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Exposure to hydraulic fracturing fluid in drinking water has been shown to increase the risk of respiratory problems, premature births, congenital heart defects, and other negative health consequences. But not all wells are created equal. Since different hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — sites use a diverse mix of chemical ingredients, often individuals and researchers are in the dark about the exact health consequences of living near a particular well.

Now, a new, interactive tool created by Penn Medicine researchers allows community members and scientists to find out which toxins may be lurking in their drinking water as a result of fracking. By typing your ZIP code into the website or accompanying app — called WellExplorer — you can view the closest fracking sites in your state, learn which chemicals are used at those sites, and view their levels of toxicity.

Is Your Drinking Water Toxic This App May Help You

Past studies have shown that fracking chemicals could cause infertility, cancer, and birth defects. According to data compiled from a new tool developed at Penn Medicine, a disproportionately high number of wells in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio contain chemicals that target testosterone-pathways in the human body.

In a recent study, published in the journal Database, the WellExplorer app’s creators found, for example, that wells in Alabama use a disproportionately high number of ingredients targeting estrogen pathways, while Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania use a high number of ingredients targeting testosterone pathways. The information found through WellExplorer might be particularly relevant for individuals who use private water wells, which are common in rural Pennsylvania, since homeowners may not be performing rigorous testing for these fracking chemicals, according to the study’s principal investigator Mary Regina Boland, PhD, an assistant professor of Informatics in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

“The chemical mixtures used in fracking are known to regulate hormonal pathways, including testosterone and estrogen, and can therefore affect human development and reproduction,” Boland said. “Knowing about these chemicals is important, not only for researchers who may be studying health outcomes in a community but also for individuals who may want to learn more about possible health implications based on their proximity to a well. They can then potentially have their water tested.”

While FracFocus.org serves as a central registry for fracking chemical disclosures in the United States, the database is not user-friendly for the general public, and it does not contain information about the biological action of the fracking chemicals that it lists. In order to create a tool that could provide more in-depth, functional information for researchers and individuals alike, the Penn researchers first cleaned, shortened, and subsetted the data from FracFocus.org to create two newly usable files that could be in used in WellExplorer website and app.

Because the research team also wanted to provide toxic and biological properties of the ingredients found at these well sites, they integrated data from the Toxin and Toxin Target Database (T3DB). From that database, they compiled information on fracking chemicals’ protein targets (and the genes that encode those proteins), toxin mechanisms of actions, and specific protein functions. Moreover, they extracted the toxicity rankings of the top 275 most toxic ingredients from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, as well as a list of ingredients that were food additives as described by Substances Added to Food Inventory. The team then linked all of that information together and created a ZIP Searcher function into their web tool, so that people could easily find their exposure risks to specific chemicals.

“The information had been out there, but it was not all linked together in a way that’s easy for regular people to use,” Boland said.

However, Boland added that the use of chemicals at a fracking site may not necessarily mean that those chemicals would be present in the water supply, which would be dependent on other factors, such as what type of soil or bedrock is being drilled into, and the depth of both the hydraulic fracturing well and an individual’s private well depth. Nonetheless, WellExplorer provides a starting point for residents who may be experiencing symptoms and want to have their water tested.

Beyond information-gathering for individuals, WellExplorer can also be used as an important tool for environmental scientists, epidemiologists, and other researchers to make connections between specific health outcomes and proximity to a specific fracturing well. From a development standpoint, this means that the research team had to be conscious of the two audiences when designing the website and app, said Owen Wetherbee, who aided in the development of WellExplorer while interning in the Boland Lab.

“Nationally, researchers are trying to link fracking to health outcomes, and I believe that a large reason why answering that question is challenging, is because different wells are using different ingredients, and so, the side effects of exposure would be different from place to place,” Boland added. “What this app gives you is some information about where to start looking for these answers.”

Source: University of Pennsylvania

 




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WD My Passport SSD (2020) Review

wd my passport ssd front 1604073135378

WD’s latest round of redesigns has spread throughout its portable storage lineup, replacing the bold, bright, sharp design-led identity with rounded edges, muted colours, and simpler plastic bodies. Whimsy has given way to practicality, which you might or might not be in favour of. The latest reimagined storage device is the WD My Passport SSD (2020), but in this case, the changes aren’t solely cosmetic. You get a huge bump in hardware specifications and speeds, keeping WD’s portable SSD lineup current and competitive. Here’s a review of the brand new WD My Passport SSD (2020).

WD My Passport SSD (2020) design and features

The older two-tone metal-and-plastic design might have been slightly impractical with its sharp corners and overall bulk, but it looked and felt very modern and premium. Now, you get a much more organic body, shaped somewhat like a thin bar of soap. It’s much flatter than before, with rounded sides and corners that make for an easy grip. This device will be comfortable in your hand as well as your pocket. It weighs only 45.7g.

The body is made of metal and there’s a swirly ridged pattern on the front as well as the rear. The USB Type-C port is off-centre on the bottom and there’s no activity LED. The raised WD logo feels rough and looks rather garish, but otherwise this is a simple, sober design that will fit in anywhere. You have a choice between Space Grey, Midnight Blue, and Gold. A red version appears to be available in other countries, but isn’t listed here.

The WD My Passport SSD (2020) weighs 45.7g

 

Unlike some other portable SSDs (including models from Western Digital’s other brands, SanDisk and G-Technology), there’s no waterproofing or other form of protection from the elements. WD does mention shock and vibration resistance, which are inherent to SSDs, plus drop resistance for falls from up to 1.98m in height.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the My Passport SSD (2020) is very similar in shape and size to the SanDisk Extreme V2 portable SSD, but doesn’t have an integrated handle, ruggedised coating, or IP rating.

You get a very short USB Type-C cable in the box, with a Type-C to Type-A adapter for broad compatibility. As we noted with the previous incarnation of the My Passport SSD, such an adapter is technically outside the official USB specification and so the cable and adapter both have notches to make sure they’re used with each other. That doesn’t physically stop you from using the entire cable, plus adapter, with another device though. This should be avoided, because some devices need to negotiate things like how much power is sent from one side to another, which cannot happen through a legacy USB port when such an adapter is used.

WD My Passport SSD (2020) price, specifications and performance

The biggest upgrade comes from the use of an NVMe SSD and bridge rather than the older SATA protocol. WD claims read and write speeds of 1050MBps and 1000MBps respectively – exactly the same as the Samsung SSD T7 Touch, and in line with the Sandisk Extreme Pro. You’ll need a PC with a USB 3.2 Gen2 (10Gbps) or Thunderbolt 3 port to be able to harness such speed.

The new My Passport SSD (2020) is available in 500GB, 1TB and 2TB capacities, priced officially at Rs. 8,999, Rs. 15,999, and Rs. 28,999 respectively. They are exclusive to Amazon during the festive sale period, and actual prices are quite a bit lower. They will be available offline from mid-November. 

wd my passport ssd port ndtv wd

There’s a USB Type-C port on the bottom but no status LED

 

WD has implemented 256-bit AES hardware encryption. The company offers quite a lot of free software that you can download, including the capable Drive Utilities for general maintenance, WD Backup to set up simple backup routines, and WD Security to set up encryption with a password. You’re also encouraged to install WD Discovery, which is completely unnecessary and only exists to serve up ads and promotions for WD.

The 1TB review unit we’re testing today was formatted to exFAT by default. This works cross-platform, but if you’re planning to use Time Machine on a Mac, you’ll need to reformat the drive to HFS+ (or at least partition and format some of it). Windows’ Disk Management console reported 931.48GB of usable space.

All tests were run on an HP Spectre x360 13 laptop because of its Thunderbolt 3 ports. CrystalDiskMark 6 reported sequential read and write speeds of 913.9Mbps and 924.9Mbps respectively, which is not too far below WD’s official claim. More realistic random read and write speeds were 154.1Mbps and 163.8MBps respectively. While good by portable SSD standards, the My Passport SSD (2020)’s scores lag quite a way behind what the Samsung SSD T7 Touch and SanDisk Extreme Pro were able to achieve. The Anvil benchmark managed read and write scores of 2,186.6 and 1,921.12, for an overall score of 4,107.72.

The shell of the WD My Passport SSD (2020) did get quite warm when benchmarks were running and when large batches of files were being copied up and down in testing. This shouldn’t be much of a problem in everyday use, and there’s nothing else to complain about.

wd my passport ssd cable ndtv wd

You get a small USB Type-C cable with a Type-A adapter

 

Verdict

If you like bold, edgy design and products that make a statement, the new WD My Passport might be a bit of a disappointment. It looks unassuming and pedestrian compared to its predecessor; more like a bar of soap than a high-end tech product. Perhaps this is a signifier that portable SSDs aren’t just lifestyle accessories for only those who can afford them anymore, but are now perfectly mainstream commodity products.

The emerging new class of NVMe portable SSDs brings nearly twice the speed of previous-gen SATA models. Samsung still has the performance advantage, but WD isn’t too far behind now. Other than speed, you should choose your SSD based on whether you prioritise features such as AES encryption and ruggedisation. SSDs are also routinely discounted below their official MRPs, so if you do find a great deal on the WD My Passport SSD (2020) and it meets your requirements, you shouldn’t hesitate to pick one up.

WD My Passport SSD (2020)
Price (MOP):
 

Rs. 6,999 (500GB)
Rs. 12,999 (1TB)
Rs. 24,999 (2TB)

Pros

  • NVMe-based, good read and write speeds 
  • Good value for money
  • Compact and light

Cons

  • Gets a bit warm when stressed
  • No IP rating

Ratings

  • Performance: 4.5
  • Value for Money: 4.5
  • Overall: 4.5

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Edge computing and IoT sensors help cities plug a leak in water bills

pipes valves

Tracking the health of pipes and water meters in real time helps cities catch water main breaks sooner and issue more accurate bills.

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A Texas company is using edge computing and IoT sensors to help cities modernize crumbling water infrastructure and inaccurate water meters. The American Society of Civil Engineers has given the country’s drinking water system a D- for the last 10 years. Many components of city water systems date back to the Civil War era. Olea Edge Analytics is using 21st century technology to spot needed repairs and make sure water bills are accurate. 

Dave Mackie, Olea Edge Analytics’ CEO, said the company combines edge computing with artificial intelligence and machine learning to help cities make more informed decisions.

“Our network operations center can remotely manage all of the endpoints across the city, prioritizing repair work, giving the ideal route and directions, and transmitted work plans and specifications to provide everything crews need for a right-first-time trip,” he said in a press release.

SEE: 5 Internet of Things (IoT) innovations (free Pdf) (TechRepublic)

Olea puts sensors on water meters and sends data about how much water is used to the cloud for analysis. The Smart Water Management Platform monitors the meters to look for water usage that isn’t showing up on monthly bills. Olea estimates that up to 40% of all high-volume commercial water meters are not capturing the full amount of water used. 

As Brandon Vigliarolo wrote in “
5 edge computing predictions for 2021

,” Forrester predicts that this is the year that new business models will push edge computing “from science project to real value.” Forrester analysts said that cloud platforms, artificial intelligence, and the widespread proliferation of 5G will make these edge use cases more practical.

SEE: The future of IoT: 5 major predictions for 2021 (TechRepublic)

The Department of Watershed Management of the City of Atlanta is spending $3.9 million on a deal with Olea to measure water usage more accurately. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a serious budget shortfall for many cities around the US. According to the National League of Cities, losses in sales tax and other revenue sources will cost cities $360 billion from this year through 2022.

Olea Edge Analytics produces products that use technology for revenue recovery. The company’s Vault Management platform allows utilities to manage assets and get alerts when something changes. A dashboard provides a high-level and operational view of workflows, including data about billing and consumption, maintenance, and safety. CityEdge uses blockchain, AI, and machine learning to spot problems in water infrastructure as soon as they happen. 

“People are surprised to learn that they can make these simple repairs and turn that money into a catalyst for much-needed projects,” Mackie said in a press release. “Everyone is looking for an edge in funding, especially during these economic times.”

With the CityEdge product, a blockchain validates water usage from when it leaves the meter’s sensors to the moment it reaches the customer. The encrypted data in the ledger is distributed across every device in the network, increasing transparency and traceability. The platform also creates a digital twin of every meter on the network. 

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DKK 42 million for sustainable chip-based spectrometers

technology org default image

In a new four-year Grand Solutions project—supported by Innovation Fund Denmark with DKK 25 million—DTU and four companies will join forces in a consortium called NEXUS to develop the next generation of ultracompact spectrometers based on chip technology:

“We will quite simply make spectrometers in a radically different way that will make them both inexpensive and sustainable,” says the originator of the new Innovation Fund Denmark project, Associate Professor Søren Stobbe from DTU Fotonik. He continues:

“In NEXUS, we will develop the nanotechnology and the chip technology, as well as the modules that will be used to integrate the spectrometers in the industry already during the project. In short, we will make it possible to perform measurements in places where you cannot measure today. And because we can make the spectrometers small and inexpensive, it can also be good business for companies to choose the most environmentally friendly solution.”

Spectrometers to reduce waste at dairies
To begin with, NEXUS’ spectrometers will make a difference for dairies.

Dairies need spectrometers to measure the contents of protein, fat, and water in their milk. But the spectrometers currently available on the market are large and expensive, which means that the dairies only have a very limited number of them. So when, for example, the dairies are to produce a new batch of semi-skimmed milk, they rinse the pipes with milk to be sure of what they have in the pipes. This means that they send around 10,000 litres of milk directly into the sewers every day. This could be avoided if spectrometers were instead installed to measure what is in the pipes.

Jacob Riis Folkenberg—Vice President of Technology at FOSS, which makes food production equipment—is therefore convinced that the new optical spectroscopy technology has the potential to revolutionize the market:

“In addition to being a waste of time and energy, the 10,000 litres of milk going to waste every day also has a fairly high market value.  If you can get the price of a spectrometer down, this will quickly turn into a really good business case for the dairies. We estimate that there is a market potential of three billion Danish kroner at the dairies alone,” he says.

The core of the NEXUS project is DTU’s patented chip technology.

“We have a prototype that works, but we don’t yet have the spectral resolution we need,” says Associate Professor at DTU Fotonik, Søren Stobbe, and continues:

“We need to develop a lot of stuff in the chip, and it must then be built into the whole technology that surrounds it. For it’s one thing to make a chip. But—in reality—a large part of the work is to integrate the chip with the surroundings.”

While DTU Fotonik is responsible for the development of the chip, the companies Beamfox Technologies ApS and ELIONIX INC will develop methods for nanofabrication of the chip. Ibsen Photonics A/S makes the modules in which the chip will be integrated, and FOSS makes the food production probes in which the modules will be installed and which can be used at the dairies.

Wind turbines, aircraft, and health monitoring on the mobile
The NEXUS project starts with the dairies, but the technology will also be relevant in many other contexts.

“The ultimate vision is to be able to make spectrometers so small and inexpensive that it can, for example, be worthwhile to build them into mobile phones. The spectrometer will be able to make a kind of primitive blood test, which could give you an indication of whether you need to see your doctor,” says Søren Stobbe.

“Another example is so-called optical interrogation monitors, which can be used to measure and predict the behaviour of large mechanical structures. They can be built into a bridge, a wind turbine blade, or an aeroplane wing, where they will then monitor whether the material begins to give off some strange vibrations. The area of application for spectrometers—if you can make them in this low price range—is gigantic.”

Source: DTU




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