Archive for the 'Technology trend' Category

Artificial retina follows TRIZ line of evolution

August 07th, 2008 | Category: Technology trend,TRIZ,TRIZ concepts,TRIZ tools

Further to my previous posting on the BMW GINA concept car, I’ve just been reading an article in New Scientist about an example of increasing flexibility of form in vision systems. Going back many years, the first light sensitive¬†devices were composed of a single photo-transistor (1 point detection). Later, charge coupled devices (CCDs) were developed, initially in single row, line form (1 dimension or line). Later still CCDs were developed in a two dimensional flat array. Over time this basic format has been developed so that the number of devices has greatly increased, leading to far better image resolution. Until now, however, the CCD has remained two dimensional,¬†bringing increased complexity in the lens and focusing system and restricting field of view (compared to the human eye). According to the article, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign have created a hemispherical CCD. They have done this by slicing off the detection portion of a normal CCD and cutting fine holes in it to form an ultra-thin mesh. This mesh is then formed over a special elastic hemispherical former and then placed in a hemispherical support to create an artificial retina. A very neat example of theTRIZ law of increasing flexibility applied to shape and surface.

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How to target profitable innovation areas with TRIZ

July 28th, 2008 | Category: Technology trend,Trends,TRIZ concepts,TRIZ tools

One of the most basic and frequently observed TRIZ laws is the law of non-uniform evolution of technical system components. This law states that within any technological system, the various system components evolve along their own S-curves at non-uniform rates. This non-uniform evolution causes the development of System Conflicts. Put another way, this law predicts that systems will have areas of perfomance which are not good enough. If you follow the Clayton Cristensen line of reasoning, as outlined in the Innovator’s Solution, the companies who work on these areas and consistently advance these areas will be able to make bigger profits. So, the law of non-uniform evolution can really help you target the most profitable product areas for your business in future. Here are a couple of examples of technological systems where this law is being or has been played out. First an historical one, the evolution of the bicycle:

 

In this picture from the¬†1890s¬†you can see three different formats of bicycle being used at the same time. On the left is a safety bicycle with chain drive, but solid tyres, in the centre is a lever drive bike, allowing the rider to sit further back and lower. On the right is an “Ordinary” bicycle with pedals directly driving the front wheel. Although this bicycle is the most primitive format, it has the most modern tyres – pneumatic. To get to the final format of bicycle which we recognise today, many system conflicts were overcome. A key system conflict in the “Ordinary” format was the need for increased speed against rider safety, which resulted in a very large front wheel with severe risk of injury in the event of a fall.

 

Now lets look at a current example which is getting a lot of press right now because of the rising cost of fuel and fears about global warming. The electic/hybrid vehicle: A key system conflict being played out right now in this area relates to the performance of the battery system. Right now the latest battery technology is too expensive and the infrastructure is not in place to support long journeys.¬†As a result,¬†many manufacturers are targeting plug-in hybrid vehicles, which require more complexity and still generate emissions and use up fuel. I’ve just read in the Sunday Times that GM is planning to bring the development of battery technology in-house which backs up the Cristensen model. Clearly, whoever manages to take battery technology forward sufficiently to break through the current system conflict will be able to generate very healthy margins.

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All Terrain Quadruped Robot – a glimpse of the future?

I found this amazing video on the Boston Dynamics website yesterday of a quadruped robot, BigDog¬†which can get over serious obstacles, climb 35 degree slopes, carry 400lbs and even gallop and jump. It is pretty cool even if it is powered by a (rather noisy) gasoline engine driving hydraulics.¬†There are clearly¬†some very sophisticated control algorithms in it’s on-board computer – some of the shots of it trying to stay upright on ice¬†are amazing! I then had a look through the rest of the stuff on the site, how about a tree and wall climber, a sneaky all-terrain ground crawler and a small brother to BigDog imaginatively called LittleDog. I reckon this one seems a bit more house trained and might even make a good pet. Anyway, here’s a shot of BigDog full loaded.

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Flexible display in your smart card anyone?

June 28th, 2008 | Category: Targeted technology,Technology trend

I was just cruising the Philips Applied technology website when I came across this rather interesting development, exploiting Philips expertise in thin film flexible displays and smart card controller chips. It’s a smart card with a display on it.

Philips have set up a start-up Flexible Display Solutions to commercialise the concept, key benefits for the user are increased security and information feedback. Strangely, the original display was a flexible LCD, which, according to another article I read on flexible displays is usually big trouble but now Philips are targeting an electrophoretic display instead because it is bi-stable Рit only needs a signal to switch it = less power consumption. The card is 0.5mm thick and, in addition to the display, contains a control chip and battery.

With rapid development in the area of OLEDs and thermoplastic semiconductors, flexible displays are expected to play an increasing important role in our lives over the next few years as displays become cheap enough to be incorporated into clothing and packaging.

 

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Ideal Technological System, some practical examples

The previous post got me thinking a bit about the TRIZ concept of an “Ideal Machine” or “Ideal Technological System”. This is a very powerful and deep rooted TRIZ concept, which stated simply can be summed up by the sentence:

“An ideal technological system is a system which does not itself exist as a physical entity but¬†the function that it delivers is still fully performed”

Sounds a bit strange doesn’t it? If the system itself doesn’t exist then how on earth does it deliver any function at all? Well, lets see if we can think of some examples of ideal technological systems, that is, things which delivers¬†functions but which don’t themselves exist.

1. The office printer, scanner, fax¬†and photocopier used to be¬†four discrete devices, each with their own costly consumables and space requirements. Now you can get all the same functions from one device. So you could say that, for example,¬†the fax function is delivered without any system. Here’s a shiny example from Canon to prove¬†it, just look at all the stuff it does!

 

2. As I showed in my post about evolution of technical systems, the system to move aircraft control surfaces¬†has become¬†quite complex due to the need to control and move control surfaces on large and fast aircraft. The¬†active aero-elastic wing (AAW) prototype demonstrates a new way to move control surfaces by using shape memory alloys to flex the entire wing surface. This format eliminates many of the subsystems needed in a conventional wing such as flaps and hinge systems. Incidentally I’ve found some film of the AAW is action which is rather cool.

 

3. OK, I’m going to shift industry area completely now. Here is a final example of ideality. In this case, a recent innovation in dishwashing tablets – Finish Quantum. The key innovation here is that the tablet is encased in a hot water soluble barrier. I know it’s not perfect, I’ve stopped using them myself after a brief flirtation, but you get my point – no wrapper!

 

I hope you can see that such a thing as an “Ideal Technological System” can actually exist in reality and isn’t just a high-flown abstract TRIZ concept. From the TRIZ viewpoint the reason this concept is so important is that all technological systems, even if they are far from ideal right now, tend to evolve towards the “Ideal Technological System” over time, just look at computers, mobile phones and audio media for example (compare MP3 with an LP to get an idea here).¬†¬†

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New ways to control mobile devices

I found this on MSNBC today and it got me thinking how people might be controlling mobile devices (should they still exist) in the coming years. The article talks about eye movement control of mobile phones and portable music players being researched by engineers at NTT DoMoCo is Japan.

The experimental system uses sensors and chips that detect electrical current produced by movements of the wearer’s eyeballs. NTT DoCoMo believes wearable control technology will be adapted for mobile devices that download music, play video games and allow users to shop online and keep up with their e-mail. The new technology may also enable cell phone cameras to read bar codes used in Japan to get product information, download music and coupons when the user simply looks at the codes, researchers said.

Also on show was a new minimalist phone system is the form of a ring. To listen to it you stick your finger in your ear and the vibrations travel through your bones to and from the ear piece. Looks to be a bit clonky right now but I guess it’s only a prototype.

Finally there was a device shaped like a wrist watch which you tap to control other devices.

There is an interesting trend in technologies to interface with various devices right now, be it in surgery, aerospace, gaming or mobile telecoms. I’m not sure if the above options will ever make it to market but they do point the way to a future sitation where mobile devices become more “ideal” and, in time, a situation where they cease to exist totally, while their functions remain or¬†are even enhanced.

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