New Issue (Fall 2012) of "Pictures of the Future" available
The fall issue of the Siemens research magazine "Pictures of the Future" reports on the future of our energy supply, the Internet of things, and research that puts the focus on people.
The keys to solving the energy puzzle are measures that will lead to the establishment of a sustainable energy supply. The magazine gives particular attention to the energy transition in Germany.
It describes the challenges faced by citizens, energy providers, and politicians as they endeavor to construct a new energy system in an industrialized nation, where the existing system has been established over many decades. The second topic in this issue focuses on how "invisible" helpers are pervading our everyday lives and what becomes possible when these software agents are networked through the Internet of things.
People-focused research is the third theme being spotlighted. In particular, this issue includes reports on new methods for the early diagnosis of diseases such as Alzheimer's and tuberculosis and development projects in Cameroon and India that aim to improve the lives of people there. The magazine can be ordered free of charge on the Internet.
The Energy Puzzle
Global energy systems are not very sustainable. In addition, resources are becoming more limited and climate change continues unabated. Ambitious plans, such as those for the energy transition in Germany, are intended to address these issues. For this transition to be successful, it is necessary to put together a "jigsaw puzzle" of measures that interlock with one another. A central piece of this puzzle is the expansion of renewable energy. Wind energy is one of the great hopes in this area, which is becoming more and more financially viable thanks to a number of innovations. "Electricity highways" - high-voltage direct-current transmission (HVDCT) lines - can transmit large amounts of electricity to consumers with almost no losses. Conventional power plants that emit relatively low amounts of CO2 and can be brought on line quickly and reliably will serve as a backup. In short, these are ideal conditions for a boom in gas-fired plants. Special electric trucks equipped with pantographs could also help to reduce CO2 emissions. These vehicles are currently being tested by Siemens. Intelligent usage control systems and extremely efficient buildings - such as "The Crystal," Siemens' new city development center in London - will help to reduce power consumption. Some citizens are taking power production into their own hands by constructing wind farms on their own initiative. In an interview with "Pictures of the Future" Jochen Homann, President of the German Federal Network Agency, says that the energy transition is an investment in the future which will benefit coming generations.
The Internet of Things
Elgar Fleisch, Director of the Institute of Technology Management at the University of St. Gallen, describes the Internet of things as the third great wave of innovation after the Ethernet and the Internet. In this network of the future, all kinds of machines will communicate with one another. In the coming years, this could revolutionize manufacturing as well as our energy and traffic systems. RFID-chips could help logistical chains to network with one another across company boundaries while special software could monitor the quality of products - such as medicines - and provide uninterrupted product tracking from production to delivery. The successful landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars was the perfect example of a seamless transition from virtual reality to the real world. The latest rover to land on the red planet was developed using software from Siemens and simulated on computers prior to construction. The young automobile industry in China is also hoping to achieve improvements in efficiency through precise developments in the virtual world. To this end, it is putting its faith in software that networks development departments with production facilities.
Research for People
Many things make our daily lives easier, without us being aware of the technology that makes them work. These helpful items of modern life, which we often take for granted, are becoming increasingly sophisticated. For example, Siemens' researchers are working on hearing aids that communicate with one another in order to create a three-dimensional, homogeneous acoustic image. Researchers are also creating sensors that can sniff out diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis through changes in a person's breath. People are the focus here. This is also true for new subway cars whose interiors have been designed to be user-friendly. And it is also the case with systems that warn of severe weather or simulate flows of people. The latter feature makes it possible to simulate, for example, how people will behave during an evacuation. The Internet of the future will become more adapted to human needs and become a kind of lifestream, says the U.S. computer visionary David Gelernter of Yale University in an interview for "Pictures of the Future".