Smart fork clocks meals

The HAPIfork—equipped with sensors to measure how much and how fast you eat—is set to go on sale in April for $99.

If it finds you eat too fast it will vibrate and flash to urge you to take it slow.

Digital Human Body Model

Virtual cars, virtual drivers

I’ve co-written and submitted another FP7 proposal.

Over the past few months I’ve been co-writing another proposal for a European FP7 project, collaborating with Bax & Willems Consulting Venturing in Barcelona (a company run by my brother). For a consortium of 12 academic and industrial partners from the automotive industry – including major car makers – we wrote a hefty 85-page document to propose research on the use of Digital Human Body Models for safety testing, especially with regards to new “active pre-crash” systems that are entering the market. These systems will autonomously apply the brakes if a crash is imminent and the human driver fails to do so.

Forget specs, create curves

I don’t like to design to a detailed specification. In many cases designing to specification leads to mediocre value.

In other words, specs leave money on the table. My problem with specifications is that they are usually expressed as an all-or-nothing value proposition: If the spec calls for a maximum weight of 150g, then a design that comes in at 151g fails and has no benefit, whereas a marginally lighter one at 149g passes with full benefit. I would argue that in most cases this is too much of a simplification. In reality there will be a smooth benefit curve between “too heavy” and “impossibly light” – sometimes steep and sometimes shallow.

Sniffer bees in “The Engineer”

“Trained sniffer bees are the key components of new technology that could stop terrorists in their tracks”

The Engineer of this week has devoted a two-page spread to the sniffer-bee project we’ve been working on with Inscentinel for some time. It’s a very interesting and unusual project to work on…

mbed on breadboard

Easy prototyping with mbed

Since I attended an introductory workshop a few months ago I have used the mbed module and online IDE/compiler to whip up a number of prototypes.

I’ve been very impressed with how easy it has been to create a working system in very little time. The mbed module is based on the NXP LPC1768 chip (ARM Cortex-M3 32-bit processor) and has plenty of processing power for most applications I can see coming my way.

Selfoc Lens Arrays

Selfoc Lens Arrays

I first came across Selfoc Lens Arrays (SLAs) about 20 years ago.

At that time I was working as a product development engineer for the Dutch copier and printer manufacturer Océ, and involved in the design of a meter-wide LED print head. We used an SLA spanning the full width of the printhead to project an image of a strip of over 10,000 LEDs onto a photoconductor drum.

Man in gas mask

Detecting biological threats

Last Wednesday I attended the seminar on “Detection Systems for Biological threats” in London, organised by the Sensors & Instrumentation KTN.

There was a good range of speakers and attendees from industry, academia and government, and some interesting and thought-provoking talks.

Dr. Ian Lawston – chief scientist at the Dstl detection department – discussed the performance requirements for detection technologies. Apart from the obvious needs for sensitive detection of as many threats as possible, he emphasised that currently improvements are most needed not in the detection technology itself, but in the area of sample collection and processing.

Inscentinel VASOR

Sniffer bees on page 3

A prototype explosives detector I designed and built for Inscentinel was featured in an article by Richard Savill on page 3 of the Daily Telegraph—the full text follows:

Bees, latest weapon in the war on terrorism

Honeybees trained to sniff out explosives could soon be used at airports in the fight against terrorism.

Researchers have trained bees to extend their proboscis when smelling a particular explosive and have also developed a “sniffer box” to indicate when the bees show signs of detecting explosives. A spokesman for Inscentinel, of Harpenden, Herts, said teams of sniffer bees could one day be part of the screening process at airports and other venues, including museums and major sporting events.

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