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Aujourd’hui — 13 novembre 2019Vos flux RSS

Will 5G Be Bad for Our Health?

Par Kathy Pretz

THE INSTITUTECitizens in several cities including Aspen, Colo.; Bern, Switzerland; San Diego, Calif.; and Totnes, England have been protesting the installation of 5G wireless base stations over concerns about the harmful effects these network nodes could have on humans, animals, and plants. They point to the potential danger of radio frequency (RF) radiation emitted from antennas installed in close proximity to people.

Protestors also cite the lack of scientific evidence showing that 5G signals, specifically those transmitting in the millimeter wave region of the electromagnetic spectrum, are safe. Today’s mobile devices operate at frequencies below 6 gigahertz, while 5G will use frequencies from 600 megahertz and above, including the millimeter wave bands between 30 GHz and 300 GHz.

Enough concern has been raised about 5G that some cities have cancelled or delayed the installation of the base stations.

Members of the IEEE Future Networks Initiative, which is helping to pave the way for 5G development and deployment, took notice of these news reports. In September, the group issued a short paper titled “5G Communications Systems and Radiofrequency Exposure Limits.” The report reviews existing guidelines for RF exposure.

The Institute asked two members of the IEEE initiative about their take on the controversy over 5G. IEEE Fellow Rod Waterhouse is on the editorial board of the initiative’s Tech Focus publication and edited the 5G report. His research interests include antennas, electromagnetics, and microwave photonics engineering. He’s the CTO and cofounder of Octane Wireless in Hanover, Md.

IEEE Senior Member David Witkowski is cochair of the initiative’s Deployment Working Group He’s a wireless and telecommunication industry expert. Witkowski is the executive director of the Wireless Communications Initiative for Joint Venture Silicon Valley, a nonprofit based in San Jose, Calif., that works to solve problems in that region such as communications, education, and transportation.

5G PRIMER

Most of the concerns about 5G’s supposed negative impact on health stem from its cell towers having such a different architecture than the ones supporting today’s 3G and 4G cellular networks, Waterhouse says. Those towers are kilometers apart and placed on tall, raised structures that are typically located away from populated areas. Because a 5G base station can be smaller than a backpack, it can be placed just about anywhere, such as on top of light poles, street lights, and rooftops. That means the stations will be located near houses, apartment buildings, schools, stores, parks, and farms.

“Wireless companies are going to incorporate the devices into everyday structures, such as benches and bus stops, so they’ll be lower to the ground and closer to people,” Waterhouse says. “There also will be more of these base stations [compared with the number of cell towers around today] because of their limited reach. A 5G mm network requires cell antennas to be located every 100 to 200 meters.”

That being said, one of the benefits of these small base stations is that they would not have to transmit as much power as current cell towers, because the coverage areas are smaller.

“If the same amount of power that’s currently transmitted from a cell tower located 30 meters up were to be transmitted from a 5G base station installed at a bus stop, then there would be cause for concern,” says Waterhouse, “But that will not be the case.”

A 5G radio replacing a 4G radio at 750 MHz will have the same coverage as the 4G radio, presuming no change to the antenna, according to Witkowski. But, of course, it will provide higher data rates and quicker network response times. 

Waterhouse predicts that 5G will be rolled out in two stages. The first, he says, would operate in bands closer to the slice of spectrum—below 6 GHz—where 4G equipment works. “There will be a little bit more bandwidth or faster data rates for everyone,” he says. “Also, 5G base stations will only be in certain small areas, not everywhere.”

In the next phase, which he calls 5G Plus, there will be huge improvement in bandwidth and data rates because there will be more base stations and they will be using mm wave frequencies.

Witkowski says U.S. carriers that already have dense deployments in sub-6 GHz bands will start deployment of 5G in the K/Ka band and mm wave. There also will be some swapping of 3G and 4G radios for newer 5G radios.

“For the U.S. carriers that have access to vacated/re-farmed spectrum, such as T-Mobile in 600 MHz and Sprint in 2.5 GHz, their deployment strategy will be to leave 3G/4G alone for now, and add 5G into these lower bands,” Witkowski says.

EXISTING REGULATIONS

Waterhouse points to two international documents that have established safe RF exposure limits. One is the guideline from the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which has been around since 1998. The IEEE C95.1, “IEEE Standard for Safety Levels with Respect to Human Exposure to Electric, Magnetic, and Electromagnetic Fields” was developed by the IEEE International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety. and released in 2005. IEEE C95.1 covers the spectrum between 3 kilohertz and 300 GHz. The Future Networks report goes into detail about the various exposure limits for the body listed in those documents.

The ICNIRP and IEEE guidelines, which are periodically revised, were both updated this year. The limits for local exposure (for frequencies above 6 GHz) were set even lower.  Belgium, India, Russia, and other countries have established even more restrictive limits.

As to whether the millimeter wave bands are safe, Waterhouse explains that because RF from cellular sites is on the non-ionizing radiation spectrum, it’s not the kind of radiation that could damage DNA and possibly cause cancer. The only known biological impact of RF on humans is heating tissue. Excessive exposure to RF causes a person’s entire body to overheat to dangerous levels. Local exposure can damage skin tissue or corneas.

“The actual impact and the depth of penetration into the human body is less at higher frequencies,” he says. “The advantage of that is your skin won’t be damaged because millimeter waves will reflect off the skin’s surface.”

Waterhouse admits that although mm waves have been used for many different applications— including astronomy and military applications—the effect of their use in telecommunications is not well understood. Waterhouse says it’s up to regulatory bodies overseeing the telecommunication companies to ensure the safety of 5G. The general perception is that mm waves are safe but should still be monitored, he says.

“The majority of the scientific community does not think there’s an issue,” Waterhouse says. “However, it would be unscientific to flat out say there are no reasons to worry.”

Many opponents insist that 5G must be proven safe before regulators allow deployments. The problem with this assertion, according to Witkowski, is that it isn’t logically possible to prove anything with 100 percent certainty.

 “Showering, cooking breakfast, commuting to work, eating in a restaurant, being out in public—everything we do carries risk,” he says. “Whether we’re talking about 3G, 4G, or 5G, the question of electromagnetic radiation safety (EMR) is whether the risks are manageable. The first medical studies on possible health effects from EMR started almost 60 years ago, and literally thousands of studies since then reported either no health risk or inconclusive findings. A relatively small number of studies have claimed to find some evidence of risk, but those studies have never been reproduced—and reproducibility is a key factor in good science.

We should continue to look at the question of EMR health effects, but the vast majority of evidence says there’s no reason to pause deployments.”

Hier — 12 novembre 2019Vos flux RSS

Chasse : des particuliers veulent acheter 10 hectares de forêt

Par Axel Leclercq
Pour faire interdire la chasse dans une forêt, le mieux est encore d'être propriétaire de la forêt en question. Du coup, ils passent à l'action.

3 Français nommés au Conseil Pontifical pour la culture

Par Maximilien Bernard
3 Français nommés au Conseil Pontifical pour la culture
Mme Maud de Beauchesne-Cassanet, responsable du département d’art sacré à la Conférence des évêques de France, le Père Jacques de Longeaux, prêtre pour le diocèse de Paris en 1990. Titulaire d’un doctorat en théologie, il enseigne la morale familiale à l’École cathédrale (morale sexuelle et familiale, sacrement de mariage, questions de morale fondamentale) et il…

Driving Tests Coming for Autonomous Cars

Par Jeff Hecht

The three laws of robotic safety in Isaac Asimov’s science fiction stories seem simple and straightforward, but the ways the fictional tales play out reveal unexpected complexities. Writers of safety standards for self-driving cars express their goals in similarly simple terms. But several groups now developing standards for how autonomous vehicles will interact with humans and with each other face real-world issues much more complex than science fiction.

Advocates of autonomous cars claim that turning the wheel over to robots could slash the horrific toll of 1.3 million people killed around the world each year by motor vehicles. Yet the public has become wary because robotic cars also can kill. Documents released last week by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board blame the March 2018 death of an Arizona pedestrian struck by a self-driving Uber on safety failures by the car’s safety driver, the company, and the state of Arizona. Even less-deadly safety failures are damning, like the incident where a Tesla in Autopilot mode wasn’t smart enough to avoid crashing into a stopped fire engine whose warning lights were flashing.

Safety standards for autonomous vehicles “are absolutely critical” for public acceptance of the new technology, says Greg McGuire, associate director of the Mcity autonomous vehicle testing lab at the University of Michigan. “Without them, how do we know that [self-driving cars] are safe, and how do we gain public trust?” Earning that trust requires developing standards through an open process that the public can scrutinize, and may even require government regulation, he adds.

Companies developing autonomous technology have taken notice. Earlier this year, representatives from 11 companies including Aptiv, Audi, Baidu, BMW, Daimler, Infineon, Intel, and Volkswagen collaborated to write a wide-ranging whitepaper titled “Safety First for Automated Driving.” They urged designing safety features into the automated driving function, and using heightened cybersecurity to assure the integrity of vital data including the locations, movement, and identification of other objects in the vehicle environment. They also urged validating and verifying the performance of robotic functions in a wide range of operating conditions.

On 7 November, the International Telecommunications Union announced the formation of a focus group called AI for Autonomous and Assisted Driving. It’s aim: to develop performance standards for artificial intelligence (AI) systems that control self-driving cars. (The ITU has come a long way since its 1865 founding as the International Telegraph Union, with a mandate to standardize the operations of telegraph services.)

ITU intends the standards to be “an equivalent of a Turing Test for AI on our roads,” says focus group chairman Bryn Balcombe of the Autonomous Drivers Alliance. A computer passes a Turing Test if it can fool a person into thinking it’s a human. The AI test is vital, he says, to assure that human drivers and the AI behind self-driving cars understand each other and predict each other’s behaviors and risks.

A planning document says AI development should match public expectations so:

• AI never engages in careless, dangerous, or reckless driving behavior
• AI remains aware, willing, and able to avoid collisions at all times
• AI meets or exceeds the performance of a competent, careful human driver
 

These broad goals for automotive AI algorithms resemble Asimov’s laws, insofar as they bar hurting humans and demand that they obey human commands and protect their own existence. But the ITU document includes a list of 15 “deliverables” including developing specifications for evaluating AIs and drafting technical reports needed for validating AI performance on the road.

A central issue is convincing the public to entrust the privilege of driving—a potentially life-and-death activity—to a technology which has suffered embarrassing failures like the misidentification of minorities that led San Francisco to ban the use of facial recognition by police and city agencies.

Testing how well an AI can drive is vastly complex, says McGuire. Human adaptability makes us fairly good drivers. “We’re not perfect, but we are very good at it, with typically a hundred million miles between fatal traffic crashes,” he says. Racking up that much distance in real-world testing is impractical—and it is but a fraction of the billions of vehicle miles needed for statistical significance. That’s a big reason developers have turned to simulations. Computers can help them run up virtual mileage needed to find potential safety flaws that might arise only rare situations, like in a snowstorm or heavy rain, or on a road under construction.

It’s not enough for an automotive AI to assure the vehicle’s safety, says McGuire. “The vehicle has to work in a way that humans would understand.” Self-driving cars have been rear-ended when they stopped in situations where most humans would not have expected a driver to stop. And a truck can be perfectly safe even when close enough to unnerve a bicyclist.

Other groups are also developing standards for robotic vehicles. ITU is covering both automated driver assistance and fully autonomous vehicles. Underwriters Laboratories is working on a standard for fully-autonomous vehicles. The Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium, a group including auto companies, plus Lyft, Uber, and SAE International (formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers) is developing safety principles for SAE Level 4 and 5 autonomous vehicles. The BSI Group (formerly the British Institute of Standards) developed a strategy for British standards for connected and autonomous vehicles and is now working on the standards themselves.

How long will it take to develop standards? “This is a research process,” says McGuire. “It takes as long as it takes” to establish public trust and social benefit. In the near term, Mcity has teamed with the city of Detroit, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and Verizon to test autonomous vehicles for transporting the elderly on city streets. But he says the field “needs to be a living thing that continues to evolve” over a longer period.

Meet the Volocity

Par LEMO
©2017 The Foreign Office Collective
©2017 The Foreign Office Collective

Presented in last August, the VoloCity is the latest solution proposed by Volocopter, the first designed for actual commercial use. All of its features (number of seats, range, speed...) are related to its mission: to be an inner-city flying taxi and nothing else.

The choice of simplicity, for instance (such as direct-drive motors and fixed pitch rotors) makes the solution less costly to manufacture, more reliable (less expensive maintenance and easier to certify), lighter, so more economical and less noisy. Everything is closely linked.

The wide span and a large number of battery-powered engines and rotors (18 of each) reduce the noise level and generate a frequency that is softer and more pleasant on the ear. It also improves safety: the VoloCity is capable of flying even if several engines are inoperative. The aircraft will fly at “only” 110kmph, which is safer (better collision avoidance) and less noisy than rapid eVTOLs.

One passenger and the pilot have access and are seated comfortably (Volocopter’s analyses show that the large majority of intra-urban passengers travel alone). There is space for hand luggages, air conditioning, silence and a stunning view. Once the regulations will authorise it, the VoloCity will also be able to fly autonomously.


The VoloCity embarks 9 Lithium-ion exchangeable battery packs. These are recharged on the vertiports. Whenever the aircraft lands in between two flights, batteries can be changed in five minutes to fresh batteries and can take off. Its 35km range makes it possible to connect the most popular destinations (city centres, airports, business centres ...).


Vertical take-off and landing, so no need for wheels nor retractable landing gear. The skids are part of the rationalisation process to reduce weight, breakdowns, production and maintenance costs. Ground operations are ensured by conveyor belts or platforms.

Key numbers

DIAMETER OF THE ROTOR RIM (INCLUDING ROTORS)

11.3 M

DIAMETER OF A SINGLE ROTOR

2.3 M

HEIGHT

2.5 M

NUMBER OF MOTORS & ROTORS

18

SEATS

2

PAYLOAD

200 KG

SPEED

110 KM/H

RANGE

35 KM

Developing Purpose-Built & Turnkey RF Applications

Developing Purpose-Built & Turnkey RF Applications 

This ThinkRF white paper will explore how SIs can develop a purpose-built, turnkey RF application that lets end-users improve their business and understand the spectrum environment.

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Commerce en vrac : deux sœurs ouvrent leur commerce ambulant

Par Axel Leclercq
Grâce à ce camion, les habitants ont enfin accès à la vente en vrac. Dans certains cas, c'est même le seul commerce du village.

Tanguy Maerten, illustrateur, dessine l’actualité de manière satyrique

Par Sarah Vidal
L'actualité est souvent loin d'être marrante, et même plutôt déprimante... Tanguy Maerten, illustrateur, a choisi de les aborder avec humour (noir).

Marché de Noël 2019 : Cours Herrade de Landsberg (Strasbourg)

Par Summorum Pontificum
Marché de Noël 2019 : Cours Herrade de Landsberg (Strasbourg)
La vente de Noël du Cours Herrade de Landsbourg (Strasbourg) aura lieu les 22 et 23 novembre. Fondée en 20014 par un groupe de parents, le Cours Herrade de Landsberg à Strasbourg compte près de 50 élèves à l’école. La direction et l’aumônerie de l’école sont assurées par des prêtres de l’Institut du Christ Roi…

Cette web-série veut remettre l’eau au centre des préoccupations

Par Sarah Vidal
"L'eau c'est la vie !" Oui, mais pas que. Alteragua est un projet de web-documentaire qui veut apporter des solutions pour que cette denrée ne se perde pas.

Save Time with Ready-To-Use Measurements

The right measurement applications can increase the functionality of your signal analyzer and reduce your time to insight with ready-to-use measurements, built-in results displays, and standards conformance tests. They can also help ensure consistent measurement results across different teams and your design cycle. This efficiency means you can spend less time setting up measurements and more time evaluating and improving your designs. Learn about general-purpose or application-specific measurements that can help save you time and maintain measurement consistency in this eBook.

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Why Small Business Owners Should Consider Life Insurance

Par Mercer

Mercer
As a small business owner, there are many important decisions you’ll have to make—from billing/accounting to marketing to choosing the right types of insurance to protect your business.

Most small business owners realize they need basic business insurance, including general liability and property damage coverage. Unfortunately, many small business owners don’t often think about obtaining life insurance to protect their business.

That’s because life insurance is typically thought of as just financial protection for your family. But it can protect more!

What if you were to die unexpectedly? What would happen to the business you’ve worked hard to achieve? Would you want your loved ones to keep your business running or “close” its doors? How will your loved ones pay off any business debt you owe?

Life insurance for a small business owner can provide funds to keep your business doors “open” and pay off any business loans or debt you’ve accumulated. In addition, funds from life insurance coverage can help pay the rent and other office expenses. It can also be used to fund a salary to hire someone to help takeover the everyday operations of your business.

Benefits of Life Insurance

If you have a family and are the sole owner of your business (or have just one partner), life insurance may be all you need. It can be used to cover both your family and your business.

Since you can name your beneficiaries, you can list a spouse, other loved ones and/or a business partner. By doing so, your spouse and other loved ones could receive proceeds you designated to help replace your income and all you do for your family, while your business partner could also receive a portion of your proceeds to keep the business running and pay off any debt.

Level Term Life Insurance is a popular choice for small business owners for two main reasons:

  • It makes it easy to protect your family and business with one benefit amount that remains the same for the duration of your coverage.
  • It features fixed rates that won’t change for the life of your coverage. Rates won’t increase or decrease—making it easy to fit within your family and business budgets.

IEEE Offers an Affordable Option

As an IEEE member, you have access to a variety of insurance benefits designed to protect you, your family and your business, including the IEEE Member Group 10-Year Level Term Life Insurance Plan. It features high amounts of coverage and fixed rates to help protect both your family and business. For more details, visit www.IEEEinsurance.com.

Visit www.ieeeinsurance.com  for more material.

This information is provided by the IEEE Member Group Member Insurance Program Administrator, Mercer Health & Benefits Administration, LLC, in partnership with IEEE to provide IEEE Members with important insurance, health and lifestyle information.

*Including features, costs, eligibility, renewability, limitations, and exclusions.

The IEEE Member Group Term Life Insurance Plan is available in the U.S. (except territories), Puerto Rico and Canada (except Quebec). This plan is underwritten by New York Life Insurance Company, 51 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010 on Policy Form GMR

The IEEE Member Group Insurance Program is administered by:

Mercer Health & Benefits Administration LLC, 12421 Meredith Drive, Urbandale, IA 50398

In CA d/b/a Mercer Health & Benefits Insurance Services LLC

AR Insurance License #100102691 CA Insurance License #0G39709

87573 (11/19) Copyright 2019 Mercer LLC. All rights reserved.

Gravity

Par matthieu

Pour sa première expédition à bord d’une navette spatiale, le docteur Ryan Stone, brillante experte en ingénierie médicale, accompagne l’astronaute chevronné Matt Kowalsky. Mais alors qu’il s’agit apparemment d’une banale sortie dans l’espace, une catastrophe se produit. Lorsque la navette

The post Gravity appeared first on Chrétiens aujourd'hui.

L’Intendance : un site pour faire ses courses zéro plastique à Paris

Par Sarah Vidal
Des produits livrés sans émission de CO2, dans du papier kraft recyclé ou des contenants consignés... Faites vos courses zéro plastique avec L'Intendance !

Ceintures et nœuds papillon en chambre à air : l’upcycling avec élégance

Par Sarah Vidal
À Lille, la marque Saint Lazare récupère des matières oubliées pour fabriquer des bijoux et accessoires de mode chic. Présentation.

Norvège : des débats télévisés basés sur le respect et l’argumentation.

Par Alexandre Gras

Une émission de télévision norvégienne a choisi d'éliminer une partie de la toxicité des débats politiques actuels,en obligeant les invités à se montrer courtois.

Cet article Norvège : des débats télévisés basés sur le respect et l’argumentation. est apparu en premier sur Pepsnews - Le site des news positives.

Marché de Noël 2019 : Ecole Charles de Foucauld (Saint Maur des Fossés)

Par Summorum Pontificum
Marché de Noël 2019 : Ecole Charles de Foucauld (Saint Maur des Fossés)
Le Comptoir de Noël de l’Ecole Charles de Foucauld aura lieu le 16 novembre à Saint-Maur des Fossés. Fondée en 1995, l’école Charles de Foucauld à Saint Maur des Fossés (94) compte plus de 80 enfants de la moyenne section de maternelle au CM2. Une présence sacerdotale est assurée par les prêtres de la Fraternité…

Les apostolats de l’Institut du Christ Roi en France

Par Summorum Pontificum
Les apostolats de l’Institut du Christ Roi en France
L’Institut du Christ Roi a publié il y a quelques semaines sa dernière lettre provinciale… en ajoutant un récapitulatif de ses apostolats en France et des prêtres qui assurent ces missions. ICRSP France  

Un jeune dauphin sauvé par une association sur une plage des Landes.

Par redaction

Samedi dernier, un promeneur a signalé la présence d’un dauphin sur une plage à Tarnos.C’est ainsi que deux bénévoles de l’association Itsas Arima se sont mobilisés,  pour une opération de sauvetage compliquée sur la plage de Tarnos. Contactés par l’observatoire Pelagis de La Rochelle, lui-même été alerté par un promeneur resté aux côtés du dauphin, Jean-Antoine […]

Cet article Un jeune dauphin sauvé par une association sur une plage des Landes. est apparu en premier sur Pepsnews - Le site des news positives.

How an Australian State Fought Back Against Grid-Sparked Wildfires

Par Peter Fairley

Nine years before Paradise, California burned to the ground, a similar tragedy unfolded in Australia. On a searing, windy day in 2009 that came to be known as “Black Saturday,” hundreds of fires erupted in the state of Victoria. One of the worst razed the bucolic mountain town of Marysville, northeast of Melbourne. And just as sparks from a Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) power line launched the Camp Fire that destroyed Paradise, Marysville’s undoing began with high-voltage current.

In all, the Black Saturday fires killed 173 people and caused an estimated AUS $4 billion ($2.75 billion) in damage. Fires started by power lines caused 159 of the deaths.

California’s wildfires have “brought it all back,” says Tony Marxsen, an electrical engineering professor at Monash University in Australia. His parents honeymooned in Marysville. “It was a lovely little town nestled up in the hills. To see it destroyed was just wrenching,” he recalls.

Marxsen says faded memories increased Marysville’s death toll. “It had been 26 years since Australia's last major suite of deadly fires,” he says. “People had come to believe that they could defend their house against a firestorm. Some stayed, and they all died.”

While they go by different names, California’s wildfires and Victoria’s bushfires are driven by the same combination of electrical networks and extreme weather, stoked by climate change. How Victoria responded after the Black Saturday fires—work that continues today—differs significantly from what is happening in California today, especially in PG&E’s territory.

Victoria rejected the widespread power shutoffs employed by PG&E. Both experts and the public in Victoria concluded that the disruption caused by power shutoffs would make people and communities less safe in an emergency. Marxsen notes that more than twice as many people died of extreme temperatures during the Black Saturday fires as from the fires, and people rely on electric air conditioning to stay cool. “Cutting off power may sound like a good solution. It certainly reduces drama. But it could actually increase deaths,” he says.

Instead of shutting off power, Victoria’s government adopted a suite of measures to try to shut off the fires. For example, whereas California utilities largely set their own standards for crucial activities such as trimming vegetation along power lines, Victoria’s government set or strengthened a number of mandates for utilities. Ultimately, authorities imposed a stringent risk-reduction standard on utilities, along with a deadline for meeting them.

The state simultaneously beefed up its utility regulator, Melbourne-based Energy Safe Victoria (ESV), which now has four times as many arborists and engineers overseeing power infrastructure as it did in 2009.

The regulator’s role is to “test, challenge, and expose” what the utilities do, says ESV director Paul Fearon. While ESV’s approach is largely collaborative, it can also prosecute utilities whose equipment and procedures fall short of expectations.

The risk-reduction actions that utilities have undertaken since 2009 and that ESV oversees are a mix of the mundane and the high-tech. The mundane starts with stepped-up inspections of utility equipment and tree trimming. There has also been some ‘hardening’ of the system, including burying about three percent of Victoria’s 90,000-kilometers of rural power lines.

Since burying all high-risk lines priced in at an impossible AUS $40 billion, says Fearon, reducing fire risk on most of Victoria’s circuits is about making overhead lines safer. In some cases, bare conductors have been replaced with insulated wires, but better technology is the biggest part of the solution. For example, Victoria mandated the upgrading of automatic circuit reclosers—equipment that may be implicated in the PG&E-sparked Kincade fire that ravaged Sonoma County last month.

Reclosers are circuit breakers that can quickly stop power flows during a fault and then just as quickly restore it. That’s usually what happens in rural fire-prone areas, where transient line faults are common events. However, reclosers can multiply fire risk from a broken line or one with a tree leaning against it. They use repeated high-energy blasts to determine whether a fault is temporary or permanent. During hot and windy periods, that current can start a fire.

Victoria utilities have replaced about 2,000 reclosers with ‘smart' reclosers that can be remotely controlled. In high-risk periods, the reclosers are set to operate at higher sensitivity and will not attempt to restore power—increasing outages but eliminating hundreds of potential fire sources.

(California utility San Diego Gas & Electric switched up its reclosers to reduce fire risk after its lines caused deadly wildfires in 2007. PG&E did not initiate that transition until last year.)

IND Technology's early fault detection system alerted utility crews to this fraying spur line. Arcing between its conductors would have posed a high fire risk on a windy summer day.
Photo: Tony Marxsen
IND Technology's early fault detection system alerted utility crews in Victoria to this fraying spur line. Arcing between its conductors would have posed a high fire risk on a windy summer day.

Victoria developed more advanced technology through an R&D program, led by Marxsen, that studied how lines ignite bushfires and how technologies could block those mechanisms. As Spectrum reported last week, that research delivered several potent new tools that Victoria’s utilities have begun to deploy, including a sensitive monitoring system that PG&E began testing in June. (Marxsen chairs the monitoring system’s developer, Melbourne-based grid equipment developer IND Technology.)

Victoria’s campaign to prevent bushfires is not all roses. For one thing, several utilities have a mixed safety record. After a trio of 2017 grass fires traced back to Melbourne-based Powercor Australia, ESV inspectors uncovered overgrown vegetation in the territories of Powercor and its corporate sibling United Energy. (Both are subsidiaries of Hong Kong-based CK Infrastructure Holdings.)

In April, Powercor pled guilty to vegetation-clearing violations and other criminal charges related to the 2017 fires. It was ESV’s first prosecution and the first safety prosecution of a major power company in Australia. Then, late last month, ESV filed suit again, alleging systemic shortcomings at Powercor.

The new criminal charges are pegged to two fires sparked by Powercor equipment in March 2018, one of which started after a 50-year-old wooden power pole snapped in high winds. “A competent inspection would have discovered that the pole was termite-infested and had long lost its structural integrity,” says Fearon.

Powercor and United Energy have since improved their act, revamping their vegetation management methodology. But Fearon says the 2018 fires might not have happened if Powercor had “pursued an appropriate level” of maintenance. “They’re not getting prosecuted for starting fires. They’re getting prosecuted for not sufficiently minimizing the risks,” he asserts.

IEEE Spectrum contacted a representative for Powercor and United Energy, which did not provide comment on the companies’ fire management performance.

Victoria's Trend: A statistically-uncertain reduction in bushfires in high risk zones, measured per dangerous weather day.
Image: Energy Safe Victoria
A statistically-uncertain reduction in bushfires in high-risk zones, measured per dangerous weather day.

Whether Victoria’s fire risk is lower now than it was ten years ago also remains unproven. Incident statistics suggest that it is, but the data points are sparse and thus the trend lacks statistical significance. Marxsen is hopeful that this year’s fire season, which is just beginning, will provide a definitive answer.

What is certain is that Victoria has not forgotten Black Saturday, and how deadly firestorms can be. The state’s ongoing efforts to safeguard its grids have kept their wildfire potential in the news. Fearon says public awareness may even be rising thanks to searing news reports from California, and the increasingly observable effects of climate change.

“The memory of the catastrophe in 2009 has not dimmed,” says Fearon. “It’s growing because people can see that the weather patterns are changing and temperatures are rising.”

New Scottish Tartan Reflects the Colors of IEEE

Par Jeremiah Daniels

THE INSTITUTEThe Glasgow Convention Bureau created the IEEE Glasgow tartan to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first meeting of the IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing (ICASSP) held in the city.

A tartan is a patterned cloth that visually represents a family or clan. The IEEE Glasgow tartan is a modern-day representation of belonging for IEEE members. The tartan, woven in Scotland using traditional methods, consists of crisscross bands, using blue to represent knowledge, integrity, expertise, and stability and white to represent light, safety, and purity.

The cloth was presented to IEEE President José Moura by Glasgow’s mayor, Eva Bolander, during a celebratory dinner held on 17 September. Top volunteers from IEEE Region 8 and Glasgow attended the ceremony, as well as representatives from nearby universities.

One was IEEE Senior Member James Irvine, a professor of electrical and electronic engineering at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. He fondly recalls that first conference, which was chaired by IEEE Life Fellow Tariq Durrani, now a research professor at the university.

The Glasgow City Council present an award to Professor Jose Moura
Photo: Glasgow Convention Bureau
IEEE President Jose Moura and Glasgow’s Lord Provost Eva Bolander presenting the IEEE Glasgow tartan at the celebratory dinner.

“ICASSP was very important for me because it was held just as I was starting my Ph.D. program,” Irvine says. “On the shelf above my desk was a copy of the conference’s proceedings. It told me two things: Glasgow was at the cutting edge of technology, as engineers from across the globe had come here to discuss their work, and many of those engineers were Ph.D. students presenting their results. This meant it was possible that I too could be part of that community and that my work could influence the progress of technology.”

Since that first meeting, 40 other IEEE conferences have been held in the city. Two took place in September: the IEEE History of Electrotechnology Conference and the IEEE West Europe Student and Young Professional Congress.

Aileen Crawford, head of the city’s convention bureau, is working on setting up a website where IEEE members can purchase items made from the tartan, such as scarves, ties, and table runners.

“I can’t think of anything more appropriate,” Irvine says, “than to have a tartan associated with the IEEE, a community of engineers from across the world.”

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