OpenGov had the opportunity to speak with the founders- Johae Song and Vanessa Cunha of a company called Able on their product Lulu which has been shortlisted for the DBS Foundation Social Impact Prize at the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition (LKYGBPC) will be awarded to the most innovative business plans, start-ups or early-stage ventures that address pertinent urban challenges faced by cities of today.
The passion behind the innovation
From the beginning of the conversation it is obvious that the business is passion driven. One of the founders Johae told OpenGov of two personal experiences that has spurred her on to bring the product to market. She once met with a young boy in Chile who could not speak, and when asking his parent what things he liked, the parent responded that they did not know. They could not communicate with him. So on hearing this, it made Johae even more determined to make a product that would give young people with communication challenges the chance to communicate with their family, to enable all people with communication challenges to communicate more easily, more naturally, with the aid of this AI powered solution.
Many people are isolated from their environments due to a lack of upper body motion and speaking impairment. This leads to daily challenges with communication, independence, and a social connection. Before Lulu, the product they are currently developing, there was no user-friendly assistive technology to help these people communicate more efficiently.
Tech for Good Solution
Lulu is a smart personalized assistant giving people with communication challenges the freedom to connect with the world, a new product that is focused on a hands-free smart communication system that you can download and try on your smart device.
- Lulu is a smart companion robot for wheelchair users. Lulu is a plug-and-play robotic system, controlled by a user-friendly mobile application for people with physical and/or communication challenges.
- Around 70 million people require wheelchairs worldwide and nearly 50 million require assistive technology to communicate effectively. The lack of suitable assistive technologies to help them to connect with the world inspired us to create a product that breaks down both mobility and communication barriers.
- Lulu is designed to provide users with safe navigation, social interaction and smart home connectivity. Controlled hands-free through eye-tracking, Lulu’s current features include a smart camera to help users gain a broader field of vision, speech-to-text and text-to-speech to enhance communication, and smart-home connectivity allowing users to turn on and off lights with the blink of an eye.
LuLu is the first leveraging artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, and AI-services to work for the disabled.
For more information on the Smart App visit – https://www.hi-lulu.com/
A Western Australia-based solar glass developer has begun installing the company’s transparent solar PV integrated glass units (IGU) on-site at the $7.45m grains research precinct at Perth’s Murdoch University. The greenhouse will utilise the company’s transparent solar glass technology which is designed to preserve glass transparency while generating electricity.
Data supplied by the company indicates the technology delivers a minimum of 30 watts per sqm while maintaining 70% transparency. The IGUs feature solar PV cells around the edges of each unit. The units incorporate a nanoparticle interlayer and spectral-selective coating on the rear external surface which allow much of the light to pass through but redirects infrared and UV light to the edge of the IGU where it is harvested by solar cells.
The company’s CEO stated that the company expects the greenhouse, when operational, will generate greater market awareness of its building-integrated PV (BIPV) technology. They are starting to see strong interest globally for the firm’s product from greenhouse suppliers, growers and other protected cropping end-users, he said. They expect the fully constructed greenhouse to lead to even greater market awareness of the technology and product.
The main construction of the supporting greenhouse structure was completed in December 2020 and the installation of glazing is expected to be finished within the coming weeks ahead of commissioning with plant trials due to start in March or April 2021.
The greenhouse is being built adjacent to two recently completed polycarbonate research greenhouses that form part of a larger research precinct. The project is the first commercial-scale demonstration of the company’s PV IGU technology in a protected-cropping agriculture setting and the company is confident it will perform well.
The solar glass developer’s datasheet indicates traditional greenhouses experience a temperature range of +/-6° from optimum temperature while its technology delivers a temperature range of +/-2° from the optimum temperature, providing an increased growth rate of up to 20-30%.
The CEO stated that the company looks forward to updating the market once the greenhouse is commissioned in the next few months, and as the larger research aspects of the project progresses.
When work began on the greenhouse in December, the CEO noted that the project marked a “major milestone for the company”. The trial results would not only help facilitate the commercial application of the technology across protected-cropping agriculture markets but also across high-rise commercial buildings.
While BIPV is yet to enjoy the same widespread deployment as building-applied PV (BAPV), it has been identified by the Australian PV Institute (APVI) as one of five key avenues for increased market penetration of PV. The APVI said the multi-functionality of BIPV meant it had huge potential.
More on the transparent solar glass technology
According to another article, the company’s proprietary transparent luminescent solar concentrator is a spectrally selective polyvinyl butyral interlayer sandwiched between two panes of glass. Most visible light is transmitted through the glass, but infrared light is deflected by inorganic particles in the interlayer to solar cells in the frame. UV light is converted to infrared and also deflected to cells on the window perimeter via total internal reflection.
A luminescent solar concentrator (LSC) is made from plastic or glass with fluorescent materials or quantum dots in or on it. The hope for the LSC is that cheap dyes or phosphors can make the system inexpensive as well as tolerant of defects or angle.
The luminescent ingredients can be dialled-in to absorb and re-emit at selected wavelengths. Luminophores used in LSCs can be quantum dots, rare-earth ions, nanoclusters and organic molecules. There has been a recent move away from organic dyes towards more stable inorganic phosphors.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments across the world are standing their ground in capitalising on digital technology to provide seamless transactions during the new normal despite safety restrictions. In line with these efforts, government agencies and even state-owned firms are rethinking their operation models to be more equipped in providing services to the citizen base.
This scenario is evident in Indonesia, where the government has early on committed to accelerating its digital transformation to boost public service and governance. In fact, according to an earlier report by OpenGov Asia, the Ministry of National Development Planning emphasised the role of information and communications technology to boost the country’s social capital index. This index is the measure of the whole population’s social stability and well-being.
Building on this commitment, Indonesia’s state-owned electricity company PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) announced that it has formulated a new innovative strategy to provide services to households across the country. In a statement, the company said that consumers can easily apply for a COVID-19 electricity stimulus package through the PLN Mobile application.
The electricity firm ensured that they are distributing 450 volt-ampere (VA) and 900 VA subsidised electricity packages to 32 million household consumers. It added that this number excludes the 450 VA power packages to 459,000 business customers.
Postpaid customers under the 450 VA group are entitled to a 100% electricity discount while a 50% power subsidy is given to postpaid consumers under the 900 VA power segment. PLN’s Executive Vice President for Corporate Communication and CSR Agung Murdifi said: “postpaid customers will immediately reduce the cost of electricity bills. Then for 450 VA, prepaid tokens can be obtained through the method described. Meanwhile, for subsidised 900 VA household customers, a stimulus is received when purchasing electricity tokens.”.
The Executive Vice President added that they “see that the distribution process is running smoothly and customers have enjoyed the electricity stimulus.”
The state-owned firm emphasised that using the PLN app is easy and convenient during the new normal. The application can be downloaded via Playstore and App Store. Once downloaded, customers can register for the power subsidy by clicking on ‘PLN Cares for Covid-19’ under the Info and Promos tab. They will then be prompted to enter their Customer ID or their electricity meter number. A free token will appear which can be entered by customers in their meter reading to avail of discounts.
For those who have trouble accessing or downloading the PLN app, they can log on to the PLN website or send a message through WhatsApp. The company’s Executive Vice President stated that they have launched these additional services to provide as many alternative options to citizens who are in need of discounts on their electricity bills. He added: “PLN adds Channels through the PLN Mobile Application to make it easier because customers can just open the application on their cellphones, enter the Customer ID / Meter Number, and get the token number.”
The introduction of subsidised electricity is part of the government’s IDR 695.2 trillion (US$ 49.4 billion) stimulus package during the pandemic. This government effort aims to shore up the country’s economy which has taken a hit since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Through this initiative, the government is also optimistic that the stimulus package will help maintain employment levels.
Since August last year, over 30 million households, businesses and industries have been seeing lower amounts in their electricity bills following the release of an IDR 15.4 trillion (US$ 1.09 billion) funding for power relief measures. This amount is on top of the IDR 54.79 trillion (US$ 3.89 billion) yearly electricity subsidies set aside by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources.
The Labor Government is helping make Victoria the renewable energy state, with more than half a million households now generating their own energy through solar and saving hundreds a year off their power bills. As many as one in every five homes have solar panels on their roof – with that number set to rise further still with the Labor Government’s latest incentives to get more Victorians making the renewable energy switch.
The latest data shows there are now 510,000 small-scale solar PV systems in Victoria – all together they generate almost a third of the state’s total residential electricity demand, with more than 15,000 households also having a solar battery.
The Government is working to continue to make it easy for more homeowners to go solar, with eligible Victorians able to access both a rebate and interest-free loan of up to $1,850 each when installing solar panels or up to $4,174 off the cost of installing a household battery system.
Households with solar panels can save up to $890 a year and another $640 with a battery. Given the popularity of battery rebates, postcode restrictions have now been lifted, meaning households across the state can apply.
Recent data on the program – which will create at least 5,500 jobs over its lifespan – also shows November 2020 was the biggest month for solar battery rebate uptake (429 applications), while December 2020 was the biggest month for battery installations (183).
Almost 1,900 Victorian households have now applied for a Solar Homes household battery since the program started in July 2019 – and fortnightly allocations are being snapped up almost as soon as they go online. The Government is making 17,500 rebates available over the next three years to keep up with demand.
While grid connection and the associated feed-in tariff is a motivator for some households to install a home battery, the best opportunity for savings comes from using the power that a solar system creates during daylight hours and storing excess energy in a battery. For more information about solar rebates, go to solar.vic.gov.au.
The region’s Minister for Solar Homes stated that Victoria has embraced renewable energy – and the aim is to see these impressive figures rise even higher. Solar is good for jobs, it’s good for the environment and it’s good for bringing down power bills. The recent expansion of the Government’s solar battery rebate program will help Victorians store their affordable rooftop energy and boost local solar businesses as Victoria’s economic recovery continues.
A recent article noted that Australia saw a surge of small-scale utility solar in 2020 owing to the path of least resistance found by systems around the 5 MW range. At that capacity, the systems can fly under the radar of much of the network’s congestion woes. A solar farm in South Australia’s Mid-Murray region was completed in February and is just one example.
Another Renmark-based electrical services company has already developed 80 MW of small-scale solar farms in the last five years, and this year they teamed up with Sustainable Energy Infrastructure to develop another 20 MW by the middle of 2021.
As evidence enough of the small/medium-scale surge in provided by the fact that in December the sector found its first dedicated investment vehicle – Solarion Renewable Fund – which aims to fill the gap in medium-scale solar in Australia with a target portfolio of over 200 MW in the next few years.
Australia’s largest free-range chicken farm also switched on one of the biggest solar plus energy storage systems of any commercial farm in the country in November. With 1.4 MW of rooftop solar combining with 2.28 MWh of energy storage via 5 Tesla lithium-ion batteries, the farm is excited to save enormous amounts on its energy bill and its emissions.
The Housing Development Board, Singapore launched the HDB Flat Portal. The one-stop online platform will make it easier for prospective buyers and sellers streamline the process. The Minister for National Development, Desmond Lee announced, “This new portal will make it more convenient for home buyers and sellers to gather information on the purchase or sale of a flat through a single integrated platform”.
Some of the salient features of the portal include a customised financial calculator for buyers to check their budget and payment plan and sellers to estimate sales proceeds, and flat listings collating information on current and upcoming Build-to-Order (BTO) launches.
The website will also have loan listings for buyers to get information on housing loans offered by HDB and participating financial institutions, said Mr Lee. He added that HDB is looking to include resale flat listings in subsequent phases of the portal’s rollout. The HDB Flat Portal is the second phase of the HDB Resale Portal launched in January 2018.
Its launch took place after a series of engagement sessions with industry players and stakeholders, he said. “The HDB Resale Portal has halved the time needed for resale flat transactions from 16 weeks to around 8 weeks and reduced the number of appointments with HDB from two to one,” said Mr Lee. “We will continue to look into ways to further improve the transaction process for HDB home buyers and sellers.”
Buyers can use the suggested payment plan in the portal as a benchmark when talking to property or bank consultants before purchasing a resale flat, said Ms Christine Sun, head of research and consultancy at OrangeTee & Tie. The section on upcoming Build-to-Order (BTO) flats is also helpful as buyers can view information on upcoming launches and subscription rates of previous launches in one website, speeding up the search process, she added.
Features of the online portal:
The portal has provisions for every buyer and seller to have a profile which requires a login via SingPass. The website also has a “My Flat Dashboard” which tracks the number and category of the application you want to make.
Another fascinating feature is called “Finding a Flat”. Using this feature a buyer can input his/her price, location, flat type, waiting time, and mode of sale preferences and can get suitable results based on them.
Apart from making the transactions move twice as fast, the portal significantly reduces the amount of previously required administrative work and the number of appointments. Documentation and formalities like Submitting a resale checklist, applying for flat valuation, HDB loan application letter which earlier had to be done on independent websites can now be done in a single place.
This portal will also enable less reliance on property agents. All their functions like linking the buyer and seller, driving the schedule on transactions and formalities are managed effectively by the portal itself without any charge or fee.
The HDB Online portal is a boon for the Lion City’s citizens helping them realise the dream to own a house by simplifying and accelerating the process.
Singapore government is taking steps towards expanding the commercial use of drones to manage air traffic in future skies. In the first of such trials which are scheduled for March this year, multiple drones will take to the skies near Marina South Pier to test the effectiveness of an unmanned air traffic management system. If the trial is successful, it could be used to safely and efficiently manage drone traffic at scale.
The drones are built-in with a technology that makes sure that it does not collide with other drones using an automated system. This system can deconflict and monitor multiple drones flying in Singapore’s limited air space.
Sanjay Suresh, Head, Business Development, Nova Sytems Asia shared that first, the system lays out the flight plan for the drone after checking the flight schedule and path of other drones. The system also can alert the done through multiple channels in case there is a change in other drone’s direction or flight time.
The team at Nova Sytems has run numerous tests with more than 500 drones at the same time in a virtual setting. The live test that is scheduled for the second week March is the final milestone before the project is launched. Up to 6 drones will fly above the waters in the Maritime Drone Estate near the Marina South Pier. This minimises the risk to people and property while simulating real-time marine use cases.
“We want to fully stress test the system to make sure that a package needs to be delivered from the shore to a ship is fully aware that there are other drones performing rescue operations and doing vessel checks. We want to do this as we see it as a very possible future scenario” says Ryan Lee, Managing Director, Nova Systems Asia.
Data like the ship positions and scheduled movements will be included to help drones avoid them during the trial. The operators can also add weather conditions and flight patterns of migratory birds in future so that the drones can respond to these situations
The trial is also pivotal for the authorities as it will help them set in place the regulations with drone use likely to be ubiquitous in the near future. Ryan shares that the days are not far when people might have their own drones fetching them meals and goods from the market. Therefore, it is important to set regulations in place on time.
In trying to understand an unmanned traffic management system and the need to test it we found out that aircraft are guided safely by air traffic controllers communicating with pilots via radio, a system known as air traffic management (ATM). This direct, point-to-point, line-of-sight communication between an operator and an aircraft is the industry’s standard mode of operation. But estimates show that the growth of commercial air traffic is will ultimately exceed the capacity of a human-centred system—and this is just for human-piloted flights.
As unmanned and self-piloted operations continue to multiply, ATM systems will need to shift to a more scalable model: a digital system that can monitor and manage increased activity. This system is called Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM), or a networked collection of services that communicate together based on common rules. Rather than relying on centralised control, UTM frameworks around the world will use the principle of distributed authority, which opens up the system to more service providers who can adapt as the market evolves and needs change.
In practice, UTM means aircraft will no longer have to speak to a single entity, such as an assigned air traffic controller. Instead, it will be able to communicate freely with multiple service suppliers. These suppliers will be held to relevant safety, security and performance standards by authorities, and will be able to coordinate with the rest of the network to make efficient decisions based on specific flight objectives. The transition will be gradual, but one that is important for the global aviation system’s future viability.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation (MAHA –METRO) are working together to conserve water and protect the environment by installing DRDO’s eco-friendly biodigester units (a non-sewer sanitation technology) in its facilities.
According to a press release, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was inked on 5 January between MAHA-METRO and DRDO through which DRDO will render technical support for the implementation of its advanced biodigester Mk-II technology for the treatment of human waste (night soil) in the metro rail network.
DRDO is a premier research organisation and MAHA-METRO is a joint venture company under the central government and the government of Maharashtra. DRDO’s biodigester is an indigenous, green, and cost-effective technology and has one of the largest numbers of DRDO-licensees (ToT holders).
The Indian Railways has already installed about 240,000 biodigesters in its fleet of passenger coaches. For MAHA-METRO, the technology has been revamped and further improved in a bid to save water and space.
A customised version of this MK-II Biodigester, suitable for treating human waste generated from houseboats in Dal Lake, was successfully demonstrated by the DRDO to the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Administration. The Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LWDA) of the J&K Administration has initiated the process to procure 100 units of Mk-II Biodigesters for civil habitats around Dal Lake to minimise water pollution. The implementation of Biodigester MK-II in Srinagar is being monitored by a committee of experts constituted by the High Court of J&K. When fully implemented, this green technology will significantly reduce the Dal lake pollution.
This technology is upgraded through improvements in the bio-degradation efficiency, design modification, and addition of secondary treatment modules. The new reactor is designed to provide more path length with increased biological reaction time, thereby enhancing the biodegradation efficiency of the system. This technology was primarily developed for the armed forces in high-altitude Himalayan regions, including Leh-Ladakh and Siachen glacier.
India is pushing to be one of the largest green energy producers in the world. According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, as of October 2020, India’s total renewable energy installed capacity had reached over 89.63 GW.
A news report explained that during the last six years, India has witnessed the fastest rate of growth in renewable energy capacity addition among all large economies, with renewable energy capacity growing by 2.5 times and solar energy expanding by over 13 times. Renewable energy now constitutes over 24% of the country’s installed power capacity and around 11.62% of the electrical energy generation.
Further, including large hydropower, the share of renewable energy in electric installed capacity is over 36% and over 26% of the electric energy generation. Large hydropower has about 45 GW hydro installed capacity and 13 GW capacity under installation, bringing India’s total renewable energy portfolio of installed and in-pipeline projects to 221 GW, the report said.
Around 49.59 GW renewable energy capacity is under installation, and an additional 27.41 GW capacity has been tendered. This makes the total capacity that is already commissioned and in the pipeline about 166.63 GW.
A three-fold improvement in the efficiency of solar-to-hydrogen energy conversion can facilitate solar energy harvesting technology, according to environmental scientists at City University of Hong Kong (CityU).
This research outcome could contribute to tackling the global energy shortage and provide new insights into the development of solar-to-fuel materials for photocatalytic applications in the emerging field of hydrogen technology.
The research team led by Dr Sam Hsu Hsien-yi, Assistant Professor in the School of Energy and Environment (SEE) at CityU, has developed novel lead-free bismuth-based hybrid organic-inorganic perovskites (HOIPs) with a semiconductor heterojunction structure.
The heterojunction structure could serve as a driving force to enhance the charge carrier transportation which is beneficial for hydrogen production under visible-light irradiation without the addition of co-catalysts such as platinum or ruthenium.
The research is featured as the cover of the prestigious international journal Advanced Functional Materials under the title “In-situ formation of bismuth-based perovskite heterostructures for high-performance co-catalyst-free photocatalytic hydrogen evolution”.
In the past few years, HOIPs have been widely used in solar energy conversion because of their remarkable photoelectric effects and extraordinary photovoltaic performance.
However, their application in the field of photocatalysis is limited. Besides, most comprehensively developed HOIPs comprise toxic metal lead, raising concerns about environmental health threats.
“As a result, we would like to construct a lead-free HOIP material that can drive the photocatalytic hydrogen production without a noble-metal co-catalyst,” said Dr. Hsu.
In the process of exploring and developing their application for the production of photocatalytic hydrogen, Dr. Hsu’s team discovered a straightforward method for constructing a junction structure, which led to improved photocatalytic activity.
They employed time-resolved photoluminescence spectra (TRPL) to characterise the materials. From the TRPL result, the charge transfer of the HOIP material with heterostructure exhibited a longer lifetime than the material without the heterostructure. The longer lifetime indicates a reduction of nonradiative recombination in the heterostructure.
Therefore, the in-situ formation of the heterostructure benefits photocatalytic performance. The result shows improved efficiency by three-fold and a more stabilized solar-induced hydrogen evolution for the perovskite heterojunctions, even without the addition of any noble metal co-catalyst under visible light irradiation.
Their next step is to improve hydrogen production performance. Dr. Hsu believed that in the long run, hydrogen would become one of the major energy sources. He hoped that this research would help to harvest solar energy in response to the global challenge of the energy crisis.
According to a recent article, Hong Kong and China-listed solar-energy stocks rose sharply on 23 December 2020, extending the sector’s momentum as investors bet on strong demand and favourable policies.
The upbeat trend came after Chinese authorities last week issued a draft regulation that would allow solar glass manufacturers to increase capacity free of restrictions.
Globally, an increasing number of countries have pledged to achieve carbon neutrality in the next few decades amid the falling costs of solar equipment and growing pressure to cut emissions.
It is expected that the trend to support global demand growth of more than 28% for solar power in 2021. And Chinese companies, which account for more than 70% of many key solar-energy equipment’s supply capacities globally, are poised to benefit from such a demand boom.