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Why New Daedalus?

Daedalus was the mythical great architect and artificer of the classical world. Today, embedded intelligence is enabling the most profound changes in the way we create and use buildings since his day.

Building Intelligence meets the Intelligent Building. The Intelligent Building negotiates with the Intelligent Grid. How will this transform how we interact with the physical world?

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« Weekend Reading on Smart Homes | Ontological requirements of the service oriented grid »
Wednesday
Jul232008

We have the PAN where’s the PAG?

One of the edgier concepts in computing has been the Personal Area Network, the network that surrounds a person. Seemingly way out there, the PAN is already surprisingly pervasive. What we need is the Personal Area micro Grid to go with it.

I first saw a PAN in an IBM proof of concept in the mid 1980’s, in which a small computer hidden in the heel of a shoe used body conductivity and perhaps sweat, for all I remember, to transmit information, Wearers of the shoe were able to exchange contact information by means of a simple hand-shake. This demonstration was half creepy, and have Maxwell Smart.

Today’s PANs are less exotic. Point to point networking between Bluetooth headsets and personal devices, whether they be phones, PDAs, or music players, make up the bulk of systems. The occasional user has even figured out how to share contacts phone-to-phone, or PDA to PDA.

Niche applications are creeping in to expand the PAN. When my son Josh worked in the Cleveland Clinics spine center, he described wired interfaces enabling people limited remote control of their own paralyzed bodies. With paternal sensibilities raised, I noticed engineering grads building open source responsive homes for the handicapped, using Bluetooth receivers cannibalized from old headsets.

Many people carry a surprising number of electronic devices with them every day. Charging them up requires a rats nest of different chargers. These chargers are as cheap as they can be made, and often draw nearly as much whether the device is plugged in or not. Keeping these devices charged throughout the day would keep them unplugged at night, as well as keeping them ready to use.

Meanwhile, personal power generations has slowly been creeping into society. My daughter spent the money from one of her summer jobs for a solar backpack when she was in high school, demonstrating her cred as a math and computer aficionado. Scott eVest markets a solar jacket to go along with the wiring harnesses in their TEC PAN.

But solar is not enough.

Recent reports talk of systems to generate power from kinetic energy. Science reports normal body movement. One system is reported to generate 13 Watts while reducing the effort of walking. Looking like a garden variety knew brace, the system harvests energy while reducing effort. At the end of a stride, a person must exert energy to slow his moving leg. The brace's generator helps slow the leg for the wearer, capturing energy in much the same way that a hybrid car harvests power from braking.

Others are working on bra-based generators. One lab is capturing swing and oscillation in a complex fabric-based generator. Another effort is focusing on piston-like energy capture from the brassiere straps. The [female] engineer note that different women have different power generation potential; I observe that there may be advantages to keeping that iPod set for dance tunes….

Microgrids use local energy production and storage to be self sufficient. The best reliability comes from a mix of technologies, with different performance characteristics. We have just begun to explore that the Personal Area Micro-grid might look like.

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