productive can be two very different things. If you’re super busy but can’t manage to get anything done, you’re not alone.

“It’s very easy to succumb to the temptation of staying busy even when it is counterproductive: It is the way our brains are wired,” write Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino and University of North Carolina Business School professor Bradley Staats in Harvard Business Review.

Gino and Staats say that they have a solution you can use to “translate that predisposition into productivity.” According to research, the reasons people feel busy, but are not productive, are self-imposed.

“People have an aversion to idleness,” Gino and Staats write. “We have friends who will, by choice, drive miles out of their way to avoid waiting for a few minutes at traffic lights, even if the detour means their journey takes more time. Research suggests that the same applies to work, where many of the things we choose to do are merely justifications to keep ourselves busy.”

The second reason for constant busyness is an inherent “bias toward action,” Gino and Staats write. “When faced with uncertainty or a problem, particularly an ambiguous one, we prefer to do something, even if it’s counterproductive and doing nothing is the best course of action.”

Below, find out more about these two self-imposed habits and how to stop crippling your own productivity.

Don’t jump to action.

“The action bias is usually an emotional reaction to the sense that you should do something, even if you don’t know what to do,” Gino and Staats write. By contrast, hanging back, observing, and exploring a situation is often the better choice.”

In one study, the authors found that people feel more productive when they are completing tasks rather than planning them. When under a deadline, subjects “perceived planning as a waste of time–even if it actually leads to better performance than jumping into the task head-first,” the duo writes.

You need to keep in mind is that it’s your choice whether to be busy or to be productive. It’s easier to choose to be busy, but you must remind yourself to be productive and take time to reflect and plan before descending into busy mode.

Take your time to plan.

In another study, Gino and Staats went to the tech support call center at Wipro, an outsourcing company based in India, to see if thinking and planning help productivity. They asked one group of employees-in-training to take 15 minutes out of their day to write and reflect on the things they had learned throughout the day. The other group of employees-in-training just continued working until it was time to go home. The researchers found that after one month, the “reflection group” increased its performance on the final training test by an average of 22.8 percent more than the group who used the 15 minutes to get more work done.

“Reflection has such beneficial effects on performance because it makes us more aware of where we are, gives us information about our progress, and lends us the confidence we need to accomplish tasks and goals,” Gino and Staats write.

Act like a goalie.

Gino and Staats say now you have to put these two elements together–being OK with remaining idle and taking time to plan and reflect. The duo cite a study of professional soccer goalies and the best strategies to stop the opponent from scoring on a penalty kick. Many goalies decide to jump to the right or the left without waiting and watching where the opponent is kicking the ball. “As it turns out, staying in the center is best,” they write. According to the study, goalkeepers who dive to the right only stop the ball 12.6 percent of the time, while those who dive to the left only stop it 14.2 percent of the time. The most successful goalies stay in the center–they stop the ball at a 33.3 percent rate.”

Learning to stay in the center, as goalkeepers should, involves stepping back, allocating time to just think, and only then taking action,” Gino and Staats write. “Through reflection, we can better understand the actions we are considering and ensure they are the ones that will make us productive.”

Source: How to Go From Being Busy to Being Productive |

‘Star Trek Online’ honors Leonard Nimoy with in-game Spock statues

With the recent passing of Leonard Nimoy, multiple generations of geeks found themselves at a deep loss. It makes sense then that the folks behind Star Trek Online would erect effigies to immortalize the man perhaps best known for his role as Mr. Spock in the Star Trek universe. Should you travel to the planet Vulcan (Spock’s home world), New Romulus, or even Earth in the game, you’ll see memorials for him. The former two have statues with different quotes (“Live long and prosper” on Vulcan, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” on New Romulus), while our home planet is hanging black flags of mourning at its spaceport for the next week.

What’s more, STO developer Cryptic Studios has adorned the same locations with plaques honoring the actors that have played other Starfleet recruits including DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Majell Barrett and series creator Gene Rodenberry. If it sounds similar to Robin Williams’ immortalization in World of Warcraft, well, that’s because it is and frankly we’re happy to see it happen.

Source: Engadget – ‘Star Trek Online’ honors Leonard Nimoy with in-game Spock statues.

FCC approves net neutrality rules, reclassifies broadband as a utility

[Photo credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images]

It’s a good day for proponents of an open internet: The Federal Communications Commission just approved its long-awaited network neutrality plan, which reclassifies broadband internet as a Title II public utility and gives the agency more regulatory power in the process. And unlike the FCC’s last stab at net neutrality in 2010, today’s new rules also apply to mobile broadband. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler laid out the basic gist of the plan earlier this month — it’ll ban things like paid prioritization, a tactic some ISPs used to get additional fees from bandwidth-heavy companies like Netflix, as well as the slowdown of “lawful content.” But now Wheeler’s vision is more than just rhetoric; it’s something the FCC can actively enforce.

“It [the internet] is our printing press; it is our town square; it is our individual soap box and our shared platform for opportunity,” said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel during today’s open commission meeting. “That is why open internet policies matter. That is why I support network neutrality.”