Solar Road Studs

Some ideas make so much sense that you slap your head and say, "Why didn't I think of that?" Proposals have been thrown around for decades about electrifying our roadways to light them up, melt ice, or even to power our cars. But the sheer size of the task makes it prohibitively expensive. There are around four million miles of paved roads in America.

Astucia Traffic Safety Systems developed SolarLite road studs to illuminate roadways without a power grid. Each stud contains its own solar collector and LED light, plus a microprocessor that manages power so that two hours of sunshine gives them enough power to illuminate for ten days. The result is road visibility up to a kilometer ahead -ten times further than headlights can reach reflectors, even in bad weather. They come in both raised and flush styles with a variety of colors. This technology, in use in Europe for years, will soon be coming to America.

So are they making a difference? Currently the SolarLite studs have been installed in over 120 location across the UK, Netherlands, France, Australia and South Africa. Local authorities in places where the road studs have been installed reported a 70 percent reduction in accidents occuring in night time.

Automotoportal has some statistics on increased road safety in the countries that employ the studs.

The latest generation of "smart" studs can also be controlled remotely by traffic control systems. During rush hour, lights can be illuminated to indicate open lanes, or to warn of accidents or congestion ahead. Strings of hardwired studs can flash in sequence, showing the direction of traffic. Testing in the Netherlands and in Scotland so far shows great promise for the system.

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New Health-Monitoring Litter Box Could Save You a Trip to the Vet
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Unsure if your cat is sick or just acting aloof per usual? A “smart toilet” for your fur baby could help you decide whether a trip to the vet is really necessary.

Enter the Pet Care Monitor: More than a litter box, the receptacle is designed to analyze cat urine for health issues, The Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo reports. Created by the Japan-based Sharp Corporation—better known for consumer electronics such as TVs, mobile phones, and the world's first LCD calculator—the product will be available for purchase on the company’s website starting July 30 (although shipping limitations may apply).

Sensors embedded in the monitor can measure your cat’s weight and urine volume, as well as the frequency and duration of toilet trips. That information is then analyzed by an AI program that compares it to data gleaned from a joint study between Sharp Corp and Tottori University in Japan. If there are any red flags, a report will be sent directly to your smartphone via an application called Cocoro Pet. The monitor could be especially useful for keeping an eye on cats with a history of kidney and urinary tract problems.

If you have several cats, the company offers sensors to identify each pet, allowing separate data sets to be collected and analyzed. (Each smart litter box can record the data of up to three cats.)

The Pet Care Monitor costs about $225, and there’s an additional monthly fee of roughly $3 for the service. Sharp Corporation says it will continue developing health products for pets, and it has already created a leg sensor that can tell if a dog is nervous by measuring its heart and respiratory rates.

[h/t The Asahi Shimbun]

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Apple Wants to Make It Easier for 911 Dispatchers to Figure Out Where You Are In an Emergency
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A few weeks ago, I dialed 911 from a sidewalk in my neighborhood to alert the police of a lost child who had asked me for help. "What's your location?" the dispatcher asked. I had no idea; it was a small side street whose name I had never bothered to learn. I had to run to the end of the block and stare up at the street sign, and when the dispatcher wasn't familiar with the name, either, I had to spell it out, letter-by-letter.

Soon, it may not be quite so difficult to alert emergency services of your location. The Wall Street Journal reports that a forthcoming update to Apple's iOS will automatically send out your phone's location to emergency call centers when you're on the phone with 911.

The update is part of a partnership with RapidSOS, a technology company founded to make it easier for first responders to reach people in an emergency. It aims to make it as simple to find a 911 caller using a cell phone as it is to find one using a landline.

Landline systems can deliver your exact address to emergency services, but cell phone carriers currently only convey your approximate location, with even less accuracy than Google Maps or Uber can. It might be off by as much as a few hundred yards, which can make a substantial difference if you're waiting for life-saving care. The FCC has ruled that by 2021, all cell phone carriers must be able to locate emergency callers within 165 feet, 80 percent of the time—but that's years away.

The new update would come with iOS 12, which is expected to be released later this year. The data automatically sent by your iOS would be different from that data your cell phone carrier sends. It will use Apple's HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location), a system that estimates location based on cell towers, GPS, and Wi-Fi access, sending that information over to emergency call systems using RapidSOS's technology. RapidSOS isn't used by all 911 call centers in the U.S., but the company reports that it will be used by the majority by the end of the year.

In a press release, Apple promises that user data will only be available for emergency use, and that the responding 911 call center will only have access to your location data for the duration of your call.

I wasn't in a hurry when I called 911, and I had the time and the ability to jog down the street and find a sign to figure out where I was. In most emergency situations, the few extra seconds or minutes it could take to pinpoint your own location might be a matter of life and death. As more Americans give up their landlines and go wireless-only, better emergency services location tech will be vital.

[h/t MarketWatch]

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