Gear We Like
Travel tech news: February 13, 2013
Hacking clean air in Beijing, a solution for … wait for it … too many adapters, free wi-fi in the US (maybe) and the hotel room of the future.
All in this edition of Travel Tech News for February 13, 2013.
Need clean air in Beijing? There’s a hack for that
Air pollution levels in the Chinese capital of Beijing have got so bad this winter that even the famously-defensive state media has started talking about it. For the millions of residents who actually have to live with the toxic sludge entering their lungs, however, talking about it doesn’t get very far.
Local resident Matt Hope has taken matters into his own hands with a hacked-together filtration system concept that uses an IKEA trash can, is fitted to a bicycle and looks like something from a steampunk novel.
Of course there’s the minor issue that it would probably electrocute you if it rained, but hey, that’s probably still a better option than breathing in Beijing’s air on a regular basis.
Let us know if you pick one up on your next visit to China.
Another excuse to work too many adapters into a headline
There’s a reason this site has the name it does. One look into our backpacks and the tangle of cords, power supplies, plug adapters and a myriad of other electronic detritus kinda speaks for itself. Anything that improves that situation is likely to get our vote, no questions asked.
As a result, the range of power products from Innergie caught our eye this week. The company has eight different variations on a theme, but the one that looks most interesting for regular travellers is the mCube Pro. The device can take power from a wall, car or aeroplane socket, and simultaneously charge a (non-Apple) laptop and USB device via cables with a range of included tips.
In a best case scenario, this thing could eliminate three different power adapters and a whole bunch of different cables. Mind you, if it breaks you’re also left unable to charge anything at all … the downside of any attempt at convergence.
The mCube Pro has a RRP of just under $100, and is going for a couple of bucks less on Amazon.
Free wifi everywhere in the US? Maybe, but not soon
The United States FCC opened up a can of worms recently, proposing to release new unlicensed wireless communications bands into the public arena. These bands would be much more useful than the existing unlicensed 2.4Ghz spectrum that everything from current wi-fi networks to garage door openers is based on, given that signals could penetrate solid walls and travel over a mile.
If this ever happens, the potential is enormous. Rolling out free metropolitan, and even rural, wireless networks would become much more viable than it is today. The need to pay for in-home internet service would drop dramatically, opening up internet access to many that can’t afford it today. Even cell phone service would be less important if people could make VoIP calls over wi-fi almost anywhere.
Unsurprisingly, the usual lobbyists from both sides are out in force. Many of the mobile carriers and the companies that sell equipment to them are shouting loudly about what a terrible idea this is, while the likes of Google and Microsoft proclaim the innovation and access benefits.
Will it happen? One can only hope so, but there are a lot of political hurdles to overcome first. Even if it does, it will be many years before you see products and services based on the new spectrum appearing in your home town.
The hotel room of the future
We’ve spent more than our fair share of time in hotel rooms around the world, and despite the best efforts of the architects, they all start to feel the same after a while.
If the Serrano Brothers have their way, however, there’s no danger of that in the future. The Spanish designers have released a model of a highly-futuristic hotel room design, complete with floor to ceiling transparent touch screens instead of walls.
The walls could display artwork, the latest weather, a TV show or a relaxing night scene to help you sleep.
Upcoming appointments on the floor? Email on the ceiling? Baby photos in the bathroom? It’s all possible in this design.
Definitely take a look at the concept video to see the design in action. I know that we’re geeks, but we’d definitely stay in a room like this. Would you?