Daily TIPs: Downtown Farms, Invisible Islands, Water from Air, & More

9/29/08

Doubts Raised About Broadband Competition

The Federal Communications Commission is in the midst of figuring out how to allocate spectrum for wireless broadband transmissions, while Google and M2Z Networks push for regulations to allow an alternative broadband service. A columnist at GigaOm argues that indecisiveness at the FCC could wind up delaying any competition, which could increase options and bring down prices, for years to come.

Structures Could Render Islands Invisible to Tidal Waves

There’s been a lot of talk about the possibility of creating an invisibility cloak by building tiny structures that guide light waves around objects and through to the other side. Now a French scientist points out that the same principle applied to larger structures could have a similar effect on ocean waves, diverting them from vulnerable islands and coastlines and preventing destruction from tsunamis. New Scientist reports that a ring of concrete posts could render islands and offshore oil rigs essentially “invisible” to the waves.

Skyscraper Farms Could Save Energy

Instead of spending all that energy to plant and plow fields and then truck the produce from the country to the city, why not grow food right in a city, in a glass tower with different floors for different crops and livestock? A Columbia University professor tells Scientific American that such “vertical farming” would bring fresh food to urban dwellers with less fuel expended on shipping, and would allow farmers to heat or cool the environment as needed to grow crops all year round.

Reach Out and Conference With Someone

Teleconferences have moved from speakerphones on desks to flat screens projecting the image of the people in other locations who are joining your meeting. Now RoboDynamics, a company in Santa Monica, CA, is promoting a more interactive meeting tool, a mobile robot that provides what it calls telepresence. As described by TechCrunch, a caller’s image is displayed on a screen that tilts and turns to face anyone that person wants to speak to, making meetings more naturally interactive.

Wi-Fi Takes the Bus

There’s no need to be off the Internet, even if you’re on a bus traveling between cities. As Salon reports, Wi-Fi services are showing up on more buses, both in the U.S. and abroad. Buses traveling routes from Boston to Washington are increasingly using Wi-Fi availability to compete with other bus companies.

Buildings Could Become Greener and Smarter

At the West Coast Green 2008 exhibit in San Jose, CA, a number of companies were showing technologies that could make buildings more environmentally friendly while also providing new services. CNET News lists some of the companies and their technologies. For instance, Element Four says it condenses moisture out of the air and turns it into drinking water for a home’s inhabitants, while Intelligent Forms makes a high-end outdoor lounge table whose surface is a set of solar panels.

Auction Sets Carbon Emissions at $3.07 per Ton

The country’s first auction of emissions permits set the price of releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at $3.07 per ton. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a consortium of 10 states in the Northeast, held the first U.S. cap-and-trade auction last week and announced the results today, the Associated Press reports. Under the program, companies buy permits to emit a certain amount of greenhouse gases, and if they reduce their emissions they can sell the permits to other companies for a profit.

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