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The 4 Best Water Leak Detectors for Your Home

May 9, 2022 No Comments

Don’t let busted pipes or an overflowing washing machine dampen your day. A smart water sensor can reduce the risk of damage to your home.
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Kombucha Cultures Could Be the Key to Better Water Filters

January 30, 2022 No Comments

A study found that filtration membranes formed from SCOBYs are more effective at preventing bacterial growth than commercial equivalents.
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The Best Reusable Water Bottles To Ditch Single-Use Plastics

October 24, 2021 No Comments

Forget those one-and-done landfill cloggers. Upgrade your hydration with these insulated and non-insulated alternatives.
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Google’s Pixel 5a with 5G adds water resistance, a bigger battery and a headphone jack

August 19, 2021 No Comments

It’s no secret that Google is in the midst of a pretty massive overhaul of its Pixel division. The Pixel 6 offers the next major Hail Mary for the company’s hardware division, complete with its own custom chip, Tensor.

This is not that. The new flagship won’t be available until the fall. Meantime, here’s the 5a, the latest addition to the “budget flagship” line that’s proven a nice overall sales boost for a struggling department.

Image Credits: Google

Google confirmed the phone’s existence back in April, mostly as a way of curbing rumors prematurely predicting the unannounced handset’s death. “Pixel 5a 5G is not canceled,” the company told TechCrunch at the time. “It will be available later this year in the U.S. and Japan and announced in line with when last year’s a-series phone was introduced.”

And, indeed, here it is. The handset officially goes on sale August 26 for $ 449. The Pixel 5a with 5G is, in a word, “safe” — a fact highlighted by the recent announcement of the Pixel 6. This is very much not a phone from a company looking to shake things up, but rather, the remnants of a division that was content to play right down the middle in the smartphone wars. Safe isn’t a bad word — particularly not at this price point. It’s sturdy (now with IP67 water resistance!) and it’ll get the job done.

As the name very clearly implies, the price includes 5G connectivity. That’s coupled with a dual-camera — with the same 12- and 16-megapixel setup as the Pixel 5. Those perform a slew of software-enabled modes, including Night Sight, Live HDR+ and Portrait Light. The phone is powered by the same mid-tier Snapdragon 765G process, while the RAM has been reduced down to 6GB.

Image Credits: Google

Storage is the same at 128GB and, interestingly, the battery has actually been bumped up from 4080 mAh to 4680. The screen, too, has been expanded from 6.0 to 6.34 inches, with the same resolution. It drops the Pixel 5’s wireless charging, but hey, there’s a headphone jack.

The Pixel 5a with 5G is up for preorder starting today.

Mobile – TechCrunch


Nixie’s drone-based water sampling could save cities time and money

July 5, 2021 No Comments

Regularly testing waterways and reservoirs is a never-ending responsibility for utility companies and municipal safety authorities, and generally — as you might expect — involves either a boat or at least a pair of waders. Nixie does the job with a drone instead, making the process faster, cheaper and a lot less wet.

The most common methods of testing water quality haven’t changed in a long time, partly because they’re effective and straightforward, and partly because really, what else are you going to do? No software or web platform out there is going to reach into the middle of the river and pull out a liter of water.

But with the advent of drones powerful and reliable enough to deploy in professional and industrial circumstances, the situation has changed. Nixie is a solution by the drone specialists at Reign Maker, involving either a custom-built sample collection arm or an in-situ sensor arm.

The sample collector is basically a long vertical arm with a locking cage for a sample container. You put the empty container in there, fly the drone out to the location, then submerge the arm. When it flies back, the filled container can be taken out while the drone hovers and a fresh one put in its place to bring to the next spot. (This switch can be done safely in winds up to 18 MPH and sampling in currents up to 5 knots, the company said.)

A drone dips a sample container in a river.

Image Credits: Reign Maker

This allows for quick sampling at multiple locations — the drone’s battery will last about 20 minutes, enough for two to four samples depending on the weather and distance. Swap the battery out and drive to the next location and do it all again.

For comparison, Reign Maker pointed to New York’s water authority, which collects 30 samples per day from boats and other methods, at an approximate cost (including labor, boat fuel, etc) of $ 100 per sample. Workers using Nixie were able to collect an average of 120 samples per day, for around $ 10 each. Sure, New York is probably among the higher cost locales for this (like everything else) but the deltas are pretty huge. (The dipper attachment itself costs $ 850, but doesn’t come with a drone.)

It should be mentioned that the drone is not operating autonomously; it has a pilot who will be flying with line of sight (which simplifies regulations and requirements). But even so, that means a team of two, with a handful of spare batteries, can cover the same space  that would normally take a boat crew and more than a little fuel. Currently the system works with the M600 and M300 RTK drones from DJI.

Mockup of the Nixie water testing app showing readings for various locations.

Image Credits: Reign Maker

The drone method has the added benefits of having precise GPS locations for each sample and of not disturbing the water when it dips in. No matter how carefully you step or pilot a boat, you’re going to be pushing the water all over the place, potentially affecting the contents of the sample, but that’s not the case if you’re hovering overhead.

In development is a smarter version of the sampler that includes a set of sensors that can do on-site testing for all the most common factors: temperature, pH, troubling organisms, various chemicals. Skipping the step of bringing the water back to a lab for testing streamlines the process immensely, as you might expect.

Right now Reign Maker is working with New York’s Department of Environmental Protection and in talks with other agencies. While the system would take some initial investment, training, and getting used to, it’s probably hard not to be tempted by the possibility of faster and cheaper testing.

Ultimately the company hopes to offer (in keeping with the zeitgeist) a more traditional SaaS offering involving water quality maps updating in real time with new testing. That too is still in the drawing-board phase, but once a few customers sign up it starts looking a lot more attractive.

Gadgets – TechCrunch


A Hacker Tried to Poison a Florida City’s Water Supply

February 9, 2021 No Comments

The attacker upped sodium hydroxide levels in the Oldsmar, Florida, water supply to extremely dangerous levels.
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NASA’s VIPER lunar rover will hunt water on the Moon in 2022

October 26, 2019 No Comments

NASA is looking for liquid gold on the Moon — not oil, but plain-old water. If we’re going to have a permanent presence there, we’ll need it, so learning as much as we can about it is crucial. That’s why the agency is sending a rover called VIPER to the Moon’s south pole — its first long-term surface mission since 1972.

VIPER, or the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, will touch down in December 2022 if all goes according to plan. Its mission: directly observe and quantify the presence of water in the permanently shadowed polar regions.

These perennially dark areas of the Moon have been collecting water ice for millions of years, since there’s no sunlight to melt or vaporize it. NASA already confirmed the presence of water ice by crashing a probe into the general area, but that’s a bit crude, isn’t it? Better to send a robot in to take some precise measurements.

VIPER will be about the size of a golf cart, and will be equipped with what amounts to prospecting gear. Its Neutron Spectrometer System (mentioned yesterday by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine ahead of this announcement) will let the rover detect water beneath the surface.

When it’s over a water deposit, VIPER will deploy… The Regolith and Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrain, or TRIDENT. Definitely the best acronym I’ve encountered this week. TRIDENT is a meter-long drill that will bring up samples for analysis by the rover’s two other instruments, a pair of spectrometers that will evaluate the contents of the soil.

By doing this systematically over a large area, the team hopes to create a map of water deposits below the surface that can be analyzed for larger patterns — perhaps leading to a more systematic understanding of our favorite substance’s presence on the Moon.

waterhunt

A visualization of Moon-based water ice under the surface being mapped by the VIPER rover

The rover is currently in development, as you can see from the pictures at the top — the right image is its “mobility testbed,” which as you might guess lets the team test out how it will get around.

VIPER is a limited-time mission; operating at the poles means there’s no sunlight to harvest with solar panels, so the rover will carry all the power it needs to last about a hundred days there. That’s longer than the U.S. has spent on the Moon’s surface in a long time — although China has for the last few years been actively deploying rovers all over the place.

Interestingly, the rover is planned for deployment via a Commercial Lunar Payload Services contract, meaning one of these companies may be building the lander that takes it from orbit to the surface. Expect to hear more as we get closer to launch.

Gadgets – TechCrunch


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