How 5G Is Likely To Put Weather Forecasting At Risk

If the great Samuel Clemens were alive today, he might modify the famous meteorological quip often attributed to him to read, “Everyone complains about weather forecasts, but I can’t for the life of me see why!” In his day, weather forecasting was as much guesswork as anything else, reading the clouds and the winds to see what was likely to happen in the next few hours, and being wrong as often as right. Telegraphy and better instrumentation made forecasting more scientific and improved accuracy steadily over the decades, to the point where we now enjoy 10-day forecasts that are at least good for planning purposes and three-day outlooks that are right about 90% of the time.

What made this increase in accuracy possible is supercomputers running sophisticated weather modeling software. But models are only as good as the raw data that they use as input, and increasingly that data comes from on high. A constellation of satellites with extremely sensitive sensors watches the planet, detecting changes in winds and water vapor in near real-time. But if the people tasked with running these systems are to be believed, the quality of that data faces a mortal threat from an unlikely foe: the rollout of 5G cellular networks.

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Power Over Ethernet Splitter Improves Negotiating Skills

Implementing PoE is made interesting by the fact that not every Ethernet device wants power; if you start dumping power onto any device that’s connected, you’re going to break things. The IEEE 802.3af standard states that the device which can source power should detect the presence of the device receiving power, before negotiating the power level. Only once this process is complete can the power sourcing device give its full supply. Of course, this requires the burden of smarts, meaning that there are many cheap devices available which simply send power regardless of what’s plugged in (passive PoE).

[Jason Gin] has taken an old, cheap passive PoE splitter and upgraded it to be 802.3af compatible (an active device). The splitter was designed to be paired with a passive injector and therefore did not work with Jason’s active 802.3at infrastructure.

The brain of the upgrade is a TI TPS2378 Powered Device controller, which does the power negotiation. It sits on one of two new boards, with a rudimentary heatsink provided by some solar cell tab wire. The second board comprises the power interface, and consists of dual Schottky bridges as well a 58-volt TVS diode to deal with any voltage spikes due to cable inductance. The Ethernet transformer shown in the diagram above was salvaged from a dead Macbook and, after some enamel scraping and fiddly soldering, it was fit for purpose. For a deeper dive on Ethernet transformers and their hacked capabilities, [Jenny List] wrote a piece specifically focusing on Raspberry Pi hardware.

[Jason]’s modifications were able to fit in the original box, and the device successfully integrated with his 802.3at setup. We love [Jason]’s work and have previously written about his eMMC adventures, repairing windows tablets and explaining the intricacies of SD card interfacing.

Your Next Wearable May Not Need Electricity

What if you could unlock a door with your shirtsleeve, or code a secret message into your tie? This could soon be a thing, because researchers at the University of Washington have created a fabric that can store data without any electronics whatsoever.  The fabric can be washed, dried, and even ironed without losing data. Oh, and it’s way cheaper than RFID.

By harnessing the ferromagnetic properties of conductive thread, [Justin Chen] and [Shyam Gollakota] have  proved the ability to store bit strings and 2D images through magnetization. The team used an embroidery machine to lay down thread in dense strips and patches, and then coded in ones and zeros by rubbing the threads with N and S neodymium magnets.

They didn’t use anything special, either, just this conductive thread, some magnets, and a Nexus 5 to read the data. Any phone with a magnetometer (so, most of them) could decode this type of binary data. The threads stay reliably magnetized for about a week and then begin to weaken. However, their tests proved that the threads can be re-magnetized over and over.

The team also created 2D images with magnets on a 9-patch made of conductive fabric. The images can be decoded piecemeal by a single magnetometer, or all at once by an array of them. Finally, the team made a glove with a magnetized patch of thread on the fingertip. They were able to get the phone to recognize six unique gestures with 90% accuracy, even with the phone tucked away in a pocket. See it in action in their demo video after the break.

Magnetic memory is certainly not a new concept. But for the wearable technology frontier, it’s a novel one.

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Active Discussion About Passive Components

People talk about active and passive components like they are two distinct classes of electronic parts. When sourcing components on a BOM, you have the passives, which are the little things that are cheaper than a dime a dozen, and then the rest that make up the bulk of the cost. Diodes and transistors definitely fall into the cheap little things category, but aren’t necessarily passive components, so what IS the difference?

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Passive Bluetooth Keyless Entry System

Modern smart keys allow you to keep the key fob in your pocket or purse while you simply grab the handle and tug the door open. [Phil] decided he would rather ditch the fob altogether and instead implemented a passive Bluetooth keyless entry system with his Android phone. It’s probably unlikely for car manufacturers to embrace phone-based keys anytime soon, and [Phil] acknowledges that his prototype poses a landslide of challenges. What he’s built, however, looks rather enticing. If the car and phone are paired via Bluetooth, the doors unlock. Walk out of range and the car automatically locks when the connection drops.

His build uses an Arduino Mega with a BlueSMiRF Silver Bluetooth board that actively searches for his phone and initiates a connection if in range.  Doors are unlocked directly through a 2-channel relay module, and an LED indicator inside the vehicle tells the status of the system. A pulsing light indicates it’s searching for the phone, while a solid ring means that a connection is established.

We hope [Phil] will implement additional features so we can make our pockets a bit lighter. Watch a video demonstration of his prototype after the break, then check out the flood of car-related hacks we’ve featured around here recently: the OpenXC interface that adds a smart brake light, or the Motobrain, which gives you Bluetooth control over auxiliary electrical systems.

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Seeing Through Walls Using WiFi

Turns out you don’t need to be Superman to see through walls. Researchers at University College London have developed a way to passively use WiFi as a radar system. Unlike active radar systems (which themselves send out radio waves and listen for them to echo back), passive radar systems cannot be detected.

The system is small enough to fit in a briefcase, and has been tested through a one-foot-thick brick wall. It can detect position, speed, and direction of a person moving on the other side of that wall, but cannot detect stationary object. [Karl Woodbridge] and [Kevin Chetty], the engineers behind the prototype, think it can be refined to pick up motion as minuscule as a person’s rib cage moving with each breath. For some reason we get the picture in our mind of that body scanner from the original Total Recall.

[via Reddit]

[Image Credit]

Resistive Ladder Volume Control

preamp

[jefffolly] published some straight forward plans for a passive volume control. It uses a resistive ladder built across the contacts of 12W rotary switches. Each resistor provides a 5dB difference, and he recommends using 0.1% tolerance resistors to maintain accuracy. The use of discrete resistors instead of volume pots means that the output is much more predictable. All of the RCA sockets were connected using oxygen-free copper wire.