Innovation

A Beach Umbrella that Uses the Sun’s Energy to Cool You Off

I have a fairly large patio behind my house that is in direct sunlight from about 11:00 in the morning until about 6:00 in the evening. It gets a little toasty during the summer months, and while I have a patio umbrella, the umbrella doesn’t do much more than provide shade. Wouldn’t it be great if when the umbrella was extended, it could do more? Something like provide energy that could be used for a variety of things. Apparently Sammontana, Italy’s leading gelato, and frozen treats brand thought the same thing, so they teamed up with the international design and innovation firm CRA-Carla Ratti Associati to design a beach umbrella that uses solar energy to do just that.

The umbrella features an unfolding photovoltaic array that generates electric power which is then used to do things like charging your device, or run a refrigeration system. Designed in collaboration with the proponent of “transformable design” Chuck Hoberman and inspired by aerospace technologies the umbrella strives to transform how we think about products and multifunctional design. The first prototypes of the beach umbrella will be showcased in the city center of Milan, Italy, from June 12th at BAM-Biblioteca Degli Alberi Milano Park.

The beach umbrella opens like a work of origami or in a similar fashion to the solar systems on NASA spacecraft. At 2.5 meters high (8.2 feet) and a diameter of 3.2 meters (10.5 feet), the foldable photovoltaic panels on top of the umbrella absorb sunlight from the whole hemisphere and convert it into electricity, powering coolers and nebulizers underneath. In particular, for Sammontana, a mini-refrigerator allows them to keep gelato and drinks cool even during the warmest hours of the day. Electric power from either one or multiple umbrellas can be pooled together to power a large ice-cream refrigerator. The modular system is conceived to be scalable, bringing clean energy to larger public areas.

“Can we use the power of the abundant summer sunshine to make our holiday experience more sustainable?” says Carlo Ratti, founder of CRA and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The design concept of this project starts from using the sun to produce electricity to cool the space under the umbrella – and then scale it up to provide power to any beach resort. We are delighted that Sammontana invited us to develop this project, as both our organizations share a strong commitment to environmental values and human wellbeing.”

Since 2016, Sammontana has initiated a process to reduce the environmental impact of its production activities, inspired by the principles put forward in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The program features an assessment and compensation of the CO2eq of the Sammontana products as well as a choice of the most advanced packaging solutions. 

A prototype of the beach umbrella will be exhibited from June 12th to August 8th, 2021 at BAM-Biblioteca Degli Alberi Milano Park, which is an initiative of the Riccardo Catella Foundation. The installation, located in the fashionable Porta Nuova district of Italy’s design capital, creates a lounge area that can be accessed by the public free of charge, as with all the initiatives of the BAM cultural program. The project is showcased both in the stand-alone mode and in an aggregated form – featuring eleven beach umbrellas powering a refrigerator.

The Milanese test will serve as the first step to evaluate how the innovation process might accelerate and potentially be brought to Italy’s 4,970 miles coastline, promoting a more sustainable approach to summer leisure.

IKEA Furniture Is A Snap

IKEA has always been a company that has innovated. It shows in everything from the use of materials, to the adoption of solar power for all of their stores.  They are constantly pushing themselves forward, growing, adapting, changing as they bring new products to market. If you are familiar with IKEA furniture, you probably know that you will be using an Allen wrench, and a screwdriver to get the job done, but now thanks to the designers on the team, you might not.

KEA has recently introduced a series of snap together furniture using a new dowel and wedge system. The new joint is called a wedge dowel, and it’s specifically designed for wooden products. Products like the Lisbo table, for instance, have a small ribbed wedge at the top of each leg, which is then inserted into a pre-machined hole in the tabletop. the joint requires no glue and can be taken apart and reassembled multiple times without damaging the fastener.

IKEA recognized the fact that it included a lot of small fittings with each of their products. The number of parts is often a turnoff for customers, and a waste of resources. By incorporating the wedge dowel, assembly time decreases and IKEA saves money by removing all the metal fasteners.

The special design was initially introduced in 2014 as a proof of concept in the Regissör storage products and Stockholm cabinets. It was tested on these products for 3 years and now IKEA intends to incorporate the system into other pieces.

Ori

Over the last 25 years, I have never lived in a space larger than 1500 square feet. For my wife and I smaller has always been better. I know that we are going against the grain since the average size of a house in America has steadily grown from 1800 square feet in the mid-1960’s to just under 3000 in the 2010’s. The reality is though, not everyone is can afford to, or wants to live in a McMansion. World-wide the average size of a living space  is between 1000 and 1500 square feet, and in larger cities much smaller at 500 to 800 square feet. That means less room for furniture and furniture that is designed to function with multiple uses, or in ways that save space. This is where those clever students at MIT and designer Yves Béhar come in.

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A team of MIT engineers have partnered with designer Yves Béhar to develop the ORI system of robotic furniture system for smaller/micro apartments that transform at the touch of a button or via a smartphone app. The Ori system is a compact module that incorporates a bed and a closet on one side, and a home office and an entertainment suite on the other expanding and contracting as needed to give up much-needed space. (This would have been so useful in our 850 square foot loft)  On one side the bed is hidden, sliding under the bottom of the unit beneath a closet, couch, and office to maximize space. When activated, the unit moves in or out to become a bedroom or a more generous living room. One side of the unit hosts a full closet, but also contains a desk for a home office. The other side of the unit holds a media center for entertaining. Each room can be preset for Each room can be preset for your specific needs so that one touch on the physical interface or on the smartphone app will morph the room.

Ori is more than functionality. Units can be customized with a variety of finishes, materials, and colors that truly let you design your space. And the functionality means a small space can be transformed into a multi-functional home in just seconds. Beyond small apartments and loft spaces, I could see this being used in smaller vacation homes, guest houses, hotels and more.

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Craft. A Modular Camera System.

In the last 20 years there has been a massive change in photography and cinematography technology. Digital changed the game, then smartphones. One thing that has remained fairly constant though is the form factor. Aside from smartphones, digital cameras look and function very similar to an analog film camera. Your fancy DSLR might have upgraded electronics and a digital image processor, but it still looks and functions the same way your old film camera did. Buy a body, buy a bunch of lenses, get the the battery grip, etc. So here comes a new camera company that might just change all that.

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Craft has designed a camera system where every component is interchangeable allowing you to design a system best suited to your needs. While the video below is just a 3D rendering of the yet to be released final product, the system shows promise. This is a modular system with a number of unique innovations, and a very competitive price point for photographers. The website shows a complete 4K video set up for less than 2 grand which is not bad when you consider what you get.

Some of the innovations that I find really intriguing are the hot swappable lens mounts, the ND filter set up, the connectivity module, and the fact that you can build this to fit your needs. Full tech specifactions are at the bottom of this post.

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Technical Specifications (Full technical specifications will be announced early this summer):
HD Video Element, Super 16mm CMOS Sensor with Global Shutter (1920×1080, 1280×720)
4K Video Element, Super 35mm CMOS Sensor with Global Shutter (4096 x 2160, 1920×1080, 1280 x 720)
Frame rates 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 50, 59.94, 60
Fast and slow frame rate speeds at intervals up to 120fps
Recording Formats Cinema DNG and ProRes (additional formats will announced).
Dimensions (W x H x D)
Video Elements: (97.15mm x 96mm x 39.68mm) (3.7” x 3.6” x 1.5″)
Store, Battery, Audio Elements: (97.15mm x 96mm x 33.4mm) (3.7” x 3.6”x 1.3″)
LCD Elements: (97.15mm x 96mm x 30mm) (3.7” x 3.6” x 1.2″)
Fully assembled cinema camera: (97.15mm x 96mm x 170mm) (3.7” x 3.6” x 6.6″)