A Different Kind of Space Race: How Far-Out Tech Changes the Way You Live
Innovations developed for interstellar exploration is inside many of the products in your home. Where will future versions lead?
Since its inception in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has affected consumers' everyday lives without many of us knowing. In fact, the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 ensured this quiet influence by including the stipulation "that activities in space should be devoted to peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind."
Developments in space travel remain crucial to the technological advances we enjoy daily. Long-distance communications, solar energy, artificial limbs, memory foam and household smoke detectors all were first used in space. The smartphones we carry in our pockets are up to a million times more powerful than all of NASA's computers combined in 1969. Imagine what we'll hold in our hands 20 years from now.
New horizons, new challenges.
All this advancement brings a different set of challenges. Among these: overheating. It's a critical operations problem for electronic devices because it can lead to poor performance and -- in some cases -- dangerous situations.
Samsung made the unprecedented decision to recall all Galaxy 7 phones after 35 of them overheated. Some exploded, rupturing their cases. The number of overheating incidents reported quadrupled after Samsung announced the recall.
Another example focuses on the hoverboard, of the past few years' most popular toys. The hoverboard also fell victim to the perils of overheating and posed a safety threat to consumers. It's since been recalled and is illegal to operate in many cities.
Opportunities within change.
KULR Technology is among the companies looking to leverage what it's learned in space and apply those lessons to innovations here on Earth. Michael Mo and Timothy Knowles cofounded KULR (pronounced "cooler") in 2013. Their basic premise: solve the challenges to keep electronics cooler, lighter and safer in an ethical and environmentally sustainable manner.
KULR's technology traces its beginnings to the high-performance aerospace industry. The San Diego-based firm has won more than 500 contracts with agencies and companies including NASA, Raytheon, Boeing and JPL. KULR also provided the carbon-fiber-based thermal-management solutions used in the International Space Station, Mars Rover and Mercury Messenger.
KULR and other groups will find a robust marketplace as they translate the knowledge gained from interstellar successes. Thermal management already is an $11 billion annual business, and the opportunities only will grow exponentially as technology develops.
Increased demand for computing power.
On a larger scale, the advances made during the past decade require tremendous computing power. Over the next 5, 10 and 15 years, these and other emerging technologies will change how we live.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) requires a massive amount of computational power, resulting in billions of computations.
- The success of Virtual and Augmented Realities (VR/AR) relies on the level of immersion experienced by the user. A truly immersive experience requires more powerful processing components.
- Some futurists predict that autonomous (self-driving) cars will replace all human drivers on highways by 2025. These vehicles will be electric and run on battery packs -- the very issue that affected Samsung's Galaxy 7 and the hoverboard.
- Private space travel has increased massively over the past decade. Many people don't realize how expensive space travel is - and that doesn't even account for the ticket price. In 2008, it cost $10,000 to send one pound of matter into space. The heat space travel generates is tremendous.
- The Internet of Things (IoT) is the inter-networking of physical devices and even vehicles (also referred to as "connected devices" or "smart devices"). The IoT is moving us ever closer to a world in which all our everyday devices -- phone, car, watch, refrigerator -- communicate with one another.
- Robotics, combined with AI, is changing how manufacturers produce their goods. American scholar, author and organizational consultant Warren Bennis once said, "The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment."
Focus on performance and sustainability.
Over time, these technologies will increase in consumer base -- and consumers will focus more and more on performance. As a device's number of transistors multiplies, its computing power increases exponentially. In turn, its form factors shrink. But increased density of transistors on a chip has led to performance issues including overheating. That can cause slowed or even broken-down connections.
The cycle feeds the need for continued evolution. KULR's proprietary carbon-fiber-based architecture replaces older aluminum- and copper-based head spreaders and exchanges that were the standard for years. Unfortunately, those earlier particle-based thermal-interface materials are inefficient as well as energy-intensive and less environmentally friendly to produce. KULR's newer versions offer lower contact pressure and longer reliability, making devices higher-performing and higher-compliance.
KULR has given environmental impacts a large role in another part of its strategy, too. Corporations require increasing electricity to operate their facilities, and they spend staggering sums to keep their data centers cool. Technology that lowers the temperature from the inside reduces the amount of energy needed to cool these components from the outside in.
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