Wireless carriers love to talk about a Spectrum Crunch. Like oil, wireless spectrum is a finite resource. Companies like AT&T warn that smartphone proliferation is eventually going to leave those "wells" dry. Carriers' answers to the problem usually involve government (less regulations, and more federally-owned spectrum released). However, researchers at U.C. Riverside have another solution: make those networks more efficient. Read More

Honda has long championed the continuously variable transmission (CVT) and while this has in the past been largely a technology suited to small cars and even scooters, the Japanese car giant is now thinking bigger. Read More

Although transport truck drivers routinely shift gears when going up or down hills, those hills can sometimes sneak up on them. Using Daimler’s GPS-enabled Predictive Power Control, however, the new Mercedes-Benz Actros tractor unit will now be able to see those hills coming. This will allow it to automatically change gears before the going gets tough, resulting in fuel savings of up to three percent over moderately difficult topography. Read More

Many plastic items consist of both blow-molded and injection-molded components that have been welded together. Not only does this require multiple machines and production steps, but the parts may also fail at the weld points. Spanish research center ASCAMM’s new EBIT technology, however, combines the two plastic injection techniques in one process, to efficiently create weld-free parts. Read More
When it comes to groups that work together to get a job done, ants have pretty much got the process perfected. That’s why computer scientist Marco Dorigo studied the creatures’ behavior, and created his Ant Colony Optimization model – an algorithmic technique that can be applied to human endeavors, when efficiency is the order of the day. Scientists from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics have now applied these algorithms to a swarm of 50 autonomous shuttle robots working in a parts warehouse, in an effort to create a new and better type of materials-handling system. Read More
A European project is developing new Air Support Vessel (ASV) hull designs that allow watercraft to ride on a cushion of air to greatly reduce friction between the hull and the water, resulting in more hull speed for less power than conventional designs. The project is part of a EUR10,000,000 (approx. US$13,225,000) project funded in part by the European Union, the Norwegian Research Council and Innovation Norway, and Norwegian company Effect Ships International AS has recently completed tank-testing in Sweden of two ASV hull models. Read More
In factories where products are mass-produced, it's extremely important to know how long the human workers take to perform certain tasks. This not only allows the pace of the assembly line to be set, but it also allows factory owners to identify time-wasting problems such as superfluous movements, overly frequent tool changes, or impractically-located components. Typically, workers are periodically timed by a stopwatch-wielding supervisor, or using a timer that they start and stop themselves. A new wearable time-keeping system, however, promises more accurate readings. Read More
If you banged a pole and a hoop against the road, which one would transmit more vibrations to your hand? Given that the flexing action of the hoop would absorb some of the energy, it’s probably safe to assume that the pole would give you a numb hand quicker. Well, Canadian cyclist Lou Tortola applied the same sort of logic to the frame design of his Tortola RoundTail road bicycle. Where most other bikes would have a rear triangle consisting of straight seat stays, chain stays and a seat tube, the RoundTail simply has two shock-absorbing joined rings. Read More
If you had to use a commuting bicycle in a race, you would probably set about removing the kickstand, fenders, racks and lights to make the thing as fast and efficient as possible. When engineers at Houston’s Rice University are developing small, fast, energy-efficient chips for use in devices like hearing aids, it turns out they do pretty much the same thing. The removal of portions of circuits that aren’t essential to the task at hand is known as “probabilistic pruning,” and it results in chips that are twice as fast, use half the power, and are half the size of conventional chips. Read More
Call it standby power, phantom power or vampire power, but the current drawn by various household electrical devices when they are supposedly “off” can account for up to ten percent of a home’s energy use. Fortunately, there are gizmos available that act as “middle men” between wall outlets and devices, completely shutting off the power supply when the devices are not in use. One of the newest is the OnPlug, which manages to come in at quite a low price point by avoiding the bells and whistles of similar products. Read More