I Had a Dream About COVID19

Image by fernando zhiminaicela from Pixabay

Is fact stranger than fiction or the other way around? For the last few years I have felt like an extra in a science fiction movie. One of the bit actors that don’t appear on the credits, isn’t really seen, but is part of the macrocosm. It’s a surreal piece about climate change, politics, smart technology, transport and people. The latest chapter in the movie is the emergence of COVID19.

I live in New Zealand and we have one of the lowest rates of COVID19 in the world, low deaths and so far no significant community transmission. I am so proud to live in this country where the majority of the people do the right thing. Sure, we had people stock up on so many toilet rolls and bottles of sanitiser that they probably won’t have to buy any more for the rest of the year.

Fundamentally we did what we had to do in lockdown, we supported each other, we were mostly kind and considerate, supported local businesses and looked out for our neighbours.

Many companies pivoted and did what they could, for example investing in R&D to build medical equipment needed to care for COVID19 patients. Companies like Fisher & Paykel Healthcare are an example.

Another is a University of Canterbury project which is a collaboration with other countries, including Belgium and Malaysia, creating a solution which allows two people to be supported by one ventilator, supported by a New Zealand MBIE COVID19 development fund.

Is it random that New Zealand is doing well? Is it because we have a woman Prime Minister? Is it because it is election year? Is it because we are so remote from most of the world, basically a few islands. Those things help, but I think a lot of it is about what Prime Minister Adern calls the Team of Five Million. I don’t know if she coined the phrase, but if the shoe fits…

Despite being election year, most Kiwi politicians have agreed that the safety and well being of our nation must transcend politics. We all have to do the right thing and focus on the ecosystem rather than the ego system. We have exceptions, we’re human, but most of us are on the same page and it shows.

Flip to other parts of the world where we see politicians playing the same games we laughed and sneered at when we watched Jaws.

Do you remember when the Police Chief demanded that the beaches closed down, but the Mayor overruled him because of the potential loss to the tourism industry.

The scary thing was of course that we knew this wasn’t just a work of fiction. This is how many parts of the world work. I’m not going to point fingers, you all know who the players are and how they work. Some are better than others. Here are some of the plots and subplots in our movie.

  • It’s no worse than the flu, lockdown is a waste of time.
  • Let’s have a COVID19 party.
  • It’s summer break, noone is going to stop me from having fun at the beach.
  • Herd immunity is the way to go
  • It’s all the fault of the (insert your favourite ethnicity to pin it on)
  • I want to fund research into a vaccine, but then I want exclusivity for my country.
  • Why bother collaborating when we can simply spy on other countries and steal their vaccine research?
  • Every day sees a record increase of people testing positive.
  • Hospitals are close to full.
  • Mass graves are becoming more common
  • Cruise Ships offer their liners as makeshift hospitals or quarantine sites
  • Some drug companies lock their doors while others others agree to open source.

Here’s what I am not seeing. All the superpowers collaborating openly, to get the best minds on this problem. All parties in countries putting aside petty politics and focusing on survival, solutions based on fighting a common enemy. A virus.

As a parent, how would you explain what is happening in the world right now to your children? Tell them why the world can’t get together as one, saving lives, saving economies, fighting for a better planet?

How will this movie end? I continue to be so happy to live in New Zealand. We aren’t perfect. We have our share of people who are corrupt, racist, criminals, tall poppies, and lowlifes, but I believe the majority of us are good, kind people who care more about their country and people than politics. I think we will do well out of this in the long run, including a new focus on self sufficiency.

However, we care about the whole world. We are all immigrants or descended from immigrants. We love the world, we love to travel, we have family and friends all over the world. We watch many countries behaviour with disbelief. Maybe we are the children.

When the history books look back at the COVD19 pandemic, what will the learnings be?

LEGO leaps into the Future with Branded 3D Printing Technology

A few years ago LEGO was worried about look alike competitors and their impact on business. Today on the eve of their centenary, they have once again taken the world by storm with LEGO branded 3D printers and filament recyclers.

Now children (and not so young children) can enjoy printing their own blocks from LEGO designs and when they are bored with them, or they fade or get broken, they put them in the filament recycler and create new ones again. The zero waste concept has earned LEGO global recognition for helping to reduce mountains of plastic waste.

Setting up the LEGO 3D Printing Education Trust through the LEGO Foundation, LEGO has so far donated 3D printers to over 1,000 schools in 23 countries, to both high and low deciles, together with training courses on Computer Aided Design, 3D printing and modeling, and new venture business training.

They have set up a global cloud based design business where designers can earn royalties whenever people purchase their LEGO 3D designs.

Next year the most successful designers will travel with their parents, courtesy of LEGO, to their HQ in Billund, Denmark, for the inaugural LEGO 3D Printing design competition, where they will celebrate the most successful designs by age group. The top student designers will also be offered university scholarships to continue their education in related fields such as CAD, programming, 3D printing, chemistry, engineering and design.

Innovation head of LEGO, Magnus Blokker said that the company had recognised that despite the almost 100 year success of the company, which was founded in 1932, it was time for the company to reinvent itself and what better way to do it than engage their own fans and customers in the design and marketing of the product.

Board Manager Bau Isovernow said that the company is very excited to be reinvigorating the company and supporting the zero waste movement. The next step is going to be the development of their own whey based, biodegradable filament, so that any ‘blocks’ that are not recycled can simply be composted as they come from cow based milk waste. In fact they are good for the soil rather than a contributor to pollution.

 

 

 

Lego’s Strike at Plastic Pollution with 3D Printers Increases Share Prices

legoLego’s shift a few years ago to selling 3D printers and blueprints for their blocks has seen their share value grow dramatically despite the naysayers who said they were committing commercial suicide.

Instead of selling blocks, they now sell 3D printers with biodegradable PLA filament and downloadable blueprints for an ever growing variety of blocks and other shapes.

Lego biodegradable PLA filament comes in a variety of colors and whilst they don’t have the strength (and plastic pollution potential) of the old blocks that last for decades and end up as landfill, you can also buy an extruder which grinds up the plastic and allows you to rebuild new pieces from the same material.

This innovation won them the 2025 Frost & Sullivan Green Manufacturing Excellence Awards and has resulted in an explosion of new designs of Lego Toys. Lego gained a strong resurgence since the Lego movie came out in 2014, but were concerned about being good corporate citizens and this initiative has ensured that they stay highly profitable despite the fact that they are no longer manufacturing their own blocks and toys.

When challenged about job losses, Lego VP of Manufacturing Morty Fied said that they are actually employing more people than before, because the block manufacture and packaging had been largely automated in factories and now they are employing many CAD toy design specialists and supporting horticulture where the raw materials are grown and extruded into biodegradable filament. He challenged other toy makers and manufacturers of plastic products to follow suit and help reduce the impact of plastic products to the environment.

FilabotMeanwhile in several countries such as India and many in Africa some forms of plastic waste are compatible for plastic extrusion with devices like the Filabot, another recent high flyer.  This has resulted in people scrambling to recover waste plastics from landfill where they would have been an eyesore and dangerous pollutant for decades. Today’s rubbish is producing tomorrow’s prized toys and other products including tools and musical instruments.

3D printed sitar

3D printed Sitar

3d printed guitar

3D printed guitar

NZ6 Goes Pop Pop Pop

I was just sitting down to dinner this evening and I heard this loud noise, POP, POP, POP, POP. It reminded me of back when I was a young fella riding a Triumph Saint which used to backfire when the timing was slightly out. At first I thought it was lightning, we seem to get a lot more storms these days, semi tropical. One minute the weather isn’t that bad, nek minit its persisting down. Perhaps Auckland weather has always been like that, but it does seem to be more dramatic these days.

NZ6

But no, I looked up into the sky and there was the new NZ6, Air New Zealand‘s supersonic passenger aircraft, breaking the sound barrier with its new green low impact mini sonic booms. Not only is the noise reduced, which is just as well given that  I live under the flight path from Auckland to LAX, but it meant that these super fast planes were approved for the long haul flight.

I remember back in the day when that was a 12 hour flight and was an absolute major. You would lose pretty much a full day each way and arrive jetlagged heading for business trips to the USA. Now its a meal and a quick movie, it just about takes longer to get to and from the airport, through immigration and security than it does to get to Los Angeles.

I’d love to have another ride on that old Triumph again though, backfires and all. 

Westfield Kills Two Birds with One Stone with EV Charging at Malls

Westfield has stemmed the tide of decreasing shoppers in malls this winter by providing dozens of Electric Vehicle charging stations at shopping malls around New Zealand and Australia. Over the last couple of years many people have been buying electric vehicles, but have found that the range of up to 160km, which wasn’t too bad during summer, reduced dramatically with the use of air conditioning and window heating to warm the car in winter.

This reduced range combined with a continuing decrease in the frequency of people going to shopping malls provided the impetus for Westfield to come up with a new loyalty program for shoppers combined with a mobile application.

Effectively by using their mobile loyalty app, shoppers are rewarded with credits they can use of various purchases, one of which can be redeemed by parking at one of the EV charging stations at the mall. This not only encourages people to visit the mall, but also to stay longer, whilst electric car owners make sure that their car is fully charged before they leave the mall. The application lets loyalty shoppers know when there is a car park available and guides them to it. It also alerts them when the car is fully charged.

A spokesperson for Westfield New Zealand said that already in the last 2 months they had seen significant use of the charging stations and many retailers, particularly fashion and the food halls and cafes have seen a regrowth in trade.

Event Cinemas have also announced that they are going to trial a number of EV chargers in selected movie theatres in Australia in conjunction with their CINE BUZZ loyalty program. Each time a CINE BUZZ member has purchased 5 movie tickets they will be entitled to a full car charge for free.

New Zealand Rooftops to power the country

Based on research developed by scientists at USC, electricity is being produced on home and business roofs all over the country, feeding the now popular electric cars with sustainable electricity and selling surplus energy back into the grid for all to share.

Liquid Energy

It took a couple of elections and a lot of pressure from the Green Party, but finally the feed in tariffs that we have been asking for over recent years have been implemented.

The tipping point was the ability to create liquid solar cells as nanocrystals that can be ‘printed’ onto other materials. Roof material manufacturers were able to design roofing sheets and tiles which look normal, but are in fact covered with solar cells.

Farmers have welcomed this technology and have covered farm buildings with solar cells reducing the problems caused by power outages in rural areas and reducing their overheads.

In addition to now having a sustainable power infrastructure for New Zealand, this initiative has generated a whole wave of new jobs in roofing materials design and manufacturing, installation, smart metering design and much more.

New Zealand has become a world leader in this technology and has once again been able to proudly call itself a clean green country.

Electric vehicles have become not only more viable with ease of access to electricity, but they are now truly green because the power generated to run them is no longer produced by sources requiring the use of fossil fuels.

Toyota Bundles Solar Panels with new Electric Car in New Zealand

Toyota came up with an innovative coup with the launch of their new NS5 hybrid car in New Zealand, bundling the electric car with solar panels designed to charge the car during the day while it is parked.

The car effectively comes with the solar panels and a voucher for them to be installed on the building, be it a house or an office.

The solar panels are designed so that fleet buyers can connect multiple panels like a jig-saw and have them connected to a smart power meter.

Government departments and corporations with sustainability policies have welcomed this new innovation as a great step forward in EV technology, designed to ensure that a lot of the electricity generated to power these vehicles comes from renewable energy rather than from other sources which may be less green.