Gadgets to fix problems I didn't know I had

Flooding toilets, killer icicles, there's a gizmo for every problem.

1 min read
Gadgets to fix problems I didn't know I had

I get a lot of press releases touting new gadgets. Most are minor improvements on existing technologies—Sonos has a new touch screen controller, Griffin has new iPhone cases.  After all, how many truly different household or handheld gadgets can their be?

Turns out there are at least two more than I thought. In the past week I’ve heard from two companies offering gadgets that solve horrible household problems I confess I’d never before worried about—flooding from toilet overflows and death from killer icicles.

A company called AquaOne Technologies would like to stop my toilet from overflowing, wasting water and ruining my floors in the process, with a gadget called the H2Orb, $130 gizmo that installs between the water line and the toilet. The device uses a low power microcontroller from Texas Instruments and two wireless sensors, one in the tank that detects a slow leak, the other in the bowl that detects imminent overflow.

And Gutterglove would like me to install their heated gutter guard, the Gutterglove IceBreaker, that melts ice and prevents icicles from forming, pointing out that falling icicles can kill people. The Icebreaker uses a single self-regulating cable to generate heat. Pricing is available from local dealers.


How have I lived so long without these?

Photos: top left: H2Orb; bottom right: Gutterglove IceBreaker

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Emily Cooper
Green

Perhaps the most far-reaching technological achievement over the last 50 years has been the steady march toward ever smaller transistors, fitting them more tightly together, and reducing their power consumption. And yet, ever since the two of us started our careers at Intel more than 20 years ago, we’ve been hearing the alarms that the descent into the infinitesimal was about to end. Yet year after year, brilliant new innovations continue to propel the semiconductor industry further.

Along this journey, we engineers had to change the transistor’s architecture as we continued to scale down area and power consumption while boosting performance. The “planar” transistor designs that took us through the last half of the 20th century gave way to 3D fin-shaped devices by the first half of the 2010s. Now, these too have an end date in sight, with a new gate-all-around (GAA) structure rolling into production soon. But we have to look even further ahead because our ability to scale down even this new transistor architecture, which we call RibbonFET, has its limits.

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