November – 2018 – Newsletter

The newsletter of the Institute of Inventors and Innovators

The next III Gauteng branch public meeting will be WEDNESDAY 14th November 2018, 19:00 for 19:30.This evening we will hold our AGM. Our speaker will be Richard Johstone, he will use his knowledge of and interest in Behavioral Economics to pose the question: –  

Why do most inventions fail?”.

He will answer this question by displaying the effects of psychological, cognitive, emotional, cultural and social factors on the decisions we make and how this can lead to biases that effect an inventor’s success.

Unfortunately, Tony Bryant, our speaker for our October meeting was forced to cancel at the last minute, having been called away to Bloemfontein to meet with a potential customer. Customer is King as we know and so we had to take second place this time. We hope to invite Tony back next year.

Our meeting still went ahead and we had some interesting discussion about current topics. In particular, we explored the hot topics of alternative energy and state of the art power storage and solar systems. It is clear from the ever worsening cost of electricity in our country and the ever improving cost and efficiencies of alternative energy systems, that the scales are gradually tipping in favor of the later. The payback period for investment in domestic systems is very close to break-even with storage systems being the remaining lifetime cost challenge.

Naturally this topic took us along the path to the autonomous vehicle and electric vehicles in general. The argument rages around the date when such transport systems make it to the high street. Once again the power storage system is a key factor in making this happen for the mass market in electric vehicles but the numbers are improving all the time. Tesla is supposedly turning a profit and I was impressed seeing Teslas on the streets in growing numbers. Tesla’s truck is supposed to travel up to about 500 miles on one re-charge. The commercial market is surely likely to lead the way for electric vehicles. Fleet operators are driven by operating cost and electric drives are so much simpler than diesel engines and mechanical transmissions. Add the problems of pollution and the answer is a no brainer. South Africa is clearly behind the curve in this respect. How often do you see ecofriendly public transport in our country? In cities elsewhere it is already commonplace. We must not lose sight of the fact the electric vehicles still need to connect to the grid and for us that is a challenge. As for autonomous vehicles, Boeing have thrown down the gauntlet by announcing that trials of autonomous aircraft are at an advanced stage. They claim that they will have such vehicles in just one year from now. They are anticipating the use of pilotless commercial delivery vehicles within 5 years. Part of their argument is the congestion on our roads compared with virtually empty air space. With autonomous aircraft all communicating with each other rather than depending on human air traffic controllers they can fly more or less point to point and faster than ground based vans. Once proven by commercial use then it will be a short step to autonomous passenger transport, with a far superior safety record that road transport. Is it possible that autonomous road vehicles will be a short lived phenomenon? Could there be a future when all our roads are virtually redundant, when motoring become a pleasure and tourism activity again? This may indeed be so in a few decades.

And then our conversation turned to water. After all the original topic of the evening was to be Aeroponics. If you watched Carte Blanche on 28 October, you will have seen the piece about food waste. We know that our country is water scarce and food production is a major industry for our economy, so agricultural techniques which conserve water are definitely at the front of innovators minds.

Similarly, our supply of potable water is at risk because of drought and failing infrastructure both on the supply side and the waste water treatment side where raw sewerage is already impacting on our water quality and threatening our health. Is there likely to be recognition that using clean drinking water to flush away waste, which then is dumped untreated into our rivers and dams is actually not a sustainable practice. Mistrust of out tap water quality has seen a boom in bottled water, much of which is just reprocessed tap water. We questioned why there is resistance to dry soil systems in rural areas and for example schools in such areas. Are these systems not yet sophisticated enough, are we just complacent, are they not really cost effective, are people resistant to these unconventional toilets or the concept of treatment at source rather than flushing their waste away for someone else to deal with? Is it none of the above but simply an unattractive political topic and hence best ignored? Whatever the reasons, this problem, just like our waste it will not go away and sooner or later it will have to be dealt with.

See Eureka! August 2018.                                                                                               Contact for more info and website for a more detailed report on this meeting. Remember: our next JHB public meeting is on Wednesday 10th October 2018. See below for details.


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