Erling Hess Johnsen

Communications advisor in Technoport and currently a Masters student in Political Science. A keen interest for ITC and web technology, and how it can help us live smarter, simpler and more responsibly.

Global Water Partnership (CC)
5Erling Hess Johnsen

Erling Hess JohnsenSeptember 11, 2013

Cleaning the ocean of plastic in 5 years

19 year old Boyan Slat may have developed a plan to clean the world’s oceans of plastic in just 5 years – with profit.

No one knows exactly how much plastic that floats around in the ocean, but it’s a lot. And it is a huge problem, causing damage to both ships, and of course the marine life. Part of the problem is also that the plastic is not static, it moves around, and gathers in so-called gyres.

The traditional way for removing plastic is by attaching a giant mesh to a ship. The problem with using a mesh is that it results in a lot of by-catch due to the varying size of debris, plus it takes time and would generate a lot of emissions.

Instead, Boyan Slat and The Ocean Cleanup Foundation are working on a more elegant solution. They suggest using floating booms instead of nets, able to cover a much larger area. These giant booms will float around at low speed – following the ocean currents exactly like the plastic itself. What makes the idea so brilliant, is that virtually no piece of plastic is too small to be gathered by the booms, and due to the low speed, it is very unlikely that the vessel will cause any damage to planktonic species.

And unlike ships using a mesh, the booms will generate no emissions, as they are solar and hydro power based. Slat and his colleagues have estimated the surface-floating plastic in the ocean to be about 7.25 million tons, and all this, he says, can be cleaned up in only 5 years by using 5 vessels.

And best of all: the plan costs less to execute than the income they are likely to receive only by recycling the plastic. “In other words, it’s profitable”, he says.

Though the solution has yet to be tested before we know whether it’s feasible, the Ocean Cleanup Foundation is optimistic. They are currently working on a feasibility study to be published within the coming months, and at the same time expanding their staff.

What do you think, is this the solution to one of our main environmental problems?

Photo by: Global Water Partnership (CC)

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5Erling Hess Johnsen

Erling Hess JohnsenJuly 29, 2013

Programming without learning code

Have you ever wished that you had an app that could perform a specific task, such as upload a new photo automatically to Dropbox? Or receive an e-mail with the link to new blog posts at Technoport Playground? With IFTTT you can create it yourself – without writing a single line of code.

Programming has never been a skill for the masses. Creating your own customized applications usually require learning at least one (and usually multiple) languages of code. However, the service IFTTT has made programming a whole lot easier. With IFTTT you can create your own applications without writing a single line of code.

The acronym stands for “If This Then That”, and refers to a basic structure quite similar in all programming languages. If something happens (trigger) the application should do this (action). In code, you’d perhaps write something like the following (though many more lines of code if the application were to actually do something useful):

if($trigger_event == true) {
// do something
}

If this
ifthisIFTTT provides a basic and clean interface which allows you to click yourself through the programming process in a matter of minutes. You simply start by selecting a trigger channel – usually a web service such as Gmail, RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook, weather services et cetera. Afterwards, you simply select a trigger event, such as when there’s a new blog post on Technoport Playground

Then That
After you’ve selected your trigger event, you simply select an action for your recipe (or application). So whenever the trigger event happens, your application will execute the selected action.

As an example, we created a recipe for an application which will send you an e-mail notification when a new blog post is posted on Technoport Playground. Thus far, I’ve barely experimented with IFTTT, but there is no doubt that there is great potential for creating time-saving and useful applications.

Have you tried IFTTT? Please share your recipes with us!

fields of gold (CC)
5Erling Hess Johnsen

Erling Hess JohnsenJuly 10, 2013

The future Norwegian farmer

A new research project seeks to investigate whether precision fertilisation may lead to lowering farming costs and reducing climate gas emissions. How? By using a fertiliser drone.

You’ve probably seen lawn mover drones getting more popular as they have become cheaper and more efficient. A similar, though way more advanced drone prototype has been developed by the Norwegian mechatronics company Adigo. The drone moves regularly across the fields and measure which areas need increased fertilisation. Researchers from SINTEF have developed the measuring system based on the gas measurement system SINTEF has developed for the International Space Station.

Over-fertilisation is not only expensive for the farmer, but also bad for the environment. The fertilisation used in the spring time contains nitrogen, which may be transformed into nitrous oxide (NOx). NOx gases are particularly damaging for the local and regional environment.

The fertiliser drone is used as a part of an ongoing international research project administered by Bioforsk. For further reading (in Norwegian), check out Gemini’s article.

What do you think, can increased use of drones be the future for farming?

photo by: marfis75
Photo by: Matt Richardson (CC)
5Erling Hess Johnsen

Erling Hess JohnsenJuly 4, 2013

Open-sourcing hardware

Is your tech business best served by protecting your intellectual property rights (IPR)? In fact, sharing your IPRs can improve innovation and even be good for business.

We usually link the term “open-source” to software, such as Linux or OpenOffice. But an Italian team of engineers have proved that the concept of open-source can also be applied to hardware. In 2005, the university teacher Massimo Banzi and his fellow researchers designed and developed a micro controller, which they named “Arduino”. Their plan was to build a cheap micro controller that their engineering students could use for their projects. One of Banzi’s grad students was assigned with developing the programming language for Arduino. Though intended as a low-scale projects for their students, the team suddenly realized that their device was so simple to use, that just about anyone could make electronic devices with.

What is special for Arduino, though, is that the project was open-sourced from the beginning. The team published all the schematics and plans for the micro controller on the internet, and gave anyone permission to produce and even sell Arduino boards. The only thing they reserved, was the company name “Arduino”, in order to separate originals from potentially cheap knock-offs. The word spread quickly, and Arduino became a popular device for hobbyists, building everything from home-made drones to Twitter-connected plants.

Creating a community
As Banzi said himself in an interview with Wired, you’d think that open-sourcing hardware is basically inviting competition. That’s true. But even though others may reproduce, sell and profit from producing Arduino boards in low-cost countries like China, the Arduino team still run a pretty good business. They have managed to create a community around their micro controllers. And as the inventor of the device that drives this community, you will become the point of gravity. Though the hardware itself might be produced better and cheaper by others, you still possess knowledge, expertise and credibility which provide unique business opportunities.

Still, open-source hardware is far from being the norm of technology businesses. David Mellis, who developed the Arduino programming language has argued that open-source hardware is a moral imperative, given the enormous role technology play in our lives. Producers of technological devices cannot prevent people from cracking open their smart phones and televisions in order to modify improve them, so isn’t open-source hardware simply inevitable? Is it possible to develop sustainable business models for open-source hardware? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

For more information about Arduino, check out Wired’s excellent piece on Arduino, or watch Massimo Banzi’s TED Talk:

5Erling Hess Johnsen

Erling Hess JohnsenJuly 3, 2013

Introducing Technoport Playground

On this blog, Technoport’s staff will continuously write about topics that interests us. Through our daily work, we stumble upon fascinating articles, technologies – and people that inspire us to create even better events that facilitate innovation for a sustainable society. We believe this blog is a good way to share it with you as well.

Why “Playground”?
Technoport creates events where innovation happens. For our own part (and many others’), we believe in an open approach to innovation. We’ve named this small place on the internet “Technoport Playground”, because it’s a place for us to not only share some inspiration, but to be inspired ourselves. From time to time we will present our thoughts and ideas for our coming events, and we would love to hear yours as well.

Read more about what we write about and who we are here.