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Food Supply Chain and Internet of Things

Food Supply Chain and Internet of Things

The increasing population mainly depends on the food supply chain to meet the growing demands across cities and towns. The food supply chain continues to extend to meet the changing needs of modern consumers ranging from exotic foods to organic food at their doorstep. With an extensive supply chain, it becomes more complicated than ever to be managed efficiently. According to National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), around 40% of food remains uneaten, roughly estimated at $165 billion each year. Most of these uneaten foods end up rotting and causing significant health risks with methane emissions. If food wastage is reduced by 15%, there would be a significant amount of food to feed 25 million people. Increasing the efficiency of the food supply chain with better control and management and tracking of the products in the supply chain network requires state-of-the-art technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and reduces the challenges in food transportation and handling in the food supply chain network. The IoT network largely contributes to trimming down the losses of food waste, transportation costs, and other supply chain risks. IoT enables food suppliers and distributors to firmly control the traceability within the supply chain network and constantly check on food safety to ensure high-quality food products are delivered to the end-consumers with a great network of devices and sensors. It is evident from recent advancements that the food industry is gradually getting acquainted with IoT technology and gaining immense benefits. Existing Problems in the Food Supply Chain In recent years, the improved quality of living standards has led to consumers becoming more demanding. Today, specific food products are expected to be available all year round. The taste preference has changed significantly and has become more exotic. Similarly, health consciousness has given rise to the demands for organic food products. While the demands exist, most consumers are not aware of the hidden cost of procurement alongside. Food suppliers have been forced to source certain food products from global sources. The extended supply chain faces timely delivery of these products, thereby leading to wastage before reaching the stores. Transparency in the food supply chain is yet another factor of primary importance as more consumers prefer to have detailed information about the products they are buying and be assured of the compliance of brands related to food safety. The majority of the food industry faces the challenge of communication and traceability as paper-based tracking procedures still exist in this industry. The key players in the food supply network also face a blind spot due to a lack of optimization of the services and communication. The problems have been everlasting, but it has become a hindrance with a complex food supply chain. Thus, the need for technologies has become more significant than in the past decade. IoT-Enabled Solutions for the Food Supply Chain Although there is no one solution for all, the contribution of IoT technology can help find solutions for some of the problems in its grassroots. Maintaining Food Safety Standards The integration of IoT in the food network can equip themselves well to manage the challenges associated with food quality and spoilage. Different IoT sensors in the food supply chain can monitor the food product quality and temperature maintenance during transportation. The utilization of IoT enables real-time monitoring by food suppliers and distributors and appropriate measures to be taken if optimal temperatures are not maintained. Additionally, if there is any vehicle breakdown during transit, prompt response and solutions can be adopted to ensure the food products don't get wasted in transit and the waiting period for vehicle recovery. The data generated from the devices and sensors within the trailers can provide real-time auditing data for maintaining food safety standards and understanding the root cause of the problems. Food Supply Chain Logistics The food supply chain gains enhanced visibility with IoT. It is possible to track the product batch from the warehouse, distribution, and point of sale. Most of the food wastage happens during the logistics. Zest Labs offer IoT technologies for targeting the food supply chain for freshly harvested products with real-time analytics and food monitoring and tracking services. The insights on temperature and humidity conditions related to the products provide crucial information to maintain the quality of the food products. Processing plants and warehousing can benefit from IoT sensors as they can monitor the fruit's respiratory conditions, which is critical for the freshness of the products. The processing plants can add more respiratory preformation during packaging to manage fruits to stay fresh even with more respirations. Simultaneously, fruits with lesser respirations can be packaged with fewer perforations. This process ensures that the products remain fresh for more extended periods and are not likely spoiled quickly. Besides, the warehouses can be aware of which shipments to be moved faster as they can be spoiled quicker than the other batches. IoT-driven solution for food supply logistics ensures the integrity of the cold chain used to transport food products. The IoT devices can maintain the thresholds of optimum humidity and temperatures in the warehouse and inside the vehicles. Traceability and Inspection IoT devices allow traceability by providing real-time feeding of analytical data across the entire supply chain. Geo-locations can be obtained from the farm through the food suppliers and the distribution and retailers to safeguard the interest of the major players within the supply chain. These sensors can also provide auto-alerts to the supply chain managers about any failure of the cold chain or damage to the container seals with AI-enabled smart IoT sensors. Certain food products require the vehicles to be pre-cooled to a set temperature. The key personnel can track the temperature and pre-cool it by themselves on an inspection with IoT devices. This works much like the intelligent driving systems that exist today, where one can switch on and switch off the air conditioning beforehand. With various possibilities, the integration of IoT in the food supply chain can reduce costs and wastage with controlled mechanisms to efficiently track and tracing the food products. Companies like Tagbox provides IoT automation offerings with analytical capabilities for the food supply chain. The company aims to bring down the spoilage rate of the cold chain with the high-quality maintenance and end-to-end traceability provision of the stocks. The company focuses on reducing damage or mishandling during transit, avoiding unnecessary delays or breakdowns with improved shelf-life predictions, and benchmarking the cold chain device performance. IoT for Inventory Management Smart IoT sensors can keep track of the inventory automatically at all times. The sensors can continually monitor the shelves and alert the management about which products are running out of stock and requires restocking. Such an approach reduces warehousing costs and storage as items that are not required or are slow-moving do not have additional inventory pending as it leads to expiration and spoilage. The data from these sensors give insights for suppliers to understand the market demand and predict the future demand and supply requirements of a particular product. Besides, the use of IoT-based technologies can increase productivity and avoid any delays in the supply chain network. The Future Outlook of IoT in the Food Supply Chain With multiple variables to track and record in the food supply chain network, farmers, food suppliers, distributors, and retailers required an integrated and robust technology capable of automating several strenuous activities in the supply chain network. In today's consumer standards and the overall health risks, a slight error can lead to rejection of the food products causing a considerable loss for the entire food network from the suppliers to the retailers. In recent years, the food industry has achieved new standards by leveraging IoT technologies to meet any demands in any period with a well-managed inventory and transportation measures for delivering food products across borders with the assurance of meeting the highest quality standards.

Potential of Living Medicines

Potential of Living Medicines

When talking about probiotics, many people think of Lactococcus lactis from cheese, or Lactobacillus casei from yogurt. And, although they are considered probiotics, we cannot limit the potential of this field with a narrow view of what is happening in our health. In recent times the attention of all biomedical researchers in the world has turned to the microbiome because most metabolic diseases have or would have a direct implication with the genetic repertoire of our microbiota. Epithelial diseases, autoimmune diseases, cancer, and even Parkinson's disease are diseases with close links, many of them still to be deciphered. How harmful changes in the microbiome occur? Dysbiosis is a major cause of illness and infection in humans. It can be produced for a wide variety of reasons, but in many cases knowing the status of our microbiome can be extremely useful in alleviating or curing the disease. But what happens to our microbiome under these circumstances of stress and pathogenesis? The first thing that happens in dysbiosis is an ecological succession, which is exploited by better competitors to colonise previously inaccessible niches. These new members of intestinal biocenosis may be harmless, or they may further displace beneficial microorganisms; or worst of all, they may be pathogenic. In the latter case, the lining epithelium of the digestive tract becomes inflamed (due to the products of pathogenic and foreign metabolism), causing a multitude of discomforts and secondary diseases. Some common examples There are many viral particles that also cause dysbiosis, such as HIV or HBV, and end up causing the colonization of bacteria such as Clostridium difficile. C. difficile is a common bacterium among our microbiota, which is promoted during these episodes of intestinal change. There are strains that are more hostile than others, but in general, it can be concluded that it decreases the biodiversity of the digestive tract. There are some other infectious diseases associated with proper microbiota balance, such as periodontitis and peptic ulcer. Recently the levels of H. pylori have been related to the progression of caries and of these species: Porphyromonas gingivalis, Prevotella intermedia, Fusobacterium nucleatum, and Treponema denticola. But do not think it all comes down to two lines. There are many more infections that have to do with the weakness of the microbiota, such as bacterial vaginosis. However, it is not a question of focusing on this point and forgetting that there are still many more non-infectious diseases which have their origin in the microbiome. The microbiome is directly involved in the appearance of severe liver disorders, colorectal cancer, stomach cancer and esophageal cancer. In addition, its alteration promotes metabolic disorders such as obesity, type II diabetes, asthma, allergies, autism, and major depression disorder. Moreover, some biochemical changes – derived from microbiome alterations; i.e. bacterial toxins release – have been addressed as a transcendent source of negative effects, like malnutrition and cardiovascular morbidity, which could lead to organ dysfunction. Chronic Kidney Disease (CDK) is just one example of many. How to prevent it? In many cases, it could be as easy as taking a pill of the most recommended probiotic for your case, especially if it is an intestinal alteration - whose global importance is of the first level since it is the most flagrant contact with the external environment in the human body -. Another alternative would be microbiome transplantation, for now, carried out by means of a stool transplant, which has proven to be highly successful even in cases of food intolerances and has been done for some years. However, there is an almost infinite number of possibilities that are not ascribed to gastrointestinal or derived diseases. For example, there are also probiotic creams capable of recovering your skin from injury or infection. The magic of this lies in the ability of probiotics to compete with opportunistic species for the resources of their niche. This has a double effect, displacing the pathogen's effective niche and physically protecting the niche from attack by others. However, probiotic ingestion could lead to many more benefits, as the microbiome-central nervous system-immune system axis is in continuous communication. It is possible to design probiotics to treat complex diseases such as cancer. Current State & Start-ups It is precisely this genetic design that opens the most doors in the market of the future, with established initiatives in this direction, such as ZBiotics. While most companies in the probiotics business find their target in nature, ZBiotics, for example, already has products capable of managing alcohol abuse by interfering with a toxic by-product generated by the consumption of this social drug. Another way of understanding this field is SunGenomics, which designs its products based on your microbiome. That is, they sequence your digestive microbiome and give you a tailor-made product to improve your metabolic processes. The Future Honestly, we cannot understand the health of a human without the health of its associated microbiota. This is so as an evolutionary and ecological matter, so we are indivisible. Understanding this will provide us with rapid benefits in quality of life and longevity. Being one of the easiest ways for biotechnology to cure thousands of diseases without the need for antibiotics in some cases, it only remains to better understand the metabolic functioning of the microbiome in more complex diseases.

Sustainable Agriculture using Synthetic Biology

Sustainable Agriculture using Synthetic Biology

New biotech promises for agriculture often focus on improving the production of food material by plants. This can be done by gene editing or artificial selection, which humans have been doing for thousands of years. The fattest and tastiest fruits were continuously cultivated for obvious reasons, until we ended up genetically differentiating lineages of the same species, leading to the varieties we consume today. Of course, this is a highly inefficient, labor-intensive process that can only be carried out vertically, that is, from generation to generation, due to the slow life cycles of plants. Although this process can be accelerated by in vitro hybridization of varieties or other genetic improvement techniques, it would be foolish not to evaluate a really interesting strategy such as microbiome editing, because of its simplicity and effectiveness. The hologenome concept In terrestrial autotrophic organisms, symbiosis with microorganisms is always necessary. Every organism requires a source of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and energy. Although a plant is a highly efficient organism for capturing all these elements, it is no less true that they use a variety of strategies to achieve this, and many of them depend on a genome outside their own, i.e. the microbiome associated with them. The concept of the hologenome is important for understanding this. It was coined to understand the vertical and horizontal transfer of functions contained in this set of microorganisms, which through co-evolution with the particular multicellular species, allows them to be regular commensalists of its tissues, bringing physiological benefit to both organisms. Therefore, plants, like animals, would have a collection of genes foreign to our genome - they are not present in embryogenesis - accessible through microbial action, as could be the digestion of certain polymers or the uptake of moisture. Where is the plant microbiome found? The surface of plants, like our own, is colonized by millions of tiny organisms. We can distinguish between the microbiota associated with the root or found below the soil and the microbiota found above this level. We are talking about very characteristic communities of organisms, so much so that these environments are called rhizosphere, carposphere (the outside of the fruit), anthosphere (floral environment), or spermosphere (outside of the germinated seed). In the rhizosphere, mycorrhizae - associated with fungi that form three-dimensional networks - are an example of these evolutionary adaptations, allowing access of these structures inside the root, some entering inside plant cells (endomycorrhizae). This, which at first glance might appear to be an infection, is actually a delicate balance between the plant and its symbiont, one providing moisture and mineral salts, while the other carbohydrates and vitamins. Now imagine that this isolated interaction could be magnified by several thousand mutualistic relationships, interacting with each other for a common good. We have the association with rhizobacteria in the well-known Rhizobia, almost alien structures that present a great variety of morphologies. Other bacteria allow the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen to be taken up by the root, etc. This, in short, allows a plant to grow healthily, hinder the entry of pathogens, favor immunity or resilience in the face of dry seasons. Which of these functions are most interesting? We can list the most important functions of the plant microbiome, which in general terms are: expanding the metabolic repertoire available to the plant, communication with other living beings through VOCs, leaf longevity, leaf extension - and therefore a higher photosynthetic ratio per plant -, favored immunity and root-shoot ratio. All these characteristics are recommended for maximized production. Of course, plants normally grow with a specialized microbiome for this, although this depends on the type of crop and how it is exploited. The factors that most affect the microbiota are both biotic and abiotic, such as soil pH, water availability, soil pore size, soil type in general, and the presence of organic matter exudates. Since the usual way of acquiring edaphic microbiota is through recruitment in which exudates and root morphology play fundamental roles. This can be supplemented by active modulation of the microbiome, i.e. inoculation of the optimal microbiome. Experiments carried out in greenhouses are successful, but less so in the natural environment. Hungria et al. found significant differences in corn grain yield increase caused by Azospirillum brasilense inoculation, from 30% to 16%. Current Research & Start-ups There are some initiatives that are beginning to understand the potential of designing an optimal microbiome for cultivars. This is basically what they do at Indigo Ag (Symbiota), identifying those specific micro-organisms that contribute most to plant health. Pívot Bio is a company more attuned to the sustainable side of using a suitable microbiome, saving water and other resources. The Future This field remains largely unexplored despite much recent evidence of plant health with simple microbial inoculation of the roots. In addition to this, it can have beneficial effects on human health. We will soon see new research that does not aim to achieve a sub-optimal microbiome, but rather to overcome the natural capacity through specific modifications. For example, atmospheric nitrogen uptake capacity is a natural limiting factor in the manufacture of proteins and other essential compounds such as the nitrogenous bases that make up nucleic acids. By synthetically enhancing the action of nitrogenase, an enzyme sensitive to high oxygen tension, we could obtain a strain of diazotrophic bacteria. Over time, the way to inoculate and enhance natural or synthetic characteristics will be perfected.

Synthetic Biology & Carbon Capture

Synthetic Biology & Carbon Capture

The polluting drift of the first world is a consequence of a poor understanding of the side effects of burning fossil fuels. This poor vision is fundamentally due to the absence of better energy technology during the industrial revolutions and has been perpetuated to the present day. This unsustainable model of production has been installed in the industry for decades, and it does not seem so easy to move all the pieces of the board, despite the scientific evidence that we are turning the planet into an almost irremediable landfill. We say almost because for every problem there is always a way to solve it. Of course, we are talking about biotechnology. Why is it called carbon capture? As you may well know, living things are composed of a chemical carbon pool. It is precisely this chemical variability possessed by the covalent carbon bonds that there is certain stability necessary to sustain living things. These chemical systems are very persistent at a general level, even though there are species that are very sensitive to external changes. This means that this carbon has to come from somewhere and is fixed in the biosphere. This fixation is so powerful that it can only be undone by combustion or phosphorylating oxidation that heterotrophs themselves commit. Today we know that living things continuously fix atmospheric CO2 through photosynthesis and other processes such as the reverse TCA pathway. Of course, this process, which is carried out continuously by trillions of organisms, has been overtaken by a higher concentration of this gas in the troposphere. Some say that since rubisco is an enzyme that evolved under conditions of higher partial pressure of CO2, this increase could be buffered by greater efficiency in photosynthesis. The evidence, however, says otherwise, as atmospheric CO2 levels continue to rise alarmingly. That is why biotechnology is trying to develop a method to significantly improve this natural fixation of the famous greenhouse gas, hence the name. Other names such as carbon-neutral are often given to alternatives that emit CO2, but their production also fixes the same or similar CO2. How to improve the natural ratio? One of the most remarkable facts that scientists noticed was that the carboxylases we found in living beings were not efficient enough, as they did not have a high affinity for carbon dioxide at partial pressures in vivo and also in vitro, the latter conditions being much less tolerable for the reaction. A multitude of approaches has been proposed to overcome these limitations. To find carboxylases that are able to withstand higher temperatures in a type of organism called thermophiles, extremophiles capable of surviving at temperatures close to protein denaturation or even exceeding it in some cases. Other plausible lines of research are to carry out directed evolution in thermostable proteins that maintain carboxylase activity, or successful enzyme immobilization; an ingenious biotechnological response to problems of this type. However, other strategies have emerged over time and are currently considered more interesting for this purpose. Photosynthetic engineering in archaeplastidia has a promising future in both industry and scientific knowledge, as it would allow plants to increase the rate of atmospheric fixation to significantly higher levels. They would do this by modifying the physiology that evolution has designed for them, through a battery of genetic interventions. These include modified carboxysomes, responsible for storing carboxylases more efficiently; directly modifying carboxylases to increase affinity; modifying the thylakoid membrane and the optical structure inside the leaf/chloroplast; designing a system of antennae to capture energy from other wavelengths, allowing photosynthesis in deeper layers of the ocean where less light reaches, etc. Algae-driven future? The strategies described above can be used for extensive crop planting, thus solving two problems at once: pollution and crop yield. However, terrestrial plants are highly inefficient at fixing carbon, contrary to popular belief. Green algae - chlorophytes - have been shown to be far more efficient at this task, as their division ratio can be artificially increased to ridiculous numbers. In addition to the above, as they are liquid cultures, they combine more technologies to increase yield, such as the development of cultivation stations efficiently distributed so that light has a maximum dispersion, avoiding the shadow effect that the cell concentration itself initiates (turbidity of the medium prevents maximum yield), circular economy of the by-products generated in this reaction, generation of biofuels that are more energetically favorable, and a long etcetera. Current State & Start-ups In line with what we have been talking about, we have many initiatives taking advantage of this new biomass raw material, whose value has been made profitable not only by the intrinsic cost of the material but also by the CO2 that it contains and has not been released into the atmosphere, immobilized forever in a formidable object. Other strategies, such as that of Hexas Biomass, consist of using non-wood biomass for animal feed. Others use bioethanol and derivatives from biomass production to add ecological value to the product, such as C Capture or LanzaTech. The Future While at present this market competes with large chemical or industrial capture initiatives, in the medium-term future we will see how a necessarily biotechnological model will be implemented, since the exponential reproduction capacity of living beings is unmatched by human technology, for the time being. If we play our cards right, we will have a chance to change the catastrophic future of the world. At least, catastrophic for the quality of human life.

Driver Monitoring using Artificial Intelligence

Driver Monitoring using Artificial Intelligence

In the day and age of fast cars and increased traffic congestions, driver monitoring is emerging to be essential that needs to be incorporated into driving assistance systems. Besides, driver fatigue and concentration levels tend to fluctuate after long periods of driving. Therefore, the need for integrating a top-notch mechanism that can monitor all aspects of a driver monitor feature automatically is significant. Such technologies contribute to the overall safety of the drivers, passengers and reduce road accidents significantly. Artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as the next-generation technology that can provide many of these features without hassles. While the integration of AI into a driving assistance system is not new as tech giants are constantly working on the concepts of an autonomous vehicle, there are several areas that AI can address conveniently. Intelligent driving assistance is already evident in the market, with modern car makers offering hi-tech automated assistance features. However, the evolution and acceptance of AI have led to driver monitoring's future developments to make our roads safer alongside the safe driving options for all. Essential Features of a Driver Monitoring System (DMS) Driver Monitoring System (DMS) can address critical challenges that are the major causes of accidents in recent years. DMS holds the key to provide innovations to address many of these problems, from reckless drivers to drowsiness or distraction and security alerts. Identification Alerts During these times, when car theft has been prevalent, DMS can minimize such incidents. Additionally, cab services where numerous cases of unidentified individuals have been reported led to attacks, threats, physical assaults that led to severe damage to the reputation of some companies. Instead of relying on manual entry of driver's identification key, DMS can provide detection of drivers who are designated to a specific vehicle. Such approaches ensure the accurate identification of the drivers and company management being alert when the vehicle is driven by unauthorized personnel. Driver's Drowsiness Most drivers don't like to take into consideration fatigue impacting their driving skills. Much like the seat belt warnings, DMS can be programmed to specifically provide drowsiness alerts such that drivers are forced to halt and take the much-needed rest, thereby ensuring passenger and driver safety. Driver Distraction While concentration is a boon for drivers, distractions are more likely to cause severe damages. DMS is yet again the solution as it can detect a driver's attention and alert immediately with an audio alert to continue focusing on the road. Some of the distraction activities are the driver turning around to talk to the passenger in the backseat, using a mobile phone or adjusting makeup, smoking, and operating an entertainment system. This functionality could save an enormous amount of lives as there many road accidents due to lack of concentration. Speed Alert Mechanism The speed alert is another crucial feature of DMS. This feature alerts the driver when the vehicle is driven at very high speeds without much control on the road. It is evident that with the lane detection feature, the DMS can identify the control level of the driver at high speeds while monitoring the speed gauge and send alerts to slow down as the car is not maintaining the right balance and lane. Real-Time Location Feed With navigation features already available in a driving system, DMS can be incorporated to provide the person and the vehicle whereabouts to the close associates or family members at regular intervals. Driver Emotion Detection Perhaps, the possibility to detect human emotions by a driving assistance system was not envisioned by many. It is easier to track the driver's eye movements, facial expressions, and overall body language with DMS. AI-driven DMS solutions can analyze driver's behavior and take immediate precautionary measures to tackle the situation. If a driver is drowsy, the DMS can ask the driver to stop repetitive alerts or turn up the air conditioning to help a driver stay alert. Similarly, driver monitoring can detect anxiety or rage and suggest alternate solutions. In case of boredom, the system can switch on the music or suggest another route if a driver is anxious at an unfamiliar location. Semi-Autonomous Driving Assistance When a driver is fatigued, the AI can provide semi-driving assistance and pass over the control once the driver is vigilant. Although it will require far more experiments, it is likely to be integrated with some form in future driving assistance systems. Visibility for Fleet Owners Real-time notifications with video evidence could be uploaded and accessed from the cloud with mobile or web applications. The notifications can comprise driving reports, speed limits, driver alertness level, and driver behavior among several analytical reports that provide more visibility for fleet owners to maintain control over their drivers and services. Recent activities have suggested there have been numerous drivers and passengers getting into heated arguments or assault. Ensuring the visibility with driver reports can eliminate such cases and ensure a better cab service for passengers and drivers. Existing Driver Monitoring Solutions Bosch has developed an internal monitoring system for safety, comfort, and convenience for passengers and drivers alike. The system can detect driver distraction, signs of drowsiness, including scanning passengers to identify if a child has been left behind. Safety alerts such as seat belt alerts are enhanced with their offering. Besides, there is also a provision for innovative interactions with gesture control for the entertainment systems' distraction-free operation. Nviso provides an artificial intelligence solution for an internal driver monitoring system. The solution has enhanced cognitive functions that can make driving a safer and more personalized experience. The state-of-the-art driver monitoring system can detect distractions and drowsy drivers by accurately identifying the eye movement and head position to determine the attention and fatigue levels. Additionally, a biometric analysis helps identify occupants in a vehicle and ensures authorized personnel is boarding the vehicle for increased security. Finally, occupant profiling offerings since the passenger and driver's emotional state provide a personalized experience to manage such scenarios effectively. Mindtronic AI has developed a DMS including easy to use infotainment system for drivers. An inbuilt driving monitoring system ensures that the driver is not distracted and continuously monitors the driver's fatigue levels. Besides, the DMS solution looks for signs of sudden illness such as heart attacks or reckless driving scenarios, based on which autonomous driving takes over for safety reasons. Affectiva has developed an in-cabin sensing automotive AI solution that provides a deep understanding of cabin activities inside a vehicle. The solution can detect the driver's emotional state, the state of occupants, and the cabin. Some of the key features include detecting drowsiness and distraction of a driver and understanding the mood levels. The technology can provide insights into when passengers are drowsy or asleep, understand the moods of the passenger and reactions, and personalize passenger engagement accordingly with selective content. Finally, the AI solution can detect the number of people inside the car and the occupancy of a child and personal objects in a vehicle. Driver Monitoring is the Future Proof Smarter Driving Assistance System The need for a safer approach to driving has been long-awaited. With a wide range of drivers on the street, it is essential to have better-personalized safety features to ensure a better driving experience. With increasing road accidents, it has become a priority for car manufactures to provide top-of-the-line safety features alongside driver assistance systems. The consumers have evolved, and most buyers are on the lookout for advanced driving assistance technologies. The answer to addressing the majority of challenges that have been the cause of accidents, AI, with its cognitive abilities, becomes the ultimate solution. With immense automated capabilities, AI-based DMS is the future driving assistance that consumers have long-awaited to have top-notch security and personalized experience for enriching the driving experience.

Artificial Intelligence in Aviation

Artificial Intelligence in Aviation

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is steadily being adopted in a multitude of commercial products and services. It is pushing the boundaries of automation to places we could not realize before. And the Aviation industry is no different. In this article, you can read about how AI is being applied in six different domains of Aviation. From operation optimization to fully autonomous planes along with leading companies and startups. Operation Optimization Different workflows in the aviation industry are characterized by dynamicity and are subject to disruptions. Such disruptions cost airlines loads of money. For example, unplanned maintenance leads to delays which in turn add expenses as a result of expedited transportation of parts, overtime compensation for crews, and compensation for travels. Most notable on this front is Airbus's Skywise open data platform which aims to improve aviation operational performance and business results. The platform has been used by easyJet for predictive maintenance. The process reduces delay-induced costs by predicting failures ahead of time. AI not only can predict failures but also shorten the time required to find a fix. For instance, SynapseMX is an AI startup that supports maintenance teams to make quicker technical decisions. And Donecle, a Toulouse-based company, is developing autonomous aircraft inspection UAVs. They utilize the latest AI image analysis algorithms to identify defects on the aircraft's skin. User Experience Airlines are using a wide range of AI technologies to provide the best experience for their customers. Delta Airlines for example is investing in technologies that enhance airport experience by providing self-service solutions. Namely, it introduced face recognition technology to confirm a traveler’s identity by matching their faces with passport photos. AI-based natural language processing (NLP) technologies are particularly useful in user experience. Consider a case of a major disruption that leads to canceled flights and delays. The aviation company will be concerned with solving the problem, but it also has to deal with troubled passengers. Here is where AI came to the rescue. Dave O’Flanagan, the CEO of Boxever, argues that airlines can adopt chatbots to deal with passengers in case of a disruption. This will reduce the load on call centers and customer support agents. NLP can also be used to harvest and analyze customers' feedback. Air traveling can be stressful for many. One has to do various tasks like passing through security control, checking luggage, finding gates, waiting, and whatnot. If airlines can aggregate customers' feedback and extract patterns of discomfort or uneasiness, they will be able to enhance customer service promptly. For instance, Southwest Airlines have established the Listening Center where a group of experts monitors social media feeds that are related to the airline, its competitors, and aviation in general. AI is used to summarize, categorize, and extract sentiment from the collected data. This operation allows the company to respond and resolve emerging issues before they develop. Saftey Safety measures are among the top priorities in the aviation industry. No doubt that big improvements have been done so far, and with AI more is coming. Oreyeon, a Lebanese AI startup with offices in Portugal and Switzerland, specializes in developing airport solutions with a focus on aviation safety. Its' runway surface monitoring system enables real-time detection of FODs in the airfield. FODs, or Foreign Object Debris, include any object that shouldn't naturally exist on the runway and may cause damage. According to the startup, FODs cost the aviation industry more than 15 Billion dollars per year regularly damaging landing gears or engine fan blades. Aviation safety should be available for anyone. That is what Pilota, a New York air transportation startup, is trying to achieve. Pilota leverages machine learning algorithms to predict flight disruptions and automatically rebook the user ahead of time. It also provides information about safety measures that airlines are taking or are not taking. Revenue Management Airlines are using advanced data analytics techniques and algorithms to maximize their profits and reduce their expenses. They crunch customers' data to estimate their willingness to pay and set dynamic pricing strategies for flights, fare class, and ancillary. They define destinations - or where to fly - by predicting demand from users' search data. They reduce the quantity of dumped food after each flight by analyzing historical food ordering data. They also reduce CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. The path that a plane takes depends on different factors such as weather and flight traffic. By aggregating data from different sources, AI can be used to forecast such factors and optimize the flight path. This optimization leads to a shorter flight time, less fuel burn, and eventually less CO2 emissions. However, the gain is not only ecological but also financial. A statistical report by IATA in 2012 concluded that airlines spend 33% of operational costs on fuel. Aircraft Manufacturing AI is even being used in designing lighter, stronger, and more efficient aircraft. Autodesk Research is working on the new Generative Design technology to make it mainstream. The technology is based on handing an AI algorithm a set of design constraints (lightweight, strong, low-cost, ...) and ask it to go through an exhaustive set of choices to find the one that best fits the requirements. The designs end up looking weird and resemble shapes and structures found in the natural world. Autonomous Aviation While it is too early for AI to replace pilots in your typical commercial aviation. Autonomous aviation is currently limited to UAV flights and short flights (or flying taxis). In December 2019 Airbus announced the completion of an automatic takeoff test that is based only on computer vision. This was part of its Autonomous Taxi, Take-Off & Landing (ATTOL) project. Autonomous aerial vehicles (AAVs) have already entered service in China for aerial cinematography, photography, and emergency response. The vehicles are developed by EHang, a Chinese company that assembles passenger AAVs. The vehicles are powered by AI and require no pilot at all. Adoption Challenges While Artificial Intelligence is being developed for a wide range of applications, its adoption still faces several barriers especially in safety-critical applications such as aviation. One of the main barriers is how to build public trust in AI-based systems. To answer similarly themed questions, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) published in February 2020 an AI Roadmap based on AI trustworthiness to tackle the ethical and societal issues around AI. The air transport system is facing new challenges: increase in air traffic volumes, more stringent environmental standards, growing complexity of systems, a greater focus on competitiveness, for which AI could provide opportunities

Autonomous Robots in Car Manufacturing

Autonomous Robots in Car Manufacturing

Robots are key for car manufacturers to keep up with the demands of their current market. As technology in general advances, car manufacturers must keep up with it and the increasing demand of its current market as well. This idea was realized by the automotive industry as early as the 60s by starting to utilize robotics as means of increasing car production in factories and, at the same time, reduce the cost and error that human workers come with. Robots, in general, made it efficient to produce cheap but high-quality cars. Even more so, it is what revolutionized car manufacturing and made it one of the most automated industries so far. Companies as old as General Motors and as young as Tesla upgrade their factories to use autonomous robots to increase productivity, decrease production costs, and lessen worker accidents in the workplace. Diverse applications of robotics in various stages of car production Stamping Robots can be made intelligent enough with the use of camera arrays or light sensors for better sight for applications that require precision, like stamping metal plates and trimming plastics and fabrics, as well. Welding Programmed robot welders, with the assistance of the larger robot handlers suitable for holding the plates, are the right tools for precision welding. These collaborative robots, or COBOTs for short, are fit for the assembly line, where they are programmed to be almost perfectly in sync with each other. The program of the orientation of the robotic arms can be set and adjusted within the robot handler's and the welder's code so that they would be out of each other's way within the assembly lines. Painting Priming and painting the body is perfect for automotive robots. Robots won't inhale the toxic fumes of paint and be indisposed eventually like a human would. It can be programmed to stop spraying paint at a precise point, to spray in a linear fashion, and to specify how many coats of paint it should perform after how many hours of drying, among other things, therefore, limiting the wastage of paint. Assembly High-speed car assembly is the ideal job for autonomous robots. Robot arms can precisely install the windshield, wheels, and screws with no wasted movements. There are synchronized efforts of collaborative robot arms in gluing and assembling parts. This technology has enabled car factories nowadays to fully finish one car every less than two minutes. Support Mobile robots can do the support tasks for other robots themselves, like logistics of the parts and tools from the warehouse to the different robot stations within the vast factory area. There are also robots explicitly built to support humans on inspection and quality control, where the robots can be programmed to mimic the motion and force of a human operator, and the robot's arms are also capable of reaching inside and pressing the switches and buttons as part of stress testing, all in a quick and consistent manner. Companies that help automate the automobile industry All of these remarkable technology upgrades are impossible without the companies who create the robots themselves and help the car companies integrate these into their current setup. Universal Robots, which started in 2005, not only creates collaborative robots for car manufacturers but also trains industry professionals and students alike in using their technology through their UR Academy across 24 countries around the world. TW Automation has been around 23 years helping other automobile companies in integrating robotic automation solutions in their factories, specializing in robotic welding, and intends to improve their technological expertise. GÖPEL, which specializes in quality control systems for electronic assemblies and PCBs, created a groundbreaking quality control system specifically for its car manufacturer market, specifically in the end of line seating test system via simulation of the driver and vehicle interaction. This includes the Rethink Robotics, another company that mainly provides solutions with quality control systems has a COBOT named Sawyer that operates in tight spots and is used by the automotive companies for inspecting assembly line parts. Rockwell Automation deploys robots that do body shop procedures that include painting and installation and even quality control and inventory management as well. The company is geared especially helping towards the production of electric cars. Acieta does robots that specialize in assembly line operations which create automobile components like pumps, and also does welding of car parts like panels and brackets. They already installed and serviced car factories with tens of thousands of robots in North America. Is there a place for robotics in the production lines of the future? There may come a time where robots would comprise the entirety of the factory workers; good for the company and the customers, but bad for the members of the labor market that made a livelihood out of working in the production lines, which would further lead to unions rising up, job losses due to their positions being redundant, and eventually the knowledge of the assembly line becomes nearly obsolete because "the robots took our jobs." But is the apt term for this dilemma "robots versus humans"? Perhaps the right way to think about it must start with this question: "What should be the right ratio of robots and humans working in a production line?” Removing the humans from the car manufacturing equation altogether spells frequent disarray within the assembly line; in some cases, due to faulty or lack of maintenance, the robots tried to install the wrong bumpers on another car model and also spray and waste precious supplies of paint on each other. No kidding; these happened in General Motors. Too many robots would slow down production, human errors would cost the company more, and the automotive industry would effectively go a few years back, technology-wise. If companies eventually hit the sweet spot of the ratio of robots versus humans in factories and set up an industry standard based on it, then there may be a future where every person able to drive will have the means to purchase a cheap car without categorizing it in their budget as a major purchase, no more workers in the production line will fear for their lives every time they clock in the factory, and all of the car manufacturing owners sleep happily knowing the money saved is another car created.

Drones in Agriculture - Precision Agriculture

Drones in Agriculture - Precision Agriculture

The ever-evolving digitization is rapidly transforming our lives. Artificial intelligence (AI) driven innovations are contributing enormously across industries. It is a well-known fact that agriculture is one of the economy-boosting sectors that significantly dominates the export market. Moreover, the countries lacking technological assistance in agriculture suffer from low productivity due to underdeveloped methods without automation, leading to high labor and production costs. Therefore, agriculture is witnessing a paradigm shift as drones have been widely regarded to automate various strenuous activities in agricultural operations. Today, drones powered by AI solutions provide human-like capabilities to perform activities like crop detection and crop health analysis, among several more. From achieving higher productivity to lowering operational costs, drone technology has gained a strong foothold and wide acceptance for its potential and contribution to the agricultural sector. Uses of Drones in Agriculture Drone technology has proven to be a phenomenal innovation with aerial monitoring capabilities and capturing high-precision pictures to gather accurate information. High-tech drone technology allows farmers to achieve efficiency with reduced costs which are crucial in agriculture. Activities like crop monitoring, planting and yielding, livestock management or crop spraying, and drones' contribution in farming are on the rise. Some of the most noteworthy contributions include: Aerial Crop monitoring Drone technology has gained a strong foothold in the agricultural market due to its autonomous and aerial capabilities. As precision agriculture continues to evolve, farmers have opted for technical assistance in increasing productivity to meet the growing demands of food production. With the ability to cover up to 150 kilometers, drones have become an integral part of crop monitoring, including unfavorable climate conditions, crop health information, soil quality identification of the accurate area of the land with geo sensing technology. Drones provide high-resolution images and based on the data, and appropriate treatment actions can be taken beforehand, thereby saving time and costing on damaged crops. Yield Reports Drones are integrated with AI techniques that are capable of producing insights from the data. The image data collected by drone provides farmers precise information on soil characteristics like nitrogen levels, moisture retention, temperature, and weather conditions, alongside the critical information about weeds and fungi growth around the vegetation. Such an approach allows farmers to be well-prepared and decide on the required fertilizers and appropriate use of man-management by providing more effort in the areas that are not productive or have inevitable disruptions. Drone-Based Planting Agricultural lands are spread across acres for farming, and it requires a larger workforce for seed planting tasks. Drone-based planting is a significantly new term in intelligent farming, but it gains momentum with certain companies willing to try out its potential. Essentially, the drones are pre-programmed with the task of seed planting along with the detailed information on the area of the land and the required amount of soil and natural fertilizer and herbicides for assisting in seed growth. Drone Assisted Crop Grading and Sorting Drones are powered by AI techniques and algorithms, which are phenomenal in automated detection and identification tasks. Such capabilities have become a boon for farmers when it comes to assisting in grading and sorting the crops. During harvest, drones can scan around the field area and pinpoint the regions where crop yield doesn't meet the quality standards or is damaged. Therefore, damaged crops are not harvested, and the time required for sorting between the excellent quality crops and damaged ones is reduced significantly. Additionally, drones can monitor the field during daily farming inspections to ensure crop health. The crop longevity can be identified by monitoring the percentage of infections of the crop across the farming land. Automated Crop Spraying In agriculture, crop infections, insect attacks, and the growth of weeds and fungi are common factors. The challenge occurs when large acres of land need to be covered by manually inspecting and spraying fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. Using drones to spray over the crops across the farm is a safer and cost-effective solution. It is well-known that people engaged with the spraying of pesticides or herbicides end up having health complications and drones are the perfect replacement for performing such activities without any hassle. Besides, drones can move closer to a potential area for inspection. Therefore, spot spraying is possible with drones where only the specific spot requiring treatment is sprayed upon, thereby reducing environmental concerns to a certain extent. Phenotyping The technical adoption has given rise to identifying crop traits for understanding the crop breeds being preferred under precision agriculture. Drones can be explicitly programmed to capture and record data on crop traits for improved cultivation. For instance, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) with spectral imaging can assess different traits from colors, plant area, and growth rates. The data acquired can be used for further analysis to understand accurately for treatment and crop performance. Forest Inspection Farming lands and forestation is interlinked as forest lands are close to the farming fields. Drones with inspection capabilities can monitor around regions to acquire information about trees, classify the types of trees available, and additional analysis such as tree health, unused farming land area, and farming land borders and drainage system. Furthermore, drones can be used for surveillance as the number of intruders and unauthorized loggers have been associated with illegal tree poaching activities in recent years. Real-Time Livestock Monitoring and Management Livestock is an essential part of agriculture. However, it is not easy to track livestock due to their tendency to wander to unexplored areas in the nearby lands. It is not easy for farmers to keep track of the livestock frequently or without extra staff for checking on the herd. Therefore, drones can monitor the livestock at all times, and advanced imaging can keep an eye out for livestock theft activities. Existing Drone Solutions in Agriculture In recent years, several drone technology providers have step foot into the world of agriculture. From crop health to farming land indices, including plant height detection, crop scouting, water, and soil analysis, drones are continually targeting a wide range of agricultural activities. The collected raw image data are further processed with the in-built AI algorithms for providing further interpretation for farm management. Wingtra offers advanced crop scouting drone-based solutions that provide critical information on mapping the crop regions, identifying any infected crop, and devising a treatment plan. Additionally, plant growth and plant health can be monitored round the clock. Wingtra provides high-resolution RGB cameras in their drones and multispectral sensors to detect and identify crop diseases early and reduces operational costs. SenseFly agricultural drones drive revolutionary changes in precision agriculture with a crop monitoring from emergence to harvesting and yield prediction services with their drone technology. The drones can provide complete growth assessment of crops and take precautionary measures early on, resulting in reduced fertilizer application and boosting the yield capacity of a farm. IdeaForge offers a wide range of drones, from lightweight to enterprise-grade drones. The lightweight series offers a range of 4 kilometers and 25-40 minutes of flight time. In comparison, the advanced model offers 5 kilometers and 40-60 minutes of flight time. Similarly, the enterprise-grade model can cover up to 15 kilometers across all kinds of terrains and a flight time of 120 minutes. These models can support different types of farmers operating on either small or large-scale farming lands. The drones are feature-packed with digital imaging capabilities and a sensor for monitoring weather conditions and crop information for improved farming and harvesting. Drone for Building a Future Proof Agricultural Sector Looking further into the future, drones and AI must be the key to efficiency in precision agriculture. As consumers have become more aware of the markets, the need for well-cultivated and quality food products is highly in demand. To meet growing consumer needs, farmers need to opt for technologies that can provide cost-effective solutions while saving time and providing more control over the quality of crops planted. Agricultural monitoring is by far one of the most strenuous activities. Therefore the need for ease of monitoring with technical assistance only leads to better productivity. Drones offer comprehensive monitoring and crop health information and weather updates to be better prepared to tackle any challenges or natural calamities. While every technology has its challenges, drone technology also has its share of issues to tackle. With the amount of progress since the inception, drone technology is making the right strides in agriculture with diverse functionalities. Thus, it is only suitable to embrace positives to achieve the best agricultural productivity with future-proof technologies.

Synthetic Biology and Next-Generation Biofuels

Synthetic Biology and Next-Generation Biofuels

The world is changing. This phrase is typical of the oldest inhabitants of any human era and society, but it is no less true for that. Times are always changing, and we tend to notice when they change for the worse or something new threatens us. This is the case today, for, among all the threats of the imminent future, one is of much greater concern to those in power – “Energy” Mastering energy is the real power that neither money nor tyranny alone can buy, for they need at least one source of energy to dispose of. The energy consumption of human populations has increased by 124% from 1973 to 2016, from 6101 to 13,699 Mtoe (million tons of oil equivalent). This, together with the fact that oil reserves are expected to be depleted in just 2 decades - and of course the price will become unaffordable for citizens and governments the less oil is left due to lower supply - puts us in one of the biggest predicaments that humanity will have to solve sooner rather than later. While there is an apparent collective effort to change the energy model, known as the energy transition, to a more sustainable one, it does not appear that this is being done at a sufficiently rapid pace to avoid an energy collapse in the coming years. This warning does not come from now, but the thinkers of more than 100 years ago had already communicated it in articles, books, scientific or philosophical communications of all kinds, from many different fields. As is always the case with catastrophic events, they seem to be inevitable. Or could it be that this is not the case? The Concept of Biofuel Biofuel is a name for products similar to conventional fuel oil derived from the processing of biomass. It is in this processing - and also in the type of biomass - where specific mechanisms occur that end up generating the different versions of biofuel. Therefore, biofuel is a dynamic concept that encompasses many by-products of these reactions. There are first, second, third, and fourth-generation biofuels. Each generation renews some of the processes to increase the efficiency of the process, in terms of cost and/or energy. The most promising biofuels are based on the growth of single-celled photosynthetic organisms in bioreactors specially designed to grow this type of living biomass. As the problems of one generation of biofuels are solved, we progressively enter a new generation. Biofuel as remedy If it is not the solution, only time will tell. But as of today, experts around the world agree that it is the most effective and efficient renewable energy to date. Not only is it easily producible, but it is essentially equivalent to fossil fuel - so the market would not have to adapt too much - but without the most negative parts of it: its CO2 emissions are neutral and it releases much less of other toxics such as nitrous oxide. The most famous biofuels under development are bioethanol, biodiesel, biohydrogen, biomethanol, biobutanol, and biogas. The performance of the latest generation of biofuels is outstanding, as are the costs of their production. However, it is still difficult to produce it on a large scale to meet the global energy needs mentioned at the beginning. And that study is from 2016, so it is perfectly plausible that the increase today is much more pronounced. Soil used in new biofuel forms To supply the amount of fuel for all the cars in the world would require an area of 384 Mha if the 200 billion gallons were produced from jatropha oil. If biofuel were to be produced from algae, assuming a low yield of 30% - some companies have already achieved 55% by selecting algae with a higher lipid ratio - at a biomass production of 1.5 kg/m3 per day, only 5.4 Mha would be required. This, to top it off, is a pessimistic estimate based on current technology. In a normal scenario, with the improved technology of the future, the results would be much better for the same amount of fuel oil produced. Current State & Start-ups In this field, there are thousands of biotech initiatives searching for the "perfect algae" or a new and even more productive form of biofuel. Enerkem is leading private investment and is well established in the area of biomass recycling. Synthetic genomics is developing transport fuels from modified algae. GreenFuel takes care of the logistical details of algae production, such as the designs of its bioreactors to capture more CO2. The Future While there are many ideas, from a biological point of view, a better understanding of living systems is lacking. It seems that most initiatives are losing sight of the fact that in their bioreactors there are microorganisms that can be easily manipulated with state-of-the-art technologies. Without counting genetic engineering, we are talking about solutions such as directed evolution; a perfect tool for this type of system in which the aim is to enhance a specific characteristic of a species or guild. In time, we will probably see a great proposal in this sense.

Application of Biomass as Energy Storage

Application of Biomass as Energy Storage

Due to technological progress, the world is evolving towards a reality of high energy consumption. Processes require more and more energy, and at the same time, the demand for clean and safe energy is increasing. This dual need that we humans currently suffer from translates into millions of dollars in investments to find that patentable idea that is capable of combining both characteristics. The problem - or luck - is that there is no one right way to find a sustainable solution that will sustain us as a technological species. Many different approaches will probably be required to meet the energy demands of the future without causing financial or climate crises. But there is one field, in particular, that could stand out from the rest: the reuse of biomass as energy storage. It may sound strange or even retrograde, but isn't that what the first Homo sapiens did when they used fire? The carbon-carbon and carbon-hydrogen bonds of wood-forming polymers stored enormous amounts of energy, which, when combusted by the action of a comburent (oxygen) and ignition, led to the release of water, CO2, and heat/light energy. This clearly implies a recirculation of the CO2 that had been fixed in the plant biomass through photosynthesis, biomass that served as an energy store. However, it is precisely this indiscriminate use of organic material combustion forces us to stop artificially releasing this CO2 that had naturally been fixed. But the interesting thing about this point is that everything we pollute is susceptible to being reversed if we re-fix it in the biomass that once burned and use it as a storage of chemical energy transmutable to other types of energy - in a similar way to a battery. Pioneer approach: biomass CAES In 2005, ideas about using biomass as energy storage were boiling in many universities, as its potential is not trivial. One example is the idea of Paul Denholm, who wanted to bring together several processes involving biomass gasification. In this system he devised, he intended to generate electricity by combining wind power, compressed air storage, and gasification. It so happens that this technology required polluting gases, extracted from natural gas deposits or similar. Replacing this with synfuel from biomass gasification would solve this CO2 emission problem. Is the biological battery close by? As we have been saying, ideas on this subject have been developing for the last two decades. Many projects have failed, but many others have prospered, incorporating important changes in the biomass paradigm. Current efforts are focused on identifying new forms of biomass, more efficient and robust as a form of storage; exploring new ways of converting this biomass into carbon stacks that achieve greater thermochemical performance; and researching carbon nanostructures. Agricultural fields have already benefited from recycling their waste into energy. Although this is promising, the mechanisms for transforming biomass into batteries or carbon anodes remain to be fully understood. Battery scientists will have to join forces with biomass transformation engineers to achieve this. Real large-scale practical applications are still on the horizon. Understanding the concept of biomass We can argue that biomass does not have a defined chemical structure. While this is true - as both the origin and processing of biomass is different - it does not mean that we cannot define this concept. In fact, it can be understood from two different fields. From physiology and ecology, important scientific areas, biomass corresponds to the total weight of organic structures synthesized by living beings in a given geo-temporal context. In other words, the mass of all living things in an ecosystem at a given time. From an energetic point of view, biomass is nothing more than the useful fraction of these compounds manufactured by living beings. Some of these compounds are small and not very heavy, so their energy yield is low. They usually correspond to living matter and its metabolites. Others are polymeric, long, highly branched chains of carbon and hydrogen, which usually serve as a support or annex to living matter, although they are essentially inert organic compounds. It is from this type of material that most useful energy is extracted, so we usually use as biomass the products derived from plants, which grow very heavy and large structures such as suber, very rich in polymers such as celluloses, hemicelluloses, phenolic compounds such as lignin; starches, proteins or lipids. Current State & Start-ups Many initiatives are starting to emerge, and in almost all of them we can see words like "renewables" or "microgrids". Mavericks Renewable Energy uses recycled biomass through biodigesters. Then there are many others that sell themselves as "biomass power generation", such as Cool Energy or Rapid Renewables. The Future There is still no great winning horse due to the complexity of the problem to be solved. However, we can all understand that our situation has changed since hominids domesticated fire. The range of possibilities is beginning to widen, and as of today, there is no firm verdict on how far we can go in harnessing this natural store of atmospheric CO2. Initiatives such as Elon Musk's contest to fix 1 ton of CO2 per day could be the final push for a global effort to achieve the long-awaited prize: taming the planet's climate drift.

Oil Pipeline Security and Monitoring using Drones and Robots

Oil Pipeline Security and Monitoring using Drones and Robots

Oil pipelines and their relevant infrastructures are located onshore and offshore, meaning rugged terrains that vary between hot deserts to frozen zones and even marshlands. The total length of oil pipelines exceeds thousands of kilometers (km) in meeting the growing demands for oil across the nation. Similarly, there is a need for frequent inspection for maintenance and ensuring safety standards. Existing methods to monitor complex regions by shutting down activities and manual inspection of the hazardous areas with cameras are costly, and issues related to shutting down for more extended periods and potential risks for the person investigating in such areas. Due to the contribution of technologies like artificial intelligence and computer vision, drones and robots have evolved with advanced image processing capabilities, making them the proper technological integration for monitoring and security to navigate through long pipelines that are spread out across harsher terrains. Drone and Robot Uses for Oil Pipeline Monitoring The emergence of drones and robots for monitoring has become more simplified. With automation, these technologies have been identified to be cost-effective and efficient in monitoring activities. Drones can mitigate the risks of the unpredictability of opting for inspection in a hostile environment and offer aerial surveying and monitoring possibilities at ease. Similarly, robots can assist field workers in hazardous environments and provide maintenance and operational services, including performing underwater. The fusion of drones and robotics can simplify critical oil pipeline monitoring such as aerial inspection for leakage and spills, safety and evacuation monitoring in case of emergencies, routine inspection for uninterrupted operations, and the critical aspects of security such as surveillance and intrusion alerts. The key areas that are targeted by drone technology and robotics are hereunder. Offshore and Onshore The offshore and onshore inspection activities are also known as the upstreaming process, confined to the production phase. This phase consists of endless inspection and maintenance activities, surveying large areas for potential oil rigs, and numerous security and surveillance activities. At times, the regions that have to be inspected are located in hostile environments, making it a risky task to be carried out efficiently. Some of the potential areas that drones and robotic solutions can replace are manual surveying and mapping regions, security and emergency alerts, robotics-based underwater welding, remote operation vehicles for maintenance and operational tasks, robotic surveillance, and detection of rusted portions of the oil wells that are submerged in the water. UAVs (Unmanned Automated Vehicle) with sensors can be deployed to provide real-time feedback on the desired location. Simultaneously, drones play a crucial role in drilling phases to provide aerial monitoring feedback of the entire location and the infrastructures such as robotic arms used for drilling. Production phases also require constant quality checks to ensure no leaks and all processes meet the quality standards. Therefore, drones can help operators to detect these activities without any hassles. Midstream Process It is a well-known fact that pipelines extend to the most remote locations where human accessibility becomes limited. However, the need for periodic inspection and maintenance is a never-ending requirement. As these pipelines are far from the accessible location, constant monitoring becomes crucial to ensure no risky leakage points pooling liquid or dirt collection from external sources or significant damages due to any natural calamity. Besides, these regions may suffer from intruders looking to conduct unfair trades by causing havoc and damaging the pipelines. Drones equipped with additional sensor and optical mechanisms are ideal for monitoring pipelines in these locations, while UAVs can provide data from the ground. Infrared and thermal imaging techniques can be incorporated into drones to detect possible leakage areas leading to early maintenance to prevent explosions in the pipelines. Some of the critical areas in this process include surveying, pipeline inspection and leakage detection, corrosion monitoring and preventive measure inspection, and underwater leakage repairs. Downstream Process Downstream processes are all-inclusive of refinery and petrochemical-based activities of hazardous nature. It is often set up around complex environments, and often people working in such places have serious health problems in later stages. Robotic technical injection into the inspection process using drone and UAVs solve a large part of the monitoring challenges in a hazardous environment. The refinery infrastructures consist of challenging areas, namely chimney stacks, cooling vents, storage facilities, ducting, to name a few. These problematic areas can find the aerial capabilities of drones to be a boon as they can capture crucial information from the hazardous zones of the refinery plant with absolute accuracy. Such technical provisions reduce time and expenditure for conducting these procedures while eliminating exposure to life-threatening chemicals and hazardous substances. Simultaneously, the quality of inspection data is accurate, and high quality considering the next-generation image capture techniques and the possibility of closer look up at the areas as drones can fly nearer to the asset. Some of the vital procedures in a downstream process include pipeline inspection for leakage and corrosion, surveillance of the petrochemical tasks, and constant monitoring and live reports of the ongoing activities in the refinery. Current Drone and Robotic Solutions for Oil Pipeline Monitoring As the mechanisms of the oil industries evolve, more significant challenges are faced in its maintenance and supervision. Traditionally, the oil industry has been slow starters in adopting technical solutions in its operational activities. In contrast, the technology industry continues to experience a digital transformation with state-of-the-art technologies coming to the fore. The automated solutions and processing and image insights and processing of more explicit images have become the ultimate solution for their challenges. Ideally, a hazardous industry as petroleum has always required such technological innovations, and now is the opportune moment to gain the maximum benefit out of these innovative technologies today. Airobotics provides a cost-effective and safer approach towards inspection with closer monitoring and control of the pipelines. The drone technology service offered allows to scan and inspection oil rigs and large machinery and towers, operational processes, and locating bottlenecks. The dynamic Airobotic drone solution offers viewing abilities of difficult areas and more significant insights into critical processes of the pipeline mechanism. The drones can be set up with a predefined mission to attain and collect aerial data of the machinery and infrastructures of the oil rigs. Besides the monitoring, there is a provision for accurate on- demand aerial data and analytical capabilities. Finally, the drones can also detect crucial problems such as corrosion and its class type, and the daily temperature of the towers. GE subsidiary called Avitas offers drone services and robots to achieve automation over inspection of the pipelines and other crucial components. Avitas provides drones, wheeled robots, and autonomous underwater vehicles for gathering image data from inspection from oil refineries. Some of their key offerings are offshore analytics include platform management and water injection and production systems. Additional services include downstream refinery solutions with CML optimization, improved turnaround times, and shutdowns for maintenance. Besides corrosion identification, including wall thickness predictive results, initiation prediction is also offered alongside emission detection services such as leak detection and repair in critical locations. Airbornedrones is yet another fast-growing company that is providing long-range drones for pipeline monitoring. The Airborne drone technology is equipped with high-quality sensors aboard their UAVs and allows uninterrupted inspections of the pipelines. It can cover long distances, get into risky areas, and fly closer to the ground at night. The drones can collect data, use multispectral imaging solutions to identify damage to the vegetation due to the pipelines to ensure safety standards. These drones are lightweight with a low maintenance cost, remote laser capabilities to detect emission, object tracking, and geotagging to identify the regions and corridor mapping accurately. Future of Modern Monitoring Provision Combining AI and its sub-branch of computer vision technologies to provide an end-to-end the monitoring solution is the way forward. The integration of sensors with real-time computing and analytical insights saves much time and costing for many complex tasks in the oil industry that are interrelated for the successful transportation of oil to meet the demands across borders. These advanced technologies ensure a safe working environment, faster processing of tasks, and preventive maintenance to avoid many hazardous oil spills that we have witnessed over the years. Some of the benefits are decreased costs by automating several operational tasks, reduced exposure to critical contamination or security threats due to leakage, and increased productivity by eliminating the need for unnecessary shutdowns and downtime due to maintenance. Thus, leveraging drone technology and robotics are the future, and the impact is already seen, with significant oil industries opting for a significant shift towards automation and modern technologies.

Cybersecurity in Smart Grids

Cybersecurity in Smart Grids

Climate crisis, depleting natural resources, aging grid systems, higher fuel costs, and next-generation energy technologies have driven the need for intelligent systems for efficient management of the electric grid. The integration of emerging technologies in the energy industry has led to the modernization of the grid. Modern smart grids comprise artificial intelligence (AI), and Internet of Things (IoT) enabled technologies for communication networks, sensors, and automated procedures for optimizing the operations, namely utility operations for appropriate power generation, storage, and delivery. One of the primary reasons for adopting intelligent technical solutions is to achieve interoperability between associated devices, technologies, applications, and major players (energy producers, operators, and end-users) within an innovative grid network. While technology provides significant benefits, digitization carries significant risks, with cyber threats rising exponentially. Smart grids can revolutionize the energy sector in maintenance, reliability, real-time decision making, and performance management activities. As an energy grid carries out crucial tasks, it requires a comprehensive security infrastructure capable of securing the grid systems at a physical and cyber level of the energy ecosystem. Potential Smart Grid Cybersecurity Threats As the energy grid modernizes, many technologies are being deployed, such as smart meters, sensors, communication networks, and other computer technologies, which opens up potential vulnerabilities to penetrate the intelligent grid network. Cybersecurity attacks can occur in several ways, ranging from small malware to complex cyber-attacks. Currently, the top security concerns relating to smart grids are: Possible loss of grid control and management due to tampering of data, algorithms, and communications networks. Complex attack on electric systems causing outage across states. Unauthorized control of energy resources by breaching the systems, i.e., solar, wind farms, and energy storage systems. These systems hold critical information on distribution, outage management, maintenance, and load forecasting data. Accessibility to advanced metering infrastructures, thereby gaining access to sensitive data. The availability of the data enables these isolated groups to manipulate the market with the injection of falsified information on pricing and market demand. Disrupting the energy communication network, including energy suppliers, independent power producers of renewable energy resources. Intentional manipulation of monitoring data and attacking the system components. Denial of Service (DoS) attacks the distributed architecture systems of the grid, causing damages to the physical and the data link layer. Considerations for Cybersecurity Adoption As evident from the possible cyberattacks on an intelligent grid system, it is vital to integrate cybersecurity solutions to empower the grid ecosystem. In the hindsight of robust security infrastructure, it is crucial to consider some of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recommended objectives for its incorporation and power system reliability. Availability Ensuring timely equipment monitoring, including hours and hours and daily data of meter reading reports, is of utmost importance. The primary reason behind availability is to ensure an uninterrupted power supply to the users. Therefore, situational monitoring and access to reliable market pricing information is a critical aspect of security solutions. Similarly, long-term data should be collected to ensure power quality information is available at all times. Integrity On the other hand, integrity is closely related to the assurance that no data has been modified without authorization. Maintaining the integrity provides the authenticity of the data source and the quality of data at disposal. Confidentiality Smart grid systems provide analytical insights and monitoring and tracking capabilities. However, a significant component of a smart grid is reliability on user data for efficient use of energy resources, which means customer data is constantly being monitored round the clock. Therefore, any security systems need to ensure customer information privacy alongside the maintenance of privacy of electric market information and corporate information on strategies, planning, or payroll. Vulnerable Components in a Smart Grid Vulnerabilities can vary between management or operational security risks. It is worth highlighting the possible components that are subject to high risks. Operational Grid Systems Generators Transformers Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition Systems (SCDA) Energy and Distribution Management System Programmable Logic Controllers Smart Meters and Intelligent Electrical Devices and Sensors IT Systems PC Servers Mainframes Applications Databases Website App-Based Services Communication Networks Ethernet Wi-Fi 4G DLMS/COSEM PRIME Smart Grid Cybersecurity Strategies The smart grid is a complex ecosystem that merges various components such as systems, networks, processes, and other technologies. To achieve a comprehensive security framework, the regulators like NIST and ENISA have provided guidelines for smart grid cyber strategies that determine the design of an intelligent grid cybersecurity framework to address the challenges of prevention, detection of unauthorized activities, swift response, and a complete recovery process to tackle existing and potential threats. Here are some of the critical guidelines that are highlighted hereunder. The relevant bodies should develop a framework that encompasses regulatory compliance and policies to achieve the cybersecurity objectives. Inclusion of risk assessment methodologies capable of assessing cyber threats and vulnerabilities and their potential impact. The privacy should be an essential factor and its key aspects, namely personal information, personal and behavioral privacy, and communication-related privacy. The cybersecurity architecture should be based on the smart grid conceptual model. Standards and benchmarking should be applied for intelligent grid devices, networks, systems, and processes and enacting a security governance mechanism to follow. Research and development for cybersecurity mechanisms for smart grids should focus on addressing four crucial challenges identified by NIST: device security, cryptographic technical injection into the security solutions, networking-related cyber threats, and system-level security. Security awareness programs and training should be conducted to ensure compliance with state and national regulations and overall smart grid security maintenance. Security Challenges of a Smart Grid Data Security As smart grids continue to evolve, new technologies are becoming the core of the smart grid systems to ensure efficiency at a reduced cost of operations. However, these systems are data generation mechanisms based on which the technical solutions provide better efficiency and accuracy. The smart grid operations like power generation, transmission, and distribution automation tasks are conducted with such the available data. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to ensure data integrity and continuous data flow to provide uninterrupted services to end-users. There are end-user data on consumption and personal data that are managed to review the demand and pricing factors. The readings of smart meters and other devices are sensitive information involved in an innovative grid system. Moreover, the smart grid security requirements for data protection for each intelligent grid component, including devices, applications, and actors participating in the energy sector, must have well-defined security protocols and appropriate technology adoption. Smart Devices With the integration of advanced technologies, there are endless devices that are part of the smart grid network, including devices ranging from sensors, communication networks, computer systems, and other intelligent devices. On the contrary, as an automated solution is a key to achieving efficiency for many strenuous activities, deployment, designing, and maintenance of the solutions is a significant challenge for grid operators. A broad range of processes is involved, from firmware updates to maintaining the reliability of the systems, which adds to the complexity of the cybersecurity issue. Finally, it may lead to inter-dependent technologies like cloud deployment may help some part of the complex problem. Physical Smart Grid Security There is a high risk of tampering with smart meters as ICT provision for accessing smart meters might be installed in a household building. The possibility of firmware hacks of such devices can cause interlinked smart grid applications like back-end systems. Insufficient Legacy Systems Many of the network protocols for a smart grid ecosystem is based on the latest technology offerings. Besides, encrypted communication and new standard protocols, firewalls, and VPNs that are part of the new upcoming versions are not compatible with the existing systems. Simultaneously, legacy systems across the smart grid ecosystems are yet to be upgraded to integrate all the upcoming technical innovations. Stakeholder Communications The smart grid network comprises different stakeholders from end-consumers to power producers, energy retailers, and energy service providers. As the smart grid depends on technology for most of the operational tasks, the difficulty lies in coordinating the required activities among all the actors involved in the organizational, operational, information technologies, regulators, and business stakeholders because there is a need for the same level of technical up-gradation required for all the major players involved in running secured power delivery service. Cybersecurity Solutions for the Smart Grid The quest for modernization of the smart grid infrastructure has proven the need for a robust security infrastructure that offers uninterrupted and a secured integration of devices, sensors, physical and cybersecurity for all the operational and management aspects of a smart grid. Tech-giants like Cisco Grid Security solutions have delivered an integrated approach to security for the grid that provides infrastructure-based security systems, data and asset management, monitoring networks for cyber threats, and security for utility and operational facilities. They offer cybersecurity protection, intrusion detection alerts, and prevention and data center and security management controls with their offerings with an end-to-end architecture. Similarly, IBM has delved into the smart grid cybersecurity challenges and provided with their IBM security framework, which allows developing, deploying, and supporting security across various grid domains such as people, networks, applications and data, and physical grid security. Siemens has bolstered the cybersecurity market for the smart grid by providing complete product security with 24/7 monitoring, secure communications, and data protection and access control. Additionally, system security solutions are offered to provide optimum security to individual components of a smart grid while keeping the compliance with security standards and protocols. Besides, operational security comprises technological, procedure-based, and personal aspects of cybersecurity provisions in a smart grid. It is a holistic security solution that eliminates downtimes, protects the integrity and authenticity of data, and maintains the reliability of the systems. The Secured Smart Grid Future The smart grid is a susceptible area that demands a reliable cybersecurity solution. While the rapid transformation is likely to speed up technical innovations and add to an intelligent grid's features, the need for a holistic security approach is the key for a secured and well-optimized smart grid. As the digital era continues to evolve, malicious threats increase as fast as technical innovations. Today, cyber threats can be very damaging to the infrastructure, and its complexity goes beyond envision. Technology has much potential to improve the functioning of the smart grid with cost-effective solutions for faster and timely delivery of energy services. Thus, cybersecurity will play a significant role in achieving a more intelligent grid that encompasses products, systems, devices, and networks to be integrated with the processes and people behind the management and operations of the smart grid.