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Here on Earth, 2022 marks the year that 5G cellular becomes ubiquitously deployed, and all the technology buzz will turn to next-generation 6G cellular. That’s how it goes. By the time a major technology rolls out, it's already obsolete, and the next generation is already in design and development.

StarLink satellite deploying and fully deployed
SpaceX StarLink Satellite

Enough about cellular technology. The important news is that SpaceX will field enough satellites in its StarLink Low Earth Orbit (LEO) communications system to transition from the beta phase, with intermittent service, to full operational phase with 24 x7 connectivity.

Space X is not alone; Telesat, OneWeb, and Amazon’s Kuiper have secured funds to deploy their own LEO satellite constellations systems. Funding does not mean success. The satellite world is littered with financial failures. Motorola’s Iridium system, the original “satphone” company, lost billions of dollars as ground-based cellular deployed far faster than expected. These new LEO satellite systems are big bets, and like Iridium, the available market of customers may not big enough for all of them to be successful.

LEO Satellite System Summary: Telesat, OneWeb, StarLink

SpaceX is making a bet that StarLink will generate enough revenue to fund both the rocket launch business and LEO communications operations, along with a few missions to Mars. The rocket launch business will feed off the deployment and replacement of StarLink LEO satellites, creating a virtuous circle of revenue generation. Jeff Bezos’s Kuiper LEO system and Blue Origin launcher investments will create a similar virtuous circle. Amazon has a distinct advantage over other LEO satellite operators– a number of financial evaluations show that Amazon’s connectivity needs for its vast delivery and warehouse business could fund Kuiper and Blue Origin while reducing costs. As for the other LEO systems, time will tell if they are economically viable.

In short, 2022 will see the dawn of the first self-funded integrated commercial space operators, with Starlink leading the way.

James Web Space Telescope

The other big space news in 2022 is the James Webb Space Telescope. The Hubble Space telescope is over 30 years old and still provides an amazing view of our universe. Telescopes, in a way, are time machines. The further out in space they

Viewing the birth of the first Stars and Galaxies
James Webb Space Telescope: Looking Back in Time

peer out, the farther back in time they observe. However, as we look further back in time and further in the distance, the faster the stars and galaxies we observe are traveling away from us. This velocity imparts a spectrum shift deeper and deeper into the infrared spectrum of the light a telescope captures. If we want to see back to the birth of the first stars and galaxies in our universe, we need a larger telescope that can see deeper into infrared frequencies of light. We also need greater magnification.

Enter the new James Web Space Telescope (JWST). As I write this blog, this marvel of technology, ten years in the making, has successfully launched, reached its orbit position at the L2 Lagrange Point, and deployed its heat shield and mirror array.

size accurate view of the James Webb and Hubble Space Telescopes
James Webb and Hubble Space Telescopes (side by side)

Here is a quick breakdown of the improvements in the James Web Space Telescope (JWST) over the Hubble Space Telescope (HST):

  • ·Wavelengths of light detected: HST views only a small portion of the infrared spectrum, 0.8 to 2.5 microns. JWST covers 0.6 to 28 microns over 10x further into the infrared spectrum.

  • Mirror size (magnification): HST mirror is 2.4 meters in diameter and roughly 4.5square meters in area. JWST is 6.5 meters in diameter and approximately 33 square meters. Greater than 5x the light capture and magnification of the HST.

  • Orbit: HST is in Low Earth Orbit ~570 Km above the Earth. JWST sits at the L2 Lagrange point, 1.5 Million Km from Earth with both the Earth and son positioned behind the telescope.

  • Sun Shield: HST does not have a sun shield. This limits the depth of the infrared range for HST. JWST, by contrast, has a football field sized sun shield which blocks both sunlight and Earths Albedo (reflected sunlight)

James Webb orbits earth at the L2 Lagrange Point
James Webb Space Telescope Orbit at L2

In short, the James Webb Space Telescope represents a quantum leap over the Hubble Space Telescope. You can find further details and additional mission updates at the NASA site – HERE

In 2022 we’ll see the first images from James Webb and peer back in time to when the first stars and galaxies formed in the universe. My prediction is that, like Hubble 30 years ago, the world will learn something amazing within months of full operation. You can bet I’ll be blogging about the significance when we do.

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Updated: Feb 16, 2022

The tablet smartphone has been with us for almost 15 years. It has been an incredibly successful paradigm for communications and mobile computing, spawning an expansive support industry of APP developers and arguably was the driving force behind the rise of cloud computing.

Every dog has its day, and all technologies face disruption from new technologies. In 2022 we’ll be hearing a great deal about augmented and extended reality glass as the up-and-coming replacement for our smartphone, and a segway into the METAVERSE.

Facebook concept image for AR glasses
Facebook concept AR glasses

Augmented Reality is an interface where media, information, and interfaces are prismatically projected in our field of view from a set of AR-equipped eyeglasses. We interact with voice, eye movement, eyelid movement (blick sequences), and gestures (like taping our fingers on a 3D projected keyboard).

Original Google Glass circa 2012

Believe it or not, Vuzix and other early pioneers in augmented reality glasses launched several years before the first iPhone. While conceptually compelling, every aspect of technology was too immature and rudimentary to be practical. In 2011 Google introduced its first generation of google glasses available to a limited set of developers - you remember those lucky few “Glassholes.” That being said, Google was on to something. Despite their limitations, the glasses were stylish in their futuristic way, and more importantly, they had the basic functions we would expect in all future AR glasses:

  • Prism based image display overlying the direct line of sight (limited cover single eye prism for google glass)

- Advanced AR glasses will have a display for each eye and extend across the entire field of view

  • Outward-facing camera

- Advanced AR glasses will have two cameras for stereoscopic vision to measure the depth of objects

  • Bone conductive microphone and speaker – voice recognition and commands

- Google Glasses uses a touch bar for input

- Advanced AR glasses eliminate this touch feature

  • Advanced AR glasses add the following:

- Hand and finger gesture tracing (e.g., for typing on a virtual keyboard projection)

- Inward point cameras to track the user’s pupil and vector of vision - AN Incredibly important feature for immersive AR experience – what is the user looking at!

Magic Leap AR glasses

For the last decade, Microsoft, with its holo lense program, and Magic Leap, developed the components and algorithms to realize the vision of a fully immersive augmented reality interface. So far, however, the form factor and price point are a non-starter for any consumer applications. In the background, working in “skunkworks mode,” the world’s largest cell phone makers, Apple, Samsung, and Huawei AR glass projects are coming to maturity. Have they solved the size, weight, and battery life issues inherent in the Microsoft and Magic Leap glasses?

Microsoft Hololens AR glasses

I predict that we’ll see prototypes this year and working products from 2024 to 2025.

I also predict three unintended consequences from AR adoption supplanting the smartphone. First, the “always-on capture” of the environment inherent in AR will accelerate the budding dystopian Survalience State that smartphone cameras and 4G/5G connectivity incubated. “I have seen Big Brother, and he is Us!” My second prediction: AR image processing in the cloud will dominate 5G and follow-on 6G cellular data traffic. AR will be a boon to cellular operators. The third and final unintended consequence will be the rise of advertisement-free curated information and image classification paid by the end-user subscription. – the death of the free ad-driven internet. (hint – this is a great time to start a company providing curated AR data – the danger, Apple, Microsoft, and others may beat you to it) Why? Can you imagine endless streams of ads popping into your field of vision all the time? You will ask for the information you want, when you want it, and how you want it displayed. Fortunately, self-driving cars are coming, so pop-up ads in AR won’t cause accidents!

Mojo Vision AR contacts

As a final note, what about “bionic” AR contacts as opposed to glasses? Research is steadily making working toward a practical working prototype. Power will be provided wirelessly, as will processed images for display. Flexible OLED display material can bend and fit the convex shape of the lens but currently lacks pixel density to match the image quality of AR glasses. An alternate CMOS imaging display technology is also under investigation (e.g., Mojo Vision). A 9-axis motion sensor will provide viewpoint tracking. However, the motion tracking accuracy of current technology needs further refinement. Outward-facing camera integration still needs to be addressed without impacting the field of vision. Finally, Bluetooth earbuds, as a separate accessory, provide audio communications. We expect commercial AR contacts to follow AR glass by three to five years and may become more popular as AR contacts will be less obtrusive than glasses. Time will tell.

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Updated: Jan 28, 2022

2022 will be the year of “Energy Realism.” Spiraling natural gas and gasoline prices combined with the Great Texas Power Outage of 2021 have highlighted the need for greater care and planning of our path to a Green Energy Future. We need to maintain alternative/backup power sources. Abundant, low-cost, clean energy raises the living standard of everyone, so we need to be thoughtful, not reactionary, as the world sets and executes energy policy.

First, we need to maintain and even increase investment in natural gas and gas pipelines and distribution infrastructure. “Sacrilege,” many environmentalists will cry out. Still, natural gas replacement of coal has made an incredible impact on CO2 and other emissions in the last five years – a 50% emission cut, to be exact. More importantly, as Green Hydrogen becomes prevalent, natural gas infrastructure is easily converted to hydrogen transport. Economics and the cost of infrastructure matter. You can’t throw away trillions of dollars of infrastructure on a whim.

Green Hydrogen is ideal for long-haul transportation, industrial equipment (tractors, construction, etc.), aircraft, and solar power energy storage. Lithium-Ion batteries have too many drawbacks for these applications, and through 2030 there is a shortage of lithium to meet growing demand. Why the fuss over hydrogen? Because the energy cycle starts with water (H2O), and when we convert H2 (hydrogen) back to energy, it becomes water again - no other byproducts. Venture capital investments are generally an indicator of future success. VCs are making significant investments in green hydrogen technology. In 2022 more capital and more green hydrogen products will hit the mainstream. Here are a few examples:

  • Universal Hydrogen – working toward hydrogen-powered commercial flight

  • Nicola Motors – hydrogen-powered long haul trucks

  • EnerVenue – Hydrogen battery cells

  • And many more

reactor diagram
NuPower small sale Reactor

In 2022 proponents of green energy will start accepting nuclear power as a necessary part of the green energy ecosystem. France already figured this out, while Germany is already reeling from its knee-jerk anti-nuclear policy decision (giving Russia economic leverage and wealth supplying natural gas). The new nuclear future will be based on small mass-produced reactors. Again venture capital is leading the way with Bill’s Gates TerraPower and NuScale Power as examples.

Nuclear fusion has been “20 years away” for the last 40 years, and government research seems to make progress as slow as molasses. As an example, compare NASA to venture-backed SpaceX. Venture capital has started placing massive bets on nuclear fusion. Case in point, Commonwealth Fusion Systems LLC raised more than $1.8 Billion at the end of 2021, hoping to demonstrate a working reactor in 2025 and commercial reactors in the early 2030s. VCs are backing a number of other startups worldwide. The race is on. Let’s hope competition and efficiency inherent in the VC model deliver the results.

quarter scale fusion reactor prototype
Commonwealth Fusion Reactor prorotype

My last prediction in energy for 2022 is that the US government will reverse course on oil production and pipeline investments to get energy costs under control (that and other geopolitical concerns, but I digress...). This in no way slows or inhibits the green energy revolution –the world was already on a course to greatly reduce fossil fuel use and remain on that course. Over the next two decades, green energy infrastructure will phase as older fossil fuel infrastructure is phased out - a gradual but relentless transition.

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