Tim Smedley

I'm a freelance writer. I specialise in sustainability, work, and urban innovation.
Frequent journalist, sometime ghostwriter, book author in progress.
BBC Future

How the world’s biggest cities are fighting smog

For three days in March 2016, 10 London pigeons became famous. Seeing pigeons take to the sky from Primrose Hill in north London was not unusual in itself. But these pigeons were wearing backpacks. And the backpacks were monitoring air pollution. Once in the air, the backpacks sent live air-quality updates via tweets to the smartphones of the Londoners below. In almost all cases, the readings were not good. London’s air pollution problem has been getting worse for years, and it often rises to more than three times the European Union’s legal limit.
BBC Future

Is this the world's smartest toilet?

A warm toilet seat isn’t most people’s idea of heaven, typically indicating a previous occupant only recently departed. And turning to your side to find no toilet paper, only smooth walls and a remote control, may seem positively hellish. However, this remote control has washing and drying options. Press it, and a robot arm slides out underneath you, offering a range of water jet speeds and angles, followed by a hot air finale. When you stand up, the toilet closes its lid, flushes itself, and then self-cleans using UV-light.
The Guardian

Why leaders ignore new technology at their peril

Business leaders used to get by without knowing much about technology – they had an IT department to deal with that sort of thing. However, technology products and services now pervade every industry, and businesses that don’t understand them are in danger of being usurped. Uber’s impact on the taxi and automotive industries is a case in point. While established manufacturers and car hire firms continued to focus on hardware – the cars and the user experience – Uber’s simple software app linked...
Raconteur, The Times

Developing countries lead in clean energy

Renewable energy used to be deemed unaffordable for developing countries. Wind and solar were rich country luxuries, while 'third world' economies could only be expected to grow on a diet of dirty fossil fuels. As recently as June 2014, Bill Gates blogged: “Poor countries… can’t afford today’s expensive clean energy solutions and we can’t expect them to wait for the technology to get cheaper.” However, the past two years have seen this received wisdom turned on its head...
The Guardian

Wearables for babies: saving lives or instilling fear in parents?

Following the success of adult fitness wearables like Fitbit, new companies are connecting babies to smartphone apps and giving parents live information about their baby’s breathing, skin temperature, heart rate and sleeping patterns. The Owlet has adapted pulse oximetry technology (the clip they put on your finger in hospitals to monitor heart rate) to create a baby sock that monitors heart rate and oxygen levels. Sproutling has integrated the same technology into a strap that goes round th
The Guardian

Swings, slides and iPads: the gaming companies targeting kids' outdoor play

Three-quarters of UK children now spend less time outside than prison inmates, according to a new survey, with the lure of digital technology partly to blame. But, in a world where gaming and screen time are an everyday reality, could the right technology actually get more kids to play outdoors? Hybrid Play is a Spanish start-up which uses augmented reality (AR) – patching computer imagery on to real life – to transform playgrounds into video games. A wireless sensor resembling an over-sized cl
The Guardian

Flight of the robobee: the rise of swarm robotics

Swarm robotics is a concept that's buzzed around since the 1980s, but now the technology is starting to fly. The idea is to replace a large, complex robot with a swarm of simple robots that work together to perform complicated tasks that each could not do individually. The environmental applications being explored range from coral restoration and oil spill clean-ups to precision farming – even the creation of artificial bees to pollinate crops. A team of researchers at Sheffield University las
The Guardian

Drones’ new mission: saving lives in developing countries

The prospect of drones delivering parcels to your doorstep is still some way off. But the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for humanitarian work in developing countries is already happening. When medical nonprofit Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, set up a tuberculosis diagnosis station in Papua New Guinea in May, one of its first calls was to Silicon Valley-based UAV firm Matternet. “They called, and said it was impossible to do this [mission] in a traditional way, b
The Guardian

Power-to-gas energy storage could help displace use of fossil fuels

The intermittent nature of renewable power generation has long been a potential barrier to a low-carbon future. Electricity only generated when the wind blows or the sun shines isn't always needed at that exact time. As more intermittent power comes online, the grid has to turn down more energy. Between October 2011 and March 2013, 224GW hours of potential energy were turned down from UK wind farms alone (receiving £7.6m of the total £170m curtailment and balancing payments in 2013 – effectivel
Load More Articles