Sunday, November 15, 2015

Shining a light in dark times

Incandescence made by French artist Severine Fontaine
I was one of the estimated 700,000 people who visited the Dutch city of Eindhoven on a couple of evenings this past week. This was for the 10th edition of the Glow Light festival. I think this year’s was one of the best ever, although for the really spectacular art installations you needed to explore the exhibits in the city park rather than the city centre. The photos below only tell part of the story because you need to see the installations close up and experience the specially composed music that often adds atmosphere to the short performances. But it was magic. 

The festival ended in a different way than expected. The tragic events in Paris on Friday November 13th, when over 200 people were killed by a coordinated terrorist attack, has affected the mood everywhere. Eindhoven held a minute silence on Saturday night as a mark of respect for those who died. Many of the exhibits at GLOW are from French artists.

This is very much a family-orientated festival draws public awareness of the positive effects creative lighting has on our lives. My only critique is I think it’s a shame its only for a week and nothing is left behind permanently. As the city of Light, it would make a lot of sense to gradually build a permanent collection.  

There is also GLOW Next, which was added in 2012 at Strijp-S, the site of the former Philips radio factories. This spin-off fills the need for a pipeline to ensure the main GLOW event stays fresh. International artists, scientists, entrepreneurs and residents collaborate here on innovative lighting art installations that address societal challenges. During the 2013 GLOW Next, for example, an interactive art work"Waves"was created by members of TU Industrial Design, ILI and local startup Sorama. They used patented technology to monitor sound in the public spaces. The result was such a success that it played a prominent part in this year’s GLOW Festival. 

Waves of light - you gradually realise they respond to the sound of shoes...
Interaction on this project led to a spin-off between Sorama and the Strijp-S smart lighting grid project. A service is currently being tested whereby the sound of breaking glass will trigger an instant increase of light intensity, contributing to a safer city. 

Since the system can identify a particular sound, I’ve heard it said that it might also be used to identify gun-fire. I can (sadly) think of situations in US schools, where knowing the exact location of the gunman could have prevented the loss of many lives. Or what about the desperately tragic events on the streets of Paris, Beirut, and Ankara?

Data & dynamic lighting for a safer, contented public

Eindhoven is working on making the city’s busiest entertainment area – Stratumseind – a safer yet fun experience. The ultimate goal of this real-world initiative by the city is to prevent brawls, to guide crowds when needed and to encourage people to enjoy the nightlife. The city council co-ordinates this living lab with a large consortium of universities, research institutions, local businesses and agencies. Together, they’ve deployed a wide array of sensors and security systems that monitor and try to influence peoples’ activities on this street. The number of people entering and leaving in this popular area is assessed with special open-source software connected to modified security cameras. This is combined with data on weather conditions and even beer stocks of the local bars to continuously assess the street’s activities.

Managers at the dedicated control centre can vary the intensity of the LED streetlights, as well as adjust the hue. The Technical University provides a seasonal lighting plan, so that lighting levels are adjusted gradually at just the right time.

All kinds of sensors monitor behaviour in Stratumseind
Reactive scenarios have also been shaped to reduce crowd tension based on previous incidents. When a brawl was reported, the initial response was to flood-light the trouble spot. But this only attracts large crowds of onlookers, making responding police-officers’ jobs more difficult. Stratumseind lab managers now try to distract by-standers with light displays in another part of the street. They’re also testing which light colour at which time is the most efficient in discouraging brawls or alerting police to possible criminal activity.

Directional sound monitors have also proved useful innovations. Originally placed to monitor whether bars were adhering to agreed noise levels, noise from the street made enforcement difficult. Now they’re examining if sound can be used to anticipate whether verbal abuse escalates into a brawl.

This Eindhoven living lab also monitors if people’s smartphone has WiFi or Bluetooth enabled. Messages can be sent to people to avoid dangerous situations arising on particularly crowded holidays. The next phase is to mix light with different aromas.

Privacy Concerns Addressed

This Stratumseind project uses open-source software so that partners can easily experiment with this public information. But Tilburg University is checking that the public’s privacy is protected and that user-data is anonymised. To prevent possible hacking of the video server, the video analysis is done inside the camera. Open discussions about privacy and publication of data are on-going. The bars, for instance, don’t want to share data on how full their establishment are. They’re afraid people will stay at home, waiting until it gets busy.

Look closely. These lights are made from recycled plastic bottles.

 The exhibit above was made by 40 schools in the region, involving 2500 pupils working on the theme Architecture and Nature. The laterns make use of recycled bottles.

Horizontal Interference by Katarzyna Malejka and Joachim Slugocki
 This reminded me of the test patterns you would find on early colour televisions after closedown. UV light is used to illuminate elastic cords strung between trees.

Yes, I was enthralled by the light bulbs of Incandescence. It reminded me of the fact that Philips was also a maker of radio valves.

This residential building is currently under construction. So fill it with light and the authentic sounds of the hammering and drilling going on during the day.

There is no Glow without a fire. Artist and technical engineer Ivo Schools saw what happened when a tornado raged across a forest fire.

Magic sounds and light near the Park Theatre from the German company Forum InterArt.

90 dandelions made from 9000 recycled bottles by Olivia d'Aboville.

Great GLOW food at Kazerne, a new cluster where designers and technology interact.

The return of an old favorite - De Cagna forms a central point infront of city hall in Eindhoven.

This light installation by Rob Vaessen and Tom Klaversma is very much a hands on exhibit. Push the bulbs to move the spotlights on the building next door.

The organisers of GLOW are looking for ways to generate more income. I personally think that a showcase spots like the Catherina Church didn't work this year, because unless you bought the glasses you couldn't enjoy the performance - at least it was a shadow of the experience they did at the same spot last year. I would make money on lighting sticks/paraphernalia and refreshments. And I wonder why Philips Hue doesn't make more publicity for its mobile controlled lighting system for the home. They were walking around the city last year. Didn't see them this time round.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Dutch Solar Teams sweep all major awards at Bridgestone World Solar Challenge 2015 Australia

The cars reach Adelaide after the 3022 km ride from Darwin.
The cities of Eindhoven, Enschede and Delft can all be proud of the supreme efforts made by their respective Technical University Teams nearly 15,900 km away from home in Adelaide, Australia. Teams from 30 countries took part in the 3000 km World Solar Challenge race from Darwin to Adelaide this past week.

Teams from the Netherlands came away with the three main prizes.

The CSIRO Innovation Prize

The University of Twente was awarded the CSIRO innovation prize. Dr Glen Platt, Energy Research Director at CSIRO Judge said "It is customary that the scientific faculty recognise and honour new ways of doing things. In the trip down from Darwin our team was able to observe many cars with superb engineering and design. It ranged from carbon fibre bodywork to wiring and layout of the car itself. We also saw breakthrough innovation. It ranged from a Coke-bottle evaporative cooling system, to solar-driven route planners, coupling real-time weather information so as to make maximum of use of every ray of sun. I hope we can encourage more of these kinds of developments in the years to come. But one team combined what we thought was great novelty with fantastic execution. The 2015 World Solar Challenge Innovation prize goes to the University of Twente for its solar array balancing interface - maximum power point tracking system."

During the rest-point moments during the race, the "Red One" car team orientates the car so the solar panels are exactly at right angles to the sun. In previous years, Twente removed the solar panels, placing them on an adjustable portable stand next to the vehicle. This year the rules have changed so that the panels and the chassis had to remain connected. So they devised an adjustable mirror to ensure the maximum sunlight capture reaches the solar arrays.

The Cruiser Class

Solar Team Eindhoven at the final inspection round
2015 is the second time the Cruiser Class has been part of the challenge. This time, the Australian organisers managed to double the number of entries to this very difficult challenge. They were also tremendously excited to get the support of Tesla Motors for judging the Cruiser Class. The way these cars have captured the attention of the competitors, scientists and the media has been tremendous. Success in this particular class is a combination of speed, endurance, the work done (the number of passengers carried) and the external energy inputs. This year was an incredibly close race with 5 of the 7 teams managing to finish the entire route. Each team had a different strategy, balancing their load, optimising their speed, and carefully managing their energy usage. But the judges also had introduced a subjective element - have these young engineers really created a car that is desirable? To what extent is this car something that the members of the public want to own. The judges looked at ease of access, control layout, features, benefits, styles, aesthetics,

James Harris, the lead recruiter of Tesla Motors came on stage to announce the winner. It was Eindhoven Technical University's team with their family car Stella Lux. They completed the 3022 km in a little over 39 hours. They clocked 3044 passenger kilometres and a practicality score of 84.5%. That gave an overall mark of 97.3%!

The Cruiser Class Winners
Solar Team Eindhoven captain, Tom Selten, started by honouring all the other competitors in the Cruiser class...Hochschule Bochum from Germany in particular. "Thanks to this Australian initiative, the team in Eindhoven got the opportunity to build this car. Of course, the competition was strong, but so was the team spirit between all the teams taking part in the Cruiser class."

Judging the cruiser class
"As you may know, Solar Team Eindhoven won this Cruiser class in 2013." continued Tom. "We still firmly believe this type of car is the future direction for all solar cars. If we can build a car that family's really want to own, then we're heading in the right direction. But since the last race, the rules for this World Solar Challenge have changed - and not in favour of the type of family car we believe in. In fact, in September 2014, we called a strategy meeting in Eindhoven to discuss our options with students and technical sponsors. Would we enter the Cruiser class again with these new, much tougher requirements with a reduced chance of winning? Or would we switch categories to the Challenger Class and focus all our strengths on building the world's fastest solar car."

"I am so glad we accepted the most difficult challenge and went for the next generation solar family car. This time, we've focussed our efforts on improving the safety, comfort and interior design of Stella Lux. We beat all our previous records this week - the range is now 1500 km for Stella Lux on a single charge. That's thanks to onboard smart technology which tracks both wind and sunshine and gives us the real-time range. That helps build a driving strategy."

Challenger Class Winners

The first and second prizes for the Challenger class went to Delft (Nuon) and University of Twente respectively. In fact for the first three days Twente was leading Delft by several minutes. But they had to slow down to avoid some unsafe conditions, and Delft then took the lead. But it is also important to note that Twente improved on their 2013 racing time by almost four hours! So everyone is getting a lot faster.

It was also fitting that in their acceptance speech, Delft honoured the memory of the late Dutch astronaut and physicist Wubbo Ockels, who did so much to promote the global search for technologies to save the environment. "Remember we only have one planet. There is no spare." That's why this rapid shift to renewable energy sources like solar is so important.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

An extraordinary day to be in Eindhoven

Bright Roadmap for Photonics Chip manufacturing at High Tech Campus

Stef Depla Alderman City of Eindhoven (left) congratulates Richard Visser of Smartphotonics.
Champagne was flowing at lunchtime to mark the start of an important new phase in Indium Phosphide chip manufacture in the world. Having followed the development of photonics for the last 9 months, I've come to understand that some amazing technologies are being born with the power of light rather than electrons.

Smart Photonics, a pure-play foundry, which began in 2012 as a spinoff initiative from Tu/e revealed an ambitious roadmap for the coming years. Pure-play means they only work with customers to make their chips. They don't want a situation like Samsung and Apple where Samsung has made screens for Apple, while at the same time competing with their own phones.  

Sigrid Johannisse, Director of StartupDelta and Alderman Stef Depla of the City of Eindhoven assisted in the inauguration of the new cleanroom production facility. They etched a message of support into the first wafer to be made in the new facility.

Richard Visser, CEO, Smart Photonics took the opportunity of the visit to reveal the next stage of his company’s plans. “Today, we opened the pilot line production facility which allows us to offer a new range of services to photonics chip designers and high-tech companies around the world. We have already built a trusted relationship with more than 40 major companies in Europe, USA and Asia. They understand that indium phosphide chips are the best choice in applications ranging from new generation low-power consumption data-centres to “needleless pills”  for medical diagnostics that can help diabetics. Photonics also plays an important role in the aircraft industry and highly secure cryptography. In short, the market is scaling exponentially.”

The opening of the new production facility on High Tech Campus Eindhoven means photonics design companies can scale-up production much faster and at a significantly lower cost. The official opening of the facility involved a short visit to the brand new cleanroom but also contained a surprise ending.

Sigrid Johannisse has worked alongside Neelie Kroes (above) in the development of European Commission policy to give Europe a 5 year lead on the US and Asia. Together with Neelie Kroes they both put up a very strong case in 2012/2013 that Photonics should be one of the key 6 enabling technologies. It was a commitment which has proved to be a winning strategy, and the results of these investments are now bearing fruit.

Just before pushing the countdown button, Sigrid had this to say.

We've listened today to the story of Eindhoven as a City of Inventions, especially in making light. But also the great work in building photonics startups that are light year's ahead. We hope your goals will also be achieved at the speed of light. On behalf of Startupdelta, we wish you every success, we're especially proud of what's been achieved so far, and we'll work together to build an even brighter future.

In three year's Smart Photonics looks forward to inviting today’s guests back to Eindhoven to inspect their new full-scale Indium Phosphide chip factory. Designs for the new facility will be finalized based on the practical experiences gained in the pilot facility opened today. This will ensure that photonics manufacturing prospers in this region of the Netherlands, keeping Eindhoven light years ahead in Photonics.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

MN.02.09.1982 Firato 82

There used to be an annual hi-fi and TV exhibition at the RAI Amsterdam called FIRATO. It gradually died out as organisers realized that going to see pop stars dancing on stages next to gadgets didn't sell any more gadgets. The acoustics in the vast halls bear no resemblance to what it sounded like at home. When we visited in 1982, the show was already passed its peak. I was always surprised that a new shortwave radio was often shown there, though seldom on the market until months after. Back then DAT was the big story. In 2015, the only show in Europe left is IFA in Berlin, but I seriously wonder for how much longer. 

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.02.12.1982 Angola Profile

Paul Ballister reports from London on a Polish clandestine radio station supporting the Solidarity movement which has popped up in London. And Radio 4 Today's programme has been talking about pirates.

Media Network was a labour of love for all those who contributed on a regular basis. Richard Ginbey, at that time a media enthusiast working in broadcasting in South Africa, compiled a series of radio portraits using his own extensive recordings taken off air. I think that they are probably some of the only surviving recordings of radio stations in places like Angola. Also, check out of the Interval signal database.

This edition also contains an interview with Michiel Schaay, the Dutch author and publisher of many utility books. 

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.11.03.1982.Mozambique and Afghanistan

We start this edition with news about clandestine radio stations being set up to broadcast to Afghanistan, currently occupied by Soviet troops. Dennis Powell reports on concerns in the US about vastly expanded Cuban mediumwave stations and possible interference. Andy Sennitt reports about the legendary format change for WABC in New York to all talk. We phoned RTV Hong Kong to find out why they were going on shortwave for a brief period. Richard Ginbey presents Part 2 of his illustrated feature on radio in Mozambique. Those recordings of Radio Free Mozambique must be unique these days. No-one else has kept this material. Sadly, Richard was killed in a car accident. Not sure what happened to his cassette collection of those radio recordings. Dan Robinson has been hearing Radio Portugal and Radio Singapore with very strong signals.  

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.23.09.1982.Botswana and Seychelles

We started with an interview with Patrick Humphreys (pictured) who explains the demise of Voices magazine - an attempt to start a listening guide about the programmes on international broadcasting. Financially, it turns out to have been a disaster. This edition includes a profile by Richard Ginbey of broadcasting in Botswana as it was in 1982. There was also an oblique reference to the World and Rhodesia programme which the BBC broadcast from a transmitter site in Botswana. It would be 1995 before we discovered exactly what BBC's Douglas Muggeridge was talking about. We rang up the charming Andrew Piper, programme organiser at the BBC who explained about new series they were launching. We interview an author on new propagation theories. Victor Goonetilleke rounds out the edition with recordings he made of a coup in the Seychelles. 

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault


The programme starts with news of a clandestine radio station, Radio Solidarity, broadcasting within Poland. The country is under marshall law. And BFBS has started a special programme of requests to the UK Task Force heading to the Falklands. In fact, those broadcasts from BBC Ascension Island were monitored in Buenos Aires and later used by an Argentine propaganda station to address the same UK troops. Sarah Kennedy was giving out names so the Argentines knew who was on which ship. We also asked the BBC World Service about their extended coverage in English and Spanish to Latin America. Beverley Wakeham has news on the fate of the Radio New Zealand shortwave service. And we solved the mystery of that strange Spanish language radio station reported back on April 1st. 

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault


Remember the TV ship Odelia broadcasting off the Israeli coast? Neither did I until I revisited this edition of Media Network and an interview done by Kas Van Iersel. There was also the on-going discussions about Radio Marti to Cuba. We talk with the late Willem Bos about Citizen's Band Radio on 27 MHz. He's set up a magazine to serve this new audience of radio enthusiasts. Dennis Powell has news about clandestine broadcasting in Afghanistan. Radio Caroline is promising to return over Easter. No mediumwave frequency has been announced. Arthur Cushen reports on Australian pirates. And we conclude with a unique recording of a strange Spanish language radio station. Professor John Campbell had some interesting theories.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.09.09.1982. Malta and More

More editions of Media Network from a very turbulent year -1982. Malta and Libya had entered into a Friendship and Cooperation Treaty, in response to repeated overtures by Gaddafi for a closer, more formal union between the two countries; and, for a brief period, Arabic had become a compulsory subject in Maltese secondary schools. German international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, was forced to shut down its relay station on the island under the Foreign Interference Act. Mike Barraclough gives a plus for the popular Reading Meetings for SWLs. Voice of Greece and RTBF Belgium are being heard well at the moment. Tony Jones (pictured) gives us a feature about the return to shortwave of several Bolivian stations. We speak with George Otis, who has built the religious station the Voice of Hope that we're hearing on the 49-metre band. Professor John Campbell reports that some clandestine radio stations are replying to listeners letters. Radio Venceremos has an address in Mexico City. Richard Ginbey has an item about Radio Biko. Strange things happening in Swaziland, following the death of their long-reigning Monarch.    

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault