No More Waiting on Near Field Communication

Start-ups are making mobile payments work without dedicated hardware

3 min read
cell phone in hand.
Image: Patrick Pleul/DPA/Landov

For years, when analysts and engineers talked about phones replacing our wallets, they focused on a single technology: Near Field Communication. NFC allows devices located within a centimeter or two of each other to establish a wireless connection.

But eight years after Nokia, Philips, and Sony founded the NFC Forum, the technology still isn’t common in phones. In the United States, only two models, available on the Sprint network, have shipped with the NFC hardware to support Google Wallet. (Verizon Wireless’s Galaxy Nexus phone has an NFC chip, but the company initially blocked its use for Google Wallet.) Certainly, there will be more NFC-enabled phones to choose from in the future: Over 100 models have been announced for 2012, according to analysts at the Swedish firm Berg Insight [PDF], more than twice as many as the 40 models released globally in 2011.

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Landsat Proved the Power of Remote Sensing

The Earth-imaging satellites have amassed a half-century of data on crops, borders, and war zones

6 min read
A satellite image shows vegetation in red tones and urban and rocky areas in grays and whites.

The first image captured on 25 July 1972 by the first Landsat satellite shows the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Robert Simmon/USGS/NASA

On 18 September 1969, U.S. President Richard Nixon addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations. It was a difficult time in global politics, and much of his speech focused on the war in Vietnam, disputes in the Middle East, and strategic arms control. Toward the end, though, the speech took a curious and hopeful turn, as Nixon rhapsodized about the unifying potential of international cooperation in space exploration. As an example, he noted the United States was in the process of developing new satellites to survey Earth’s natural resources.

Three years later, on 23 July 1972, NASA launched what would be the first Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS). It gave scientists, land managers, policymakers, and others an unprecedented view of their planet. The program has since launched eight more satellites. Renamed the Landsat program in 1975, it is now celebrating its 50th anniversary of imaging the Earth.

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Graphene Tattoos Measure Blood Pressure Continually

Ultralight sensors could work for days

3 min read
photo illustration of forearm and hand with graphene tattoos inked on the forearm and a traditional blood-pressure monitor with armband cuff is in the image background

Graphene tattoos placed over the two major arteries in the wrist monitor blood pressure nonstop by measuring the impedance of electrical current through tissue.

University of Texas at Austin

Blood pressure measurement hasn’t changed much since the invention of the inflatable cuff-based sphygmomanometer in 1881. People can use the device to give readings a few times a day, but that’s not enough to give a holistic view of cardiovascular health.

New electronic tattoos made of graphene continuously read blood pressure for days. The ultrathin, light sensors could allow monitoring of a patient’s blood pressure while they go about their daily activities.

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Keysight
Keysight

As 5G evolves into 6G networks, it will be critical that it adopt the most energy-efficient technologies to reduce carbon emissions and our dependence on non-renewable resources.

In terms of increased sustainability, 6G will need to aim directly at lessening its overall environmental impact, including water consumption, raw material sourcing, and waste handling. But it is also important to consider the indirect impact of 6G networks can have on sustainability by conserving resources and minimizing waste in either existing use-cases or novel use-cases.

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