Kroll | Date: 2010-12-14
A phone for pets and pet owners is taught which allows the owner to call the house and talk to the pet. The owner can then see a video image of the pet in front of the pet phone to verify presence and happiness. The device can also present the owners scent to the pet and deliver treats on remote command. In some embodiments, the pet can initiate the phone call.
Kroll | Date: 2010-08-26
The present invention teaches an economical disposable emergency cellular telephone. A major object of this invention is a shocking self-defense capability. A further object is a cell phone which launches projectiles to deliver the shocking voltage. A further object of the invention is a new technique for having a large number of cellular phones share the same small group of access numbers and serial numbers in order to reduce the monthly charges to zero for the end consumer. This makes it more practical to use cellular phones for data transmission and monitoring applications.
Glimpses of blue sky are becoming a rare sight in Delhi, India’s capital, particularly in wintertime, when a thick white haze smothers the city. David Hagan, an MIT PhD candidate studying atmospheric chemistry and a Fellow in the MIT Tata Center for Technology and Design, says that the city’s air quality is now quantifiably among the worst in the world. “Beijing has bad episodes, but Delhi is worse because of the meteorology,” says Hagan. “It’s hot, it’s humid, and in the winter an inversion layer settles in. Delhi is a perfect reactor of anthropogenic and biogenic particulates.” Meanwhile, a lack of specific data has frustrated scientists and governments hoping to understand the complex environments of megacities in India and China, where air quality is inextricably linked to energy systems. Emissions in megacities such as Delhi can be traced to a wide variety of sources, including automobiles, fossil fuel-driven power plants, and open burning of biomass for warmth and cooking, each producing different kinds of particles. Hagan and his advisor, Associate Professor Jesse Kroll of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, saw this complexity as motivation to design a compact, low-cost air quality sensor that they hope will be deployed in dense networks across cities like Delhi, logging accurate, real-time data on the chemistry of the air. “Air quality monitoring is often discussed as an either-or situation,” says Kroll. “One can have expensive, regulatory-grade monitors or else distributed, low-cost sensors. But in reality it’s a continuum, with a tradeoff between cost, size, and power on one hand, and accuracy, precision, and sensitivity on the other. We’re somewhere in the middle of the continuum, with enough accuracy and precision to provide quantitative measurements.” “If we can generate a better data set,” Hagan adds, “it could lead to a sustainable public good.” The production of particulate matter less than 2.5 microns across, known as PM2.5, is a particular area of concern for epidemiologists. These fine particulates are largely generated by fuel combustion, and when they’re inhaled, they can have dire health effects, including asthma, lung disease, and heart attack. In fact, a recent study by the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute estimated that half of Delhi’s schoolchildren have suffered irreversible lung damage. “In Manhattan the highest level of PM2.5 you’ll see is about 12 micrograms per cubic meter,” Hagan says. “Delhi can be anywhere from 150 to 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter, so the levels are dozens of times higher. However, there is no safe level of PM2.5. We all have a long way to go to make it better.” Kroll and Hagan already have several prototypes on the ground in India, reporting data to a remote server every 30 seconds. Two units are located at Nehru Place in south Delhi, and four are near Connaught Place in central Delhi, co-located with a regulatory-grade sensor for calibration. Two are in the city of Pune, near Mumbai, and one is mobile — Hagan can frequently be seen taking it on rickshaw rides around Delhi. A regulatory-grade sensor, of which there are roughly 20 in Delhi, costs between $50,000 and $100,000. Kroll and Hagan’s sensor costs “on the order of $1,000” per unit, says Hagan, and offers comparable performance, measuring six types of gases (O , NO, NO , SO , CO, and volatile organic compounds) and 16 size groups, or “bins,” of particles, ranging from coarse to fine. The lower cost makes it feasible for these sensors to be deployed in large volumes, creating an opportunity to map pollutant distribution at greater levels of detail. There are several low-cost and do-it-yourself devices on the market already, but the sensitivity of Hagan’s design, including its ability to measure particles as small as 380 nanometers across, sets it apart. “Most low-cost sensors only measure one size bin of particulate — coarse,” he says. “I’m very interested in both the atmospheric chemistry and the user experience, which is why my sensor is different. There hasn’t been a low-cost sensor made with a good mix of quality components and a well-engineered interface.” Kroll adds: “We’re interested in measurements with reasonably good spatial coverage, but that are also directly comparable to those from regulatory-grade monitors and that provide insight into the chemical changes that pollutants undergo in the atmosphere.” Part of the learning process for Kroll and Hagan has been understanding how the sensors will respond to a diverse set of environmental circumstances. They, along with other MIT researchers, have subjected different generations of sensors to the seasonal extremes of the Boston area, where two small grids are up and running — one on the MIT campus and the other in Dorchester — and to the highly variable conditions around the Hawaiian volcano Kilauea. Now, with a refined prototype, they’re beginning to see how the intense heat and dirty air of Delhi will affect the sensor’s performance. One of the Nehru Place sensors became so clogged with black grime that air could no longer pass through, and, ironically, it began to record low pollutant numbers. Transparency is vital to the success of the project, Hagan says. “It’s important to be honest about what the sensor is measuring and what its limitations are.” He adds, “The next generation will be much better,” citing a robust filtration system to prevent clogging and a smaller, more energy-efficient design. Hardware is just one part of the equation. Hagan also wrote the algorithms that interpret the sensors’ raw data. He envisions a number of different possible applications for the data in both the public and private sectors. Governments and academic researchers could use it to identify emissions sources and create mitigation strategies, while factories and office buildings could integrate the sensors into their HVAC systems for indoor air quality monitoring. Entrepreneurs might purchase access and use the data in commercial products, such as in-home monitoring systems or smartphone apps that show people real-time information on the air they’re breathing. For millions of Delhi residents who live with the effects of air pollution every day, solutions can’t come soon enough. This research was supported by the MIT Tata Center for Technology and Design. More details can be found at tatacenter.mit.edu/portfolio/air-pollution-sensors. This article appears in the Spring 2016 issue of Energy Futures, the magazine of the MIT Energy Initiative.
The School of Engineering has announced that seven members of its faculty have been granted tenure by MIT. “These newly tenured colleagues have demonstrated a commitment to outstanding research and teaching,” said Ian A. Waitz, dean of the School of Engineering. “They have made a significant impact on MIT and their fields, and we look forward to the continuation of their remarkable work.” Steven Barrett, associate professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Finmeccanica Career Development Professor of Engineering, and director of the Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment. The main goal of his research is to advance understanding of the environmental impacts of aviation, and to develop strategies that mitigate these impacts. Mark Bathe ’98, SM ’01, PhD ’04, associate professor in the Department of Biological Engineering. His research focuses on quantitative physical approaches to understanding complex biological processes from a molecular perspective. He runs an interdisciplinary research group that draws together biologists, chemists, physicists, and engineers focused on this area. Paola Cappellaro PhD ’06, associate professor in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering and an Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Career Development Professor. She leads the Quantum Engineering Group in the Research Laboratory of Electronics, where her work focuses on improving both the experimental techniques and the coherent control theory of quantum bits and gaining a deeper knowledge of the mechanics of decoherence. Sangbae Kim, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, an Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Professor, and leader of the Biomimetics Robotics Lab. He conducts research in biomimetics, using biological systems as models for the design and engineering of robots. His interests include biomechanics of locomotion and printable robotics. Jesse Kroll, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. His research involves the experimental study of the properties and chemical transformation of organic species in the Earth’s atmosphere. Particular interests include the development of new analytical tools for the measurement and characterizations of organics in both the gas and condensed phase, and the use of these tools in the lab and field to better constrain the amount, nature, and chemical evolution of atmospheric organics. Youssef Marzouk ’97, SM ’99, PhD ’04, associate professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and director of the Aerospace Computational Design Laboratory. His research focuses on uncertainty quantification, inverse problems, statistical inference, and Bayesian computation for complex physical systems, and using these algorithms to address modeling challenges in energy conversion and environmental applications. Armando Solar-Lezama, associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. He works with the Computer Assisted Programming Group to develop techniques that exploit automated reasoning and computing power to tackle challenging programming problems.
While they maintain that the real solution to a crash-free world lies in self-driving cars, a host of high-tech safety features are making drivers safer—and better—in the meantime. "The long term vision is that cars shouldn't crash," Volvo spokesman Jim Trainor said Tuesday on the sidelines on the Detroit auto show. Volvo—which has built its reputation on safety leadership—has set a goal that by 2020 nobody will be killed or seriously injured in its new cars. The past decade has seen dramatic development by various automakers in the field of collision-avoidance technology. Blind-spot detectors now watch for oncoming vehicles, adaptive cruise controls reduce speed based on cars ahead, and camera systems warn drivers when they drift out of their lanes. Detectors can even pick up on a drowsy driver's subtle changes in behavior to indicate it's time for a break. The key to making new safety features desirable to drivers is ensuring that they assist rather than irritate, Trainor said. "If it false brakes too often, people get frustrated and they turn the system off," he told AFP. "We need to calibrate the system so it gives the driver every last possible moment to take action." In addition to accident avoidance, Volvo is developing systems that reduce injuries when crashes are inescapable. Among these is a rear impact mitigation system which senses if a car is approaching too quickly and preconditions the interior for impact by tightening seatbelts and engaging brakes. Initially reserved for high-end luxury vehicles, the cost of safety technology is falling and finding its way into lower-priced automobiles. The new Ford Fusion, which the automaker introduced at the Detroit auto show Monday, contains 20 driver-assistance technologies including a pedestrian-detection system and a steering wheel that vibrates if a driver begins drifting from the lane. "As we release more vehicles I think you'll anticipate a lot of migration across the lineup," Ford spokesman John Cangany told AFP. GM unveiled a new rear-door monitor in its GMC Acadia crossover Tuesday that reminds drivers to check the back seat for children before leaving the car. The safety feature will eventually be included in all of its models. "Too many children are accidentally left behind in vehicles," Mark Reuss, head of product development at GM, said while introducing the feature. GM is the first automaker to use the alert system and is working on technology that can detect if a child is left behind. About 30 to 40 children die every year in the United States from heat stroke after being left in a hot vehicle, most because their distracted parents simply forgot they were still in their car seats. "Obviously we want to protect our customers," Rich Latek, who heads marketing for GMC, told AFP. "We're really looking at a goal to end up with zero collisions and zero fatalities. It's a lofty goal but it's something that's possible with the technology that's out there." Meanwhile Toyota recently introduced a new suite of features called Safety Sense which will be offered on nearly all models by 2017. When first introduced on Lexus vehicles it cost an additional $6,000. Toyota has now managed to bring the price down to $300 to $630, spokesman Mike Kroll said. Despite the science fiction-like advancements in safety technology, a slew of scandals has undermined trust in the reliability of vehicles. Monday saw the first civil trial over a deadly ignition switch defect which General Motors hid from safety regulators for more than a decade and is linked to at least 124 deaths. Automakers are still working to replace potentially explosive airbags by Japanese supplier Takata in 19 million vehicles in the United States. And Fiat Chrysler and Toyota have each become embroiled in scandal—and handed millions upon millions of dollars in fines—over improperly handling or even covering up defects in millions of vehicles. Explore further: Toyota: Cars will be safer, but still need drivers