Illuminating the underbelly: the reflection technology set to light up narrow city streets

Dark ground-level alleys and streets in skyscraper-filled cities could soon be a thing of the past, as a team of researchers in Egypt have developed a light-directing panel that reflects natural sunlight into dark streets.

The panel is attached to the edge of rooftops and positioned at an angle so that it reflects sunlight into the street, meaning dark alleys can enjoy the benefits of natural sunlight without the need for complicated light-tracking devices or an electricity supply.

As cities have increasingly looked to the sky to expand, the number of ground-level areas lacking sunlight is on the rise, and this trend is only set to continue.

Pressure on space is so severe that before long some regions could embrace multi-level cities not unlike Hengsha in the cyberpunk videogame Deus Ex: Human Revolution, resulting in poorly lit lower areas that are likely to be a target for crime.


However, with this technology these areas could once again access natural sunlight, providing a far better alternative to neon or fluorescent light, and generally improving the living standards ground-level areas.

“We expect the device to provide illumination to perform everyday tasks and improve the quality of light and health conditions in dark areas,” said professor of electronics and communications engineering at Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, Amr Safwat.

Safwat also highlighted the health conditions associated with inadequate sunlight, including depression, loss of energy and serious mood changes. “Research has shown that lack of natural lighting can cause severe physiological problems,” he added.


Although similar technology has been used to bring natural light to poorly-lit rooms, this is the first time such a device has been developed for outdoor street environments.

The panel is made of an acrylic plastic also used to make Plexiglas, which is smooth at the bottom but covered in ridges at the top. The ridges are based on a sine wave, and have been shaped to distribute the maximum amount of sunlight on the street below.

As the panels require no electricity they are a surprisingly cost-effective way to boost light in dark streets.

Safwat said that the panel, which is still in the testing phase, is likely to cost between $70 and $100 per square meter, making it cheaper and greener than some other electricity-based solutions. And with plans to commercialise the technology, these panels could soon be a familiar sight in cities around the world.

Inline images courtesy of Optics Express.

Future payments: Vein scanning technology will end lengthy queues

Paying for items using the veins in your hand and our hard-coded biometrics has become a reality, with hand-scanned purchases being made.

By simply moving your hand over a scanner it is able to detect your identity and connect with your payment details to allow you to buy items without having to wait for a card to be verified or even entering a pin number.

The technology is not just a concept either, with 15 stores around the University of Lund, Sweden, where it was developed, already using the scanners to allow people to pay for products.

To date 1,600 people have been using their veins to buy items faster than usual.

As with the fingerprint scanners on latest iPhones and Samsung S5 phones, the technology provides an almost infallible security protection.

The university isn’t the first to use vein scanning as a method of payment and the technology has been around for a few years now, but it has failed to take-off commercially.

Manufacturers will hope that the likes of Samsung and Apple beginning to use scanning hardware for security will increase the public confidence in its reliability.

Earlier this year Biyo, formerly known as PulseWallet, showed off its palm scanners which are able to verify a user in one second.

The company’s scanning devices allow you to also manage your online wallet with a mobile app and online dashboard as well as showing digital receipts.

In Brazil, in the largest use of the scanning technology to date, 35,000 ATMs have been using Fujitsu’s PalmSecure scanning to help prevent fraud.


While the vein system would almost be impossible to break, there is the worry for users that their personal details are still being held by a company that is not their bank.

For the working model in Sweden users sign up by visiting one of the stores with a terminal and enter their social security and phone number.

They then scan their palm three times and received a text message with the activation link – further information is provided by the user as part of a web form.

Fredrik Leifland, from university in Sweden, said: “We had to connect all the players ourselves, which was quite complex: the vein scanning terminals, the banks, the stores and the customers.

“The next step was finding ways of packaging it into a solution that was user-friendly”, says Fredrik.

“Every individual’s vein pattern is completely unique, so there really is no way of committing fraud with this system. You always need your hand scanned for a payment to go through.”

Image two courtesy of Biyo