Nissan launches electric cars in China

September 12, 2014

Nissan Motor Co. has launched an electric car known as the Venucia on to the Chinese market. In doing so, it becomes the first Japanese automobile company to sell such an eco-friendly car in China – the largest vehicle market in the world.

Nissan collaborated with Chinese automaker Dongfeng Motor Co. to develop the Venucia e30.

‘With Nissan Global’s advanced technology, sales experience and know-how of electric vehicle, the Venucia e30 has been locally developed through our careful studies about market situations and consumer needs in China‘ said Jun Seki, President of Dongfeng Motor Co.

The Venucia is closely based on the Leaf electric car launched in Japan in 2010, and functions in a similar manner, despite having undergone some styling alterations. The Venucia can be fully charged in 4 hours via a household socket and is thought to be 7 times more economical than petrol models in the country. After a full-charge, the car can travel up to 175km. 

Nissan will manufacture the vehicle at a factory in Guangzhou and hopes to sell 50,000 of the models in 2018. By this time, the company also aims to have taken a 20% share of the Chinese market for electric vehicles.

The Venucia will retail at around 267,800 yuan, or around ¥4.7 million (GBP 27,000), for the cheapest model, and will be eligible for the Chinese government’s tax exemption for electric cars –  introduced to help reduce air pollution in the country.

‘I am looking forward to seeing the Venucia e30 lead China’s electric-vehicle market into the future and also to more development of new energy vehicles and the wide adoption of electric vehicles in China.’ said Seki.

Sources: The Japan Times; EV Fleet World

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US engineers build self-folding origami robot

August 15, 2014

A group of engineers from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have succeeded in creating a self-assembling robot.

The robot’s assembly process relies upon origami, a traditional Japanese paper-folding craft.

Made from a composite sheet of paper, polystyrene and a circuit board, the machine can fold itself up from a flat sheet into a four-legged beetle-like form, and crawl away autonomously. The design also includes two motors, two batteries and a microcontroller. Hinges were programmed to fold at specific angles. Each hinge contained embedded circuits that produce heat on command from the microcontroller. The heat triggers the composite to self-fold in a series of steps.

When the hinges cool after about four minutes, the polystyrene hardens – making the robot stiff – and the microcontroller then signals the robot to crawl away at a speed of about one-tenth of a mile per hour.

“We were originally inspired by making robots as quickly and cheaply as possible,” says Sam Felton, doctoral student at Harvard and lead author of the paper described in Science. “The long-term plan is printable manufacturing; the short-term plan is building robots that can go into places where people can’t go.”

The robot is controlled by a timer which means that 10 seconds after the battery is inserted it will begin assembly.

Felton came upon the final design after testing around 40 prototypes. He fabricated the sheet using a solid ink printer, a laser machine, and his hands. Assembly took around 2 hours.

As the pre-stretched polystyrene hardens after assembly, the robot cannot yet unfold itself and return to a flat sheet form.

‘There is a great deal that we can improve based on this foundational step,’ said Felton. He plans to experiment with different kinds of shape memory polymers, including those that are stronger and require less heat to activate.

The potential applications of this type of machine are wide-ranging, stretching beyond the cheap manufacturing of robots.

‘Imagine a ream of dozens of robotic satellites sandwiched together so that they could be sent up to space and then assemble themselves remotely once they get there – they could take images, collect data, and more,’  said Felton.

Source: The Engineer; Bloomberg Businessweek 

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Fukushima Ice Wall Construction Taxes Workers

June 26, 2014

Construction on the underground ice wall around Fukushima is now underway.  its aim is to prevent water that’s been contaminated with radioactive materials from escaping and entering the broader water supply. The ambitious government funded project project intends to freeze the ground around four reactors, as well as other related buildings,  to a depth of 30 meters. In total, the frozen wall of earth will stretch for 1.5km and will reach temperatures of minus 40 degrees Celsius. A series of pipes carrying coolant will be used to freeze the land. Beyond preventing water from escaping the area, the AFP reports that the hope is that it will also prevent contamination of the huge volume of groundwater that flows into the plant from nearby hillsides daily. Construction is expected to finish in March of 2015 with an expected cost of about 32 billion yen ($314 million).

In Japan ground freezing projects have already been used in the construction of tunnels and subways for short periods of time. An underground ice wall has also been used to isolate radioactive waste at the U.S. Department of Energy’s former site of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee that produced plutonium, but only for six years, according to the MIT Technology Review magazine.

Some experts are still skeptical about the technology and say the running costs will be a huge burden. Atsunao Marui, an underground water expert at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, said a frozen wall could be water-tight but is normally intended for use for a few years and is not proven for long-term use as planned in the outline. The decommissioning process is expected to take about 40 years.

A group of reporters were permitted into the Fukushima plant last Friday to visit key working areas to tackle the radioactive water. They were accompanied by Masato Kino the Natural Resources and Energy Agency’s director for management of the contaminated water at the plant and Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials.

Kino emphasized the importance of improving working conditions for the roughly 6,000 workers at the crippled nuclear plant during the tour.

“I sincerely felt the hardships workers have experienced, as what’s going on here is different from ordinary construction work in terms of the severe heat due to protective suits and high radiation level,” he said.

The water buildup is a major headache for TEPCO  and the government as they work toward decommissioning all six reactors at the complex. The contaminated water is increasing at a rate of around 400 tons per day as groundwater flows into the damaged buildings for reactors 1 through 4.

Tepco began constructing the huge underground ice wall early this month. It will surround reactor buildings 1 through 4 in an attempt to prevent more groundwater from seeping into their basements and mixing with heavily contaminated water. Under the unprecedented government-funded project, 1,550 pipes will be inserted deep into the ground to circulate coolant and freeze the nearby soil. However, the work is taking place in conditions of high radiation. “A worker is permitted to continue to do his job for about three hours a day due to legal limits on radiation exposure,” said Kino.

The scale of the project is immense. “Look at that crane! Three out of only six or seven of that supergiant kind existing in Japan are operating here,” Kino said. “The current work is dominated by construction.” In addition to the huge cranes, various kinds of heavy machinery and trucks are operating in the area, which is now a large-scale construction site. Everyone on site has to wear white protective suits and full face masks. A signboard reads “Highly contaminated water here.”

Since May, Tepco has employed a “groundwater bypass system” in which it has dumped thousands of tons of groundwater into the Pacific Ocean collected from wells dug near the reactor buildings. The utility claims the water’s radiation level meets safety guidelines.The system is designed to pump out the groundwater before it reaches the heavily contaminated area near the reactors. “We will not be sure whether this measure is working effectively until one or two months have passed,” said Kino.

An Advanced Liquid Processing System, or ALPS, has been developed to reduce the radiation level of the highly contaminated water accumulating at the plant.ALPS is reportedly capable of removing 62 different types of radioactive substances from the contaminated water, but not tritium. The system has been plagued by glitches and is still in the trial stage, with all three of its lines resuming Sunday for the first time in about three months.

TEPCO is also constructing an offshore wall of steel panels to keep contaminants from spreading further into the sea. The utility says radioactive elements have mostly remained near the embankment inside the bay, but experts have reported offshore “hot spots” of sediments contaminated with high levels of cesium.

Sources:The Japan Times,The Huffington Post, The Verge.com

TJC offers an extensive global network of professional & experienced multilingual translators, proof-readers and interpreters. We also have academic researchers, specialists and speakers, who are all native speakers of over 100 languages. Our expert translators and interpreters are based all over the globe and can assist you with projects of all kinds.

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A robot with a heart: Japanese company unveils newest creation

June 6, 2014

Japanese company Softbank has unveiled its newest design: a robot able to respond to human emotions. Using a cloud-based artificial intelligence system and an “emotional engine”, the robot, known as “Pepper”, is able to to interpret human voice tones, expressions and gestures, and perform various tasks.

In the past several different robotics companies have claimed to have created robots that read or mimic human emotions, but Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son told a press conference it is the first time in history a robot has been given a heart.

The firm said people can communicate with Pepper “just like they would with friends and family” and believes it could become a household aid to the elderly, especially in countries like Japan with rapidly ageing populations.

“Even if one can pre-programme such robots to carry out specific tasks based on certain commands or gestures, it could go long way in helping improve elderly care,” said Rhenu Bhuller, senior vice president healthcare at consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

Softbank is a majority stakeholder in French company, Aldebaran Robotics. The two firms developed Pepper in collaboration. Bruno Maisonnier, founder and chief executive of Aldebaran said: “The emotional robot will create a new dimension in our lives and new ways of interacting with technology.”

Japan has one of the world’s largest robotics markets, which was estimated to be worth around 860 billion yen (approx £5 billion) in 2012.  The country employs more than 250,000 industrial robot workers. According to a trade ministry report last year, the Japanese robotics market is expected to have more than tripled in value to 2.85 trillion yen (£16.5 billion) by the year 2020.

Pepper will go on sale to the public next year for 198,000 yen ($1,930; £1,150). According to the company, it will be available at stores nationwide.

A prototype version of the robot will also serve customers in Softbank’s mobile phone stores.
Sources: BBC News; The Telegraph
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TJC offers an extensive global network of professional & experienced multilingual translators, proof-readers and interpreters. We also have academic researchers, specialists and speakers, who are all native speakers of over 100 languages. Our expert translators and interpreters are based all over the globe and can assist you with projects of all kinds.

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Hydrogen cars have the edge on Electric

June 5, 2014

Toyota Motor Corp will next year launch a hydrogen-powered car in the United States, Japan and Europe. For now, people at Toyota are calling it the 2015 FC car, for fuel-cell.

Hydrogen fuel-cell cars will cost significantly more than conventional cars and there are currently few refuelling stations. But Toyota believes that when they are compared to the other zero-emissions alternative, battery-powered electric vehicles, or EVs, fuel cells suddenly don’t look so bad.

Fuel-cell cars use a “stack” of cells that electro-chemically combine hydrogen with oxygen to generate electricity that helps propel the car. Their only emission, apart from heat, is water vapor, they can run five times longer than battery electric cars, and it takes just minutes to fill the tank with hydrogen – far quicker than even the most rapid charger can recharge a battery electric car.

“With the 2015 FC car we think we’ve achieved a degree of dominance over our rivals,” Satoshi Ogiso, a Toyota managing director, said in a recent interview at the group’s global headquarters. “With the car, we make a first giant step” toward making fuel-cell vehicles practical for everyday use.

What’s more, executives and engineers say Toyota is willing to sell the car at a loss for a long while to popularize the new technology – just as it did with the Prius, which, with other hybrids, now accounts for 14 percent of Toyota’s annual sales, excluding group companies, of around 9 million vehicles.

As a result, drivers in key “green” markets such as California may be able to buy the car for a little more than $30,000-$40,000, after government subsidies – if management approves a pricing strategy put forward by a group of managers and engineers. General Motors Co’s Chevrolet Volt, a near-all-electric plug-in hybrid, for comparison, starts at around $35,000 in the United States.

“It really provides all the benefits of a plug-in EV without the range anxiety and without the time it takes to recharge it,” says Bill Fay, group vice president of the Toyota division, in a interview at the Chicago Auto Show.

Since most battery-powered cars are limited to about 100 miles per charge, the term “range anxiety” has come to mean the worries that owners face about running out of juice before they can limp home or to a public charging station. Hydrogen cars can go hundreds of miles on a fillup, and the fillup only takes about five minutes, Fay points out.

Takeshi Uchiyamada, the 67-year-old “father of the Prius” whose success catapulted him from mid-level engineer to Toyota board chairman, says technology inefficiencies will make the battery electric car little more than an “errands car” – a small run-around for shopping, dropping the kids at school and other short-haul chores.

As with battery electric cars, a major challenge for fuel-cell automakers is a lack of infrastructure, with few hydrogen fuel stations in the world. Estimates vary, but it costs about $2 million to build a single hydrogen fuel station in the United States, according to Toyota executives.

At present, California, the state that once had planned a “hydrogen highway” of stations, has nine. But the state has plans to vastly increase the network, says Bob Carter, a senior vice president for Toyota.

Studies have shown, he says, that fewer stations than might be expected can support the needs of a lot of drivers. As few as 68 is enough to meet the needs of drivers of 10,000 cars.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars, Carter says, will “fundamentally change” how America thinks about alternative fuel vehicles.

However, many automobile manufacturers are staking their future on battery electric cars including Nissan Motor Co, Tesla Motors Inc, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG,GM, Ford Motor Co and Chinese automakers backed by the country’s industrial policymakers. China offers generous purchase incentives for those buying battery electric cars and aims to have 5 million “new energy” vehicles – mostly all-electric and near all-electric plug-in hybrids – on the road by 2020.

Tesla chief Elon Musk has said hydrogen is an unsuitable fuel for cars. In a videotaped speech last year to employees and others at a new Tesla service center in Germany, Musk said: “Fuel-cell is so bullshit. Hydrogen is a quite dangerous gas. It’s suitable for the upper-stage rocket, but not for cars.”

Even Toyota only expects tens of thousands of fuel-cell cars to be sold each year a decade from now as the new technology will need time to gain traction. Ogiso says Toyota has cut the platinum use per car by more than two-thirds through nanotechnology and stack-design improvements, and he expects to trim that further. Engineer Hitoshi Nomasa said a hydrogen-powered Toyota SUV now uses around 30 grams of platinum in the fuel-cell, down from 100 grams previously. Platinum currently costs $1,437 an ounce (28 grams) on world markets.

Toyota has also borrowed spare parts from the Prius and other gasoline-electric hybrids it sells around the world. While the fuel-cell car uses hydrogen as fuel, it otherwise resembles the hybrid models as both use electricity to power their motors.

While costs have come down significantly, Toyota says a hydrogen car’s fuel-cell propulsion system alone still costs it close to $50,000 to produce. That’s partly why some Toyota money managers want a more conservative pricing strategy – of $50,000-$100,000 – said one individual on the 2015 FC car launch team.

“It might be tough to price it below $50,000,” Ogiso said. “But anything is possible at this point.”

 

Sources: USA Today, Business Insider, Toyota Co.

TJC offers an extensive global network of professional & experienced multilingual translators, proof-readers and interpreters. We also have academic researchers, specialists and speakers, who are all native speakers of over 100 languages. Our expert translators and interpreters are based all over the globe and can assist you with projects of all kinds.

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Members of: ATCITIProz

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JAXA Plans Solar Power Plant In Space

May 27, 2014

Picture this: a giant solar power plant floating in space, gathering the sun’s energy with virtually no constraints from the weather, seasons or time of day, delivering a constant supply of green energy to Earth. Sound a little too Sci-Fi? Well, thanks to JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, we could actually witness this incredible technology in just over a decade.

The idea of a space power plant has actually been around for a while. Back in 1968, American aerospace engineer Dr. Peter Glaser pioneered the space solar power concept and proposed the deployment of giant solar panels in space in order to generate microwaves that could be transmitted back to Earth to produce electricity. The concept sparked a lot of interest, even from NASA, but it came to a halt in the ‘80s because of the high costs involved. Japan, however, pursued the idea and is currently the world leader of the Space Solar Power Systems (SSPS) project.

This colossal satellite, hovering around 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above Earth, would be several miles long and weigh a whopping 10,000 metric tons. These floating solar panels would actually be tethered to a station on the ground in order to keep the satellite at a fixed point in geostationary orbit. The proposed model also includes a set of mirrors that reflect the sun’s light onto the panels so that when the satellite is not facing the sun it can still receive sunlight.

And now for the really tricky part: getting all of that solar energy back to Earth so that we can use it. There are two possible ways that this could be achieved which involve converting the solar energy into either laser beams or microwaves, or perhaps even a combination of both, which would then be transmitted to a receiving facility (called a “rectenna” [rectifying antenna]) situated on Earth. Ground-based experiments are currently underway to discern which option would be most efficient.

These space based solar panels would be around 5-10 times more efficient than ground-based solar conversion systems. Furthermore, CO2 emissions will be low and will only come from the receiving facility. It’s predicted that SSPS will be able to process around 1 gigawatt of power, which is a similar amount to nuclear power stations.

Although Japan are the leading country with regards to making SSPS happen, in reality the costs will be so astronomical that it is likely contributions from other countries will be required before we see this behemoth space power station start to take shape. This concept may seem a little far-fetched, but JAXA believe they are getting tantalizingly close to turning this vision into a reality.

Check out JAXA’s SSPS YouTube video to find out more:

Read more at http://www.iflscience.com/technology/japan-wants-put-giant-solar-farm-space#sjWyYpropCur1eeA.99

Picture this: a giant solar power plant floating in space, gathering the sun’s energy with virtually no constraints from the weather, seasons or time of day, delivering a constant supply of green energy to Earth. Sound a little too Sci-Fi? Well, thanks to JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, we could actually witness this incredible technology in just over a decade.

The idea of a space power plant has actually been around for a while. Back in 1968, American aerospace engineer Dr. Peter Glaser pioneered the space solar power concept and proposed the deployment of giant solar panels in space in order to generate microwaves that could be transmitted back to Earth to produce electricity. The concept sparked a lot of interest, even from NASA, but it came to a halt in the ‘80s because of the high costs involved. Japan, however, pursued the idea and is currently the world leader of the Space Solar Power Systems (SSPS) project.

This colossal satellite, hovering around 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above Earth, would be several miles long and weigh a whopping 10,000 metric tons. These floating solar panels would actually be tethered to a station on the ground in order to keep the satellite at a fixed point in geostationary orbit. The proposed model also includes a set of mirrors that reflect the sun’s light onto the panels so that when the satellite is not facing the sun it can still receive sunlight.

And now for the really tricky part: getting all of that solar energy back to Earth so that we can use it. There are two possible ways that this could be achieved which involve converting the solar energy into either laser beams or microwaves, or perhaps even a combination of both, which would then be transmitted to a receiving facility (called a “rectenna” [rectifying antenna]) situated on Earth. Ground-based experiments are currently underway to discern which option would be most efficient.

These space based solar panels would be around 5-10 times more efficient than ground-based solar conversion systems. Furthermore, CO2 emissions will be low and will only come from the receiving facility. It’s predicted that SSPS will be able to process around 1 gigawatt of power, which is a similar amount to nuclear power stations.

Although Japan are the leading country with regards to making SSPS happen, in reality the costs will be so astronomical that it is likely contributions from other countries will be required before we see this behemoth space power station start to take shape. This concept may seem a little far-fetched, but JAXA believe they are getting tantalizingly close to turning this vision into a reality.

Check out JAXA’s SSPS YouTube video to find out more:

Read more at http://www.iflscience.com/technology/japan-wants-put-giant-solar-farm-space#sjWyYpropCur1eeA.99

Picture this: a giant solar power plant floating in space, gathering the sun’s energy with virtually no constraints from the weather, seasons or time of day, delivering a constant supply of green energy to Earth. Sound a little too Sci-Fi? Well, thanks to JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, we could actually witness this incredible technology in just over a decade.

The idea of a space power plant has actually been around for a while. Back in 1968, American aerospace engineer Dr. Peter Glaser pioneered the space solar power concept and proposed the deployment of giant solar panels in space in order to generate microwaves that could be transmitted back to Earth to produce electricity. The concept sparked a lot of interest, even from NASA, but it came to a halt in the ‘80s because of the high costs involved. Japan, however, pursued the idea and is currently the world leader of the Space Solar Power Systems (SSPS) project.

This colossal satellite, hovering around 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above Earth, would be several miles long and weigh a whopping 10,000 metric tons. These floating solar panels would actually be tethered to a station on the ground in order to keep the satellite at a fixed point in geostationary orbit. The proposed model also includes a set of mirrors that reflect the sun’s light onto the panels so that when the satellite is not facing the sun it can still receive sunlight.

And now for the really tricky part: getting all of that solar energy back to Earth so that we can use it. There are two possible ways that this could be achieved which involve converting the solar energy into either laser beams or microwaves, or perhaps even a combination of both, which would then be transmitted to a receiving facility (called a “rectenna” [rectifying antenna]) situated on Earth. Ground-based experiments are currently underway to discern which option would be most efficient.

These space based solar panels would be around 5-10 times more efficient than ground-based solar conversion systems. Furthermore, CO2 emissions will be low and will only come from the receiving facility. It’s predicted that SSPS will be able to process around 1 gigawatt of power, which is a similar amount to nuclear power stations.

Although Japan are the leading country with regards to making SSPS happen, in reality the costs will be so astronomical that it is likely contributions from other countries will be required before we see this behemoth space power station start to take shape. This concept may seem a little far-fetched, but JAXA believe they are getting tantalizingly close to turning this vision into a reality.

Read more at http://www.iflscience.com/technology/japan-wants-put-giant-solar-farm-space#sjWyYpropCur1eeA.99

The idea of a solar power plant in space has actually been around since 1968, American aerospace engineer Dr. Peter Glaser pioneered the space solar power concept and proposed the deployment of giant solar panels in space in order to generate microwaves that could be transmitted back to Earth to produce electricity. The concept sparked a lot of interest, even from NASA, but it came to a halt in the ‘80s because of the high costs involved. Japan, however, pursued the idea and is currently the world leader of the Space Solar Power Systems (SSPS) project.

The plan is to build a giant satellite, hovering around 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above Earth, it would be several miles long and weigh around 10,000 metric tons. Floating solar panels would be tethered to a station on the ground in order to keep the satellite at a fixed point in geostationary orbit. The proposed model also includes a set of mirrors that reflect the sun’s light onto the panels so that when the satellite is not facing the sun it can still receive sunlight. Collecting sunlight from outside the Earth’s atmosphere, provides a continuous supply, with almost no influence from the weather, the seasons, or time of day. Since the energy source is the sun, it’s an endlessly renewable resource, Also, because the power is generated in space and carbon dioxide is emitted only at the receiving site, emissions within the Earth’s atmosphere can be greatly reduced, which makes this technology very environmentally friendly.

The more complex part is how to transport that solar energy back to Earth. JAXA is currently conducting ground-based experiments to find the most efficient way to transmit energy. There are two possible ways  this could be achieved either converting the solar energy into  laser beams or microwaves, or perhaps even a combination of both, which would then be transmitted to a receiving facility (called a “rectenna” [rectifying antenna]) situated on Earth. Ground-based experiments are currently underway to discern which option would be most efficient.

When transmitting power by microwaves, a significant technological challenge is how to control the direction, and transmit it with pinpoint accuracy from a geostationary orbit to a receiving site on the ground. Japan currently has the most advanced technology to do this but transmitting microwaves from an altitude of 36,000 kilometers to a flat surface 3 km in diameter is like threading a needle from space.

There are many other technological challenges to solve before SSPS can be implemented. However, in principle, it is getting close to the stage where it is feasible. Researchers have started preparation for the world’s first demonstration of 1kW-class wireless power transmission technology, and are aiming for practical use in the 2030s. It’s predicted that SSPS will be able to process around 1 gigawatt of power, which is a similar amount to nuclear power stations.

Although Japan is the leading country with regards to making SSPS happen, in reality the costs will be so astronomical that it is likely contributions from other countries will be required before we see this behemoth space power station start to take shape however, JAXA believe they are getting tantalizingly close to turning this vision into a reality.

 

Sources: JAXA, Japan Space Systems, iflscience.com

TJC offers an extensive global network of professional & experienced multilingual translators, proof-readers and interpreters. We also have academic researchers, specialists and speakers, who are all native speakers of over 100 languages. Our expert translators and interpreters are based all over the globe and can assist you with projects of all kinds.

For translation and interpreting services in Japanese, please visit our sister site, The Japanese Connection.

Members of: ATCITIProz

See our LinkedIn profile or visit us on Twitter


Formula 1 know how speeds up clinical drug tests and toothpaste manufacturing

April 30, 2014

During each of the 19 F1 Grand Prix races held in cities worldwide each year, McLaren engineers use continuous telemetry, or wireless telecommunication systems, to monitor cars streaking around tracks at speeds up to 220 mph in all kinds of weather. They gather information on everything from aerodynamics, fuel consumption, road conditions and tyre life. Those pieces of data are then streamed to McLaren’s servers back in Woking, suburban London, and fed into an algorithmic model that can instantly run thousands of possible scenarios and spit out predictive intelligence that its trackside crew uses to make super-fast decisions—when to schedule a pit stop, for instance—in races where milliseconds rule.

The main focus of the McLaren Applied Technologies (MAT) division is selling this ability to capture vast amounts of data in real time, feed it into models and run simulations that can be used to solve problems, aid decision making, design products and increase efficiency, all at blinding speed. McLaren’s expansion into applied technologies was instigated five years ago by Ron Dennis, McLaren’s chairman and CEO. In the decades since it was founded in 1968, McLaren has amassed technical expertise in the many areas required to keep complex race cars running as efficiently and safely as possible. Dennis wondered, Why not market that trackside-honed know-how to other industries? So McLaren is now applying its technological expertise—in areas that include exotic materials, aerodynamics and electronics—in sectors far removed from motor sports, ranging from health care and public transportation to data centers and oil-and-gas exploration.

This type of real-time data monitoring and response could have a tremendous impact on one of the biggest choke points in the drug development processes: testing efficiency. Patients in clinical trials for new drugs usually have their vital signs checked every few weeks or so, when they visit their doctor. Data collected at checkups are used by manufacturers to determine the efficacy of the drugs. It’s an inherently slow process: Many months are needed to gather enough patient data to be useful. It’s also a big reason why it usually takes 10 long and costly years to bring a drug to market after it’s discovered.

But that doesn’t mean the process can’t be improved. Last year, consultants McKinsey & Co. urged U.S. drugmakers to make better use of big data—for instance, to improve clinical trials or to model biological processes—claiming it “could generate up to $100 billion in value annually across the U.S. health care system.”

McLaren and the British multinational pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) are attempting to answer this call with a big-data experiment using a technology called “biotelemetry.” McLaren has customized the telemetrics technology that studies the “health” of its race cars to measure 24/7 the vital signs and mobility of patients involved in drug trials—in this case for arthritis and stroke-recovery therapies—so researchers can determine more quickly if a drug is or isn’t working, or is causing troubling side effects. If a trial needs to be stopped or altered, the faster that’s known, the more it saves time and money—and the more it can help patients. “Speed is a real imperative for [patients],” says Steve Mayhew, GSK’s head of research and development strategy, since some new drugs, like cancer therapies, might prolong lives by months and years.

Moreover, says Geoff McGrath, vice president in charge of MAT at McLaren, data streamed from patients in real time are a much richer source of intelligence than vital stats taken every few weeks at a doctor’s office. “When [a patient] goes to a clinic, it’s not really a real-world test.”

Now imagine applying the consistent efficiency of an F1 pit crew to a team of workers that runs a toothpaste manufacturing line. As improbable as that sounds, that’s what happened when GSK also began working with the McLaren Group to help it cut production times at its Sensodyne toothpaste plant in Maidenhead, England.

Formula One race cars barrel into the pit lane, decelerating rapidly from around 200 mph in the track to 50 mph in the lane, just before stopping in front of a 20-man team standing and squatting at the ready. Instantly, the team springs into its well-rehearsed and elaborately choreographed routine, and in just about 2.3 seconds, it’s done: four tires removed and replaced, the car ready to streak back onto the track. Sneeze and you miss it. To carry out this complex choreography with the speed and precision of an atomic clock clearly requires some serious planning.  After each stop, the team holds a debriefing session, going over what went right and what could have been improved.

McLaren engineers applied their pit stop processes initially to one production line. They grabbed data from the line’s machines, fed it into a model and ran simulations. They discovered that one of the biggest bottlenecks was changeover time—stopping the line to make a product change, say, to a different flavor—which took around 39 minutes. The line’s workers were then tutored in the kinds of time-saving procedures developed by McLaren pit crews. And they worked. The line’s downtime was halved, enabling it to boost production by nearly 7 million additional tubes a year.That’s why, this year, GSK will roll out McLaren-derived efficiency procedures at its consumer product manufacturing plants worldwide, beginning in three of its eight global regions: the U.S., U.K. and Spain.

 Source: News Week

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