“Senegal faces key technology decisions in its search for the optimal gas-to-power strategy”

On the back of its recent and substantial oil and gas discoveries, Senegal is now preparing to ensure that its vast natural gas resources will help meet future electricity demand and put an end to the excessive electricity prices undermining its economy.

Continue reading View more

Limitless zero-carbon clean energy is no longer a pipe dream

TAE Technologies exceeds fusion reactor performance goals by 250% as company closes $250-million financing round, totaling $1.2-billion to date

Following scientific milestones with current fusion reactor, Norman, TAE receives investments from long-term partner Google, as well as Chevron, Sumitomo Corporation of Americas, and others to fund the construction of the company’s sixth-generation research reactor that will demonstrate the viability of net energy from TAE’s approach.

After achieving temperatures greater than 75-million degrees Celsius and demonstrating unmatched real-time control of plasma with its state-of-the-art fusion research reactor, Norman, TAE Technologies today announced that it has secured strategic and institutional investments to fund the construction of its next research reactor, Copernicus. 

Norman exterior view

Norman internal view

As the world leader in hydrogen-boron fusion research, TAE’s non-radioactive approach represents the fastest, most practical, and economically competitive solution to bring abundant carbon-free energy to the grid. TAE’s Copernicus reactor, which will be constructed in a 100 000-square-foot facility in Irvine, Calif., is designed to demonstrate the viability of achieving net energy generation with TAE’s advanced beam-driven field-reversed configuration (FRC) – the penultimate step on TAE’s path to commercialise clean fusion power.  

TAE Technologies Norman

TAE’s fifth-generation reactor, Norman, was unveiled in 2017 and was designed to keep plasma stable at 30 million degrees Celsius. After five years of experiments to optimise Norman’s capabilities, the machine has proven capable of sustaining stable plasma at more than 75-million degrees Celsius, 250% higher than its original goal.

With a track record of over delivering on milestones and performance capacity, TAE has attracted the support of visionary investors and to date has raised a total of $1.2-billion for its commercial fusion development. In its recently closed Series G-2 financing round, TAE secured $250-million from investors in the energy, technology, and engineering sectors to support the company’s mission to deliver a long-term solution to rapidly growing electricity demand while providing global energy independence and security. TAE’s safe, non-radioactive approach avoids carbon and particulate emissions, mitigating any impact on the environment or climate change.

Chevron, Google, Reimagined Ventures, Sumitomo Corporation of Americas, and TIFF Investment Management are among the company’s most recent investors, along with a large US West coast based mutual fund manager and a big US pension fund. Goldman Sachs served as the exclusive financial advisor in connection with the Series G-2 financing round.

“The caliber and interest of our investors validates our significant technical progress and supports our goal to begin commercialization of fusion by the end of this decade,” said Michl Binderbauer, CEO of TAE Technologies. “Global electricity demand is growing exponentially, and we have a moral obligation to do our utmost to develop a baseload power solution that is safe, carbon-free, and economically viable.”

Sumitomo Corporation of Americas (SCOA) is TAE’s first investor from Japan, and will become a partner in deploying commercial power and other fusion-derived technologies to the Asia-Pacific market. SCOA, the largest subsidiary of Sumitomo Corporation, the Tokyo-based Fortune 500 global trading and business investment company, has signed a commercial collaboration agreement to pursue TAE-based technologies in Japan and Asia.

“We look forward to being a partner in bringing TAE’s clean energy solutions to the APAC market, which will be paramount to sustaining local economies without impacting our planet,” said Sandro Hasegawa, General Manager, Energy Innovation Initiative Americas at SCOA. “We are pleased to support TAE’s groundbreaking fusion technology to create safe, sustainable energy sources across multiple industries and applications.” 

This investment follows TAE’s landmark public-private partnership with Japan’s National Institute for Fusion Science (NIFS).

Norman Interior

Google continues to be an exceptional computational AI and machine learning partner for TAE. With a collaboration that began in 2014, Google’s investment follows the success of the jointly developed Optometrist Algorithm, which deploys Google’s machine learning to optimize the operation of TAE’s research reactors, substantially advancing the rate of progress and ultimate performance achieved. Programmatic steps that used to take well over a month can now be achieved within one day. In addition, the companies have developed breakthrough capabilities in holistically post-processing and integrating a large set of independent diagnostic measurements to produce high fidelity insights into experimental data at record-breaking scale.

Reimagined Ventures also joined this round as part of its mission to invest in visionaries who are solving some of society’s biggest challenges. “Limitless zero-carbon clean energy is no longer a pipe dream – it’s a future within reach thanks to TAE Technologies’ incredible scientific advancements,” said Jack Litowitz, Director of Strategic Investments at Reimagined Ventures. “Few challenges are as complex as replicating the sun’s energy generation process. The number of sectors and lives that TAE’s industry-leading work could positively impact is immeasurable. We’re proud to invest in Michl and his team as we believe they’re best positioned to forever alter the energy grid and democratize access to renewable fusion-based power for all.”

Chevron invested in TAE through its Technology Ventures unit, dedicated to energy innovation. “TAE – and fusion technology as a whole – has the potential to be a scalable source of no-carbon energy generation and a key enabler of grid stability as renewables become a greater portion of the energy mix,” said Jim Gable, Vice President, Innovation and President of Chevron Technology Ventures. 

TIFF Investment Management Chief Investment Officer Jay Willoughby stated “Opportunities to back extraordinarily talented teams who can change the world do not come around often. The progress TAE has demonstrated and continues to make on the road to safe, clean, commercial fusion power is unique and something we all need.”   


What sets TAE apart from other fusion efforts is the company’s proprietary advanced beam-driven field-reversed configuration (FRC), a combination of plasma physics and accelerator physics, developed to integrate into the grid with TAE’s preferred fuel source, hydrogen-boron, also known as proton-boron or p-B11.

TAE is committed to non-radioactive hydrogen-boron both for its abundance – in excess of 100,000 years supply globally – and because it is the cleanest, safest, most economical terrestrial fuel cycle for fusion, with no geopolitical concerns or proliferation risks. The company has worked toward delivering cost-competitive, environmentally benign hydrogen-boron fusion since its founding in 1998. Now, thanks to its proven money-by-milestone success and steady scientific progress, TAE is on the cusp of achieving that goal. (See www.tae.com/history).

Technologies control room

“Through successful training of Norman’s state-of-the-art control system, paired with proprietary power management technology and extensive optimization of our machine learning algorithms, we have achieved a scale of control at an unparalleled level of integrated complexity,” said Binderbauer. “Our long-standing expertise in fusion, together with seminal advances in design and operational mastery, are paying off handsomely as we progress toward delivering an inexhaustible clean energy source that has the capacity to transform the human experience and sustain future generations.”

View more

World Population Day: Dealing with rising urban population pressure

Technology and sustainability are key methods of successfully handling the rapidly rising populations in our cities.

Continue reading View more

Nampo 2022 saw the growth of technology in modern agriculture

From electric vehicles to smart monitoring drone technology, the NAMPO Harvest Day 2022 was an event that shone a spotlight on modern agriculture and various approaches that South Africa should consider in order to progress this sector and keep up with international markets.

Continue reading View more

The critical role of technology in enhancing ESG performance

Morné de Villiers, Integration Architect and Project Manager at TechSoft International

Continue reading View more

Innovative Digitalisation and Key Enabling Technologies

By Professor Pieter Steyn, Cranefield College

The coronavirus lockdown currently experienced by the entire globe causing all organisations to consider online activities, has attracted profound attention to the importance of key enabling technologies.

Moreover, in recent years the world has witnessed simultaneous and profound changes in all areas of private and public corporate activities. Organisational and private lives are becoming highly volatile and value-driven, demanding continuous innovation and learning. These changes, caused by the inflow of new digital enabling technologies intertwining with our daily lives, influence the way we are performing our organisational activities and daily chores.

Enabling technologies are defined by Business Dictionary as equipment and/or methodology that, alone or in combination with associated technologies, provide the means to generate giant leaps in performance and capabilities of the user. For example, the coming together of telecommunication technologies, Internet, and groupware has levelled the field so that even smaller firms are able to compete in areas where they otherwise could not.

The “Roundtable on Digitizing European industry – Work Group 1 Report 2017”, avers that “digitalization is essentially an innovation issue”, and organisations are approaching it with the usual wide variety of attitudes, methods and expectations encountered in managing innovation.  These attitudes depend on the organisation’s digital maturity. The urgent need for such innovation and change should rather be explained and motivated by the language of increasing profitability, competitiveness or customer satisfaction rather than hard technologies. They believe that abstract terms such as “Industry 4.0” or “digital transformation” are likely to be unattractive in some business environments, like small and medium-sized enterprises.

Digital maturity is about adapting the organisation to compete effectively in an increasingly digital environment. Maturity goes far beyond simply implementing new technology by aligning the company’s strategy, workforce, culture, technology, and structure to meet the digital expectations of customers, employees, and partners. Rather, digital maturity is a continuous and ongoing process of adaptation to a changing digital landscape. 

Global intensive digitalisation processes and technical complexity of industry products and services are generating the new landscape of Industry 4.0 markets. The global and regional markets are in the process of radical strategic change and transformation. Big companies will not solely dominate on these markets anymore. There is a place for innovative small and medium-sized companies that are becoming global leaders with their innovative products.  Capacities to generate market attractive products and services by exploitation of the creative mix of own, regional and global technology resources formed in the innovative, flexible digitalised processes of agile, value and supporting supply chains, are preconditions for business success in the Industry 4.0 economy.    

Allocation and sustainable exploitation of regional innovation potential can generate benefits for all involved parties in such endeavors. Industry 4.0 businesses are flourishing in regions and countries with adequate competencies, available resources, transformational leadership, sound corporate culture and sustainable regional support.  Modern Industry 4.0 organisations in regions and countries are searching for new mechanisms to create favourable business conditions by providing adequate supporting services.  

It is evident that technology changes are not enough to achieve expected results, as was the case in the past. To exploit innovative technologies for the benefit of all stakeholders requires a profound understanding of how these novelties will affect personal and business lives, organisations in developed and less-developed countries, and how they will reshape organisational landscapes, societies and culture. It is vitally important to gain a holistic understanding of the risks involved and to plan appropriate solutions for the timely mitigation of the risk and associated complexity. The burning question is how organisations, big and small, can successfully cope with such complex strategic transformation and change matters. 

View more

Solar Power Africa 2022 Circling in on a localisation strategy

Less than 1 Month to go. Tickets are Limited! Secure Your Delegate Passes Today.

Continue reading View more

Unpacking IoT and 5G for smart cities

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is such a critical component of our lives and work that it’s no longer something we can leave to the tech experts. “We need to be informed about new technologies and developments so that we are part of the debate,” says Jansie Niehaus, Executive Director of the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF).

IoT refers to “a system of interrelated, internet-connected objects that are able to collect and transfer data over a wireless network without human intervention”. There are many IoT scenarios that show clear benefits. Imagine parking spots (with sensors) that pass on data about availability to an application in the cloud (internet). Drivers can access the information to quickly find a parking space. Consider sensors in a greenhouse measuring temperature, humidity, pests, water etc. The embedded devices could monitor and manage conditions. For example, the temperature lowers and the system receives this information from the sensor, and then increases the temperature to the appropriate degrees centigrade without human interaction.

In an inventory environment, items with attached sensors would allow a system to track exactly where something is and if items are running out (and need to be topped up). The sensors would alert the system if an item is taken without permission. Data is gathered and analysed, providing real-time information to make decisions or to set off an automated response (as part of the networked system). So, an internet-connected borehole pump can be monitored to check that pump parts are working and to measure water level, for example. The sensors are set up so they only become active when there is a problem and then send through data to the network, which then creates alerts about the problem. A technician can then be sent out.

The types of sensors depend on need and environment. They include sensors that measure temperature, motion, moisture, air quality, and light. The data gathered from IoT environments can reduce operating costs, improve efficiencies, streamline operations, provide usage patterns and so on.

IoT networks use radio waves – these are also used for cellular telephony, radar, navigation, wireless networks, and to broadcast tv and radio. Radio spectrum can be divided into licensed and unlicensed bands. Licensed bands can only be used by the company that licenced and paid for it. Unlicensed bands are not exclusive but are regulated.

Items need to have readily available power sources – usually batteries – to be part of the IoT network ie to send and receive information. The aim of most IoT environments is to create a low power scenario so that the power source doesn’t need constant replacement.

“You need multiple years of service before changing a battery to justify ROI [Return on Investment],”Sean Laval, Executive: Solutions and Innovations, Sqwidnet

Data amount linked to power and cost

“IoT devices need to send a few bytes of data when an event happens which means they don’t use a lot of data. Only a small percentage of IoT devices require high data per month,” says Laval. Examples of the latter include cameras and data-intensive tracking applications for fleet management. He notes that “more than three quarters of IoT devices need less than 1Mb of
data per day”. With high data rates come high energy use and cost.

IoT networks according to energy use

• At the top is 3G, 4G and 5G. These need a lot of power due to high data requirements. This is for high quality of service (QoS) such as for self-driving cars and cameras. These networks have national coverage.
• LTE-M is for slightly lower power consumption. It also offers national coverage for fairly high-powered devices and is good for fleet tracking and cameras.
• In the middle is NB-IoT which gives city coverage for battery-powered devices. A use case example is energy metering. NB-IoT is fairly expensive to deploy as its licenced spectrum. (NB-IoT falls under the 5G standard.)
• LoRaWAN is a proprietary technology. It’s for community or private networks for small messages. An example is a private network in a rural agricultural setting. These networks are not national in South Africa. It’s a good option for a network that supports years of battery life where you still want full control of the network.
• Sigfox is also a proprietary technology, designed for a really low-end IoT network which could involve billions of devices. It can create a global network of small messages. This is for the type of IoT environment which relates to monitoring and relaying really simple data: Did a door open? Did somebody walk into a room? Did the temperature go over a certain level? Did the asset move into a certain geofence (a virtual boundary of real-world area)?

5G technology standards

The first-generation wireless network (1G) was developed in the 1980s. It supplied basic voice services using analog devices. From mid 80s through to the 90s, came the next generations of wireless networks – 2G and 3G. There was improved coverage and capacity. With 2G, the world saw the first digital standards.

Standards are verified by the ITU, a body that oversees networks globally. The standards ensure infrastructure compatibility with all the technologies involved ‘talking’ to the same network core. (The International Telecommunication Union – ITU – is a specialised agency of the United Nations that is responsible for ICT matters.)

The 3G wireless networks brought voice and other data activities: multimedia communications, texts and the internet. This standard needed to account for the great increase in people becoming connected, as well as new data activities. The 3G wireless networks also brought about the flexibility of working from anywhere.

With each new generation of wireless network, speed has increased dramatically. Consider that 3G was 2000 kbps to 4G at 100,000 kbps. The 4G networks are designed primarily for sending data using internet protocols (IP). The term ‘LTE’ is the standard associated with 4G. (The full name is ‘Long Term Evolution’.) This wireless network gave us true mobile broadband and marked the time of the smart phone.

The fifth-generation wireless network (5G) is already here, with even faster speeds (1-2 Gbps). It is ready to support smart cities, industrial automation, IoT, and more. But don’t get too comfortable because 6G is being developed. This generation includes new ways of optimising networks (for more bandwidth, coverage, and to connect everywhere) and green networks (for reducing energy use and using green sources of energy).

5G standards for different use cases

5G is a group of technology standards that support different use cases (or scenarios). Examples of standards that fall under this are: Enhanced mobile broadband (allowing 4G radio systems to be used with a 5G core network) and Massive Machine Type Communications (MTC) using low power so that smart sensor networks can communicate.

Work is also being done on technologies and standards for affordable broadband to cater to rural and underserved areas. (NB-IoT is one of the 5G technologies). The 5G use case scenarios need to support industry but there also needs to be social value. This includes medical care, transportation, the energy sector, and intelligent transport sectors.

“It requires that we work together ie we need public-private partnerships. This includes regulators, industry, the CSIR and government. We can then develop the social value working together for safer cities and public services, to improve the quality of people’s lives, and to build industry’s ecosystem and thus develop SA’s economy,” says Dr Fisseha Mekuria, Chief Researcher: Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Networked Systems and applications, Next Generation Enterprises and Institutions; and Head: CSIR Smart Spectrum team.

He further notes that ethics are key in the move to a networked digital society. An example is digital inclusion rather than only rich areas acquiring more bandwidth with rural areas being left behind.

Developing innovative applications or 5G

Mekuria says it’s important to have a 5G testbed for developing innovative applications and that testbeds accelerate use case scenarios. Launched in Kenya in 2007, M-Pesa is a world-renowned mobile phone-based money transfer service and payments and micro-financing service. It’s an example of an application that started through experimentation in a testbed. (The
mobile operator had provided a testbed for developers to experiment with 3G technologies.)

The CSIR, with international collaborators, is building a 5G technology testbed. Although still under development, Mekuria says it’s being used to test some use cases, such as self-driving vehicles. The aim is to encourage innovators (such as university students) to come and develop 5G use cases, apps and services.

About LPWA networks

NB-IoT, Sigfox and LoRaWAN make up the majority of low power wide area (LPWA) networks today. Laval says that technologies that fall under LPWA address the same requirements: low cost, low power, long-range, reliability, and security. LPWA networks haven’t been available until recently. Essentially, you get national coverage similar to cellular network but at a low power consumption. It opens up a lot of applications that weren’t feasible before, such as water metering over a large geographical area.
Laval says that LPWA networks have come about because costs have come down, from core components to improved battery technology. Furthermore, there is now access to cloud infrastructure where different services are delivered over the internet.

Spectrum sharing

The CSIR would like to see spectrum sharing and Mekuria is the leader of the team that developed the Smart Spectrum Toolbox. It was a 2020 NSTF-South32 winner for Innovation by a Corporate Organisation. It’s an innovative spectrum sharing and management system with a suite of technology products known as the CSIR Geo-Location Spectrum Database (GLSD). It provides a cloud interface service, designed to provide spectrum availability information to new entrant network operators.

It detects unused radio frequency spectrum areas in the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) bands. These identified spectrum white spaces are made available for broadband internet services, thus improving affordable digital connectivity. This process helps to accelerate the deployment of wireless ICT services, as well as providing impetus for the creation of SMMEs that deploy
network infrastructure and provide affordable broadband internet. The business model involves digital SMMEs, based in rural areas. These businesses would provide broadband internet services to rural and underserved communities using the CSIR Smart Spectrum Toolbox. Mekuria sees it as part of the solution to bridging the urban and rural divide with affordable and sustainable rural connectivity.

Wireless network coverage in rural areas?

The CSIR are currently working on capacitating digital SMMEs (small, medium and micro enterprises) to provide broadband. TV spectrum is being used as a cheaper option but Mekuria says that 5G can be brought in later as the economy grows. While Sigfox has 93% coverage of the SA population, it means the coverage occurs where people live ie mainly urban areas. However, Sigfox can facilitate coverage in rural areas, says Laval. An initiative with the University of Johannesburg (UJ) involved Gwakwani village, Limpopo, where an IoT network has been deployed using solar power. This allows the UJ academics to monitor – from a distance – the borehole, safety and security at the creche, and equipment performance at the bakery.

Laval says that now UJ can pick up anomalies early enough. An example is when a pipe was blocked in the borehole, which would have caused the pump to seize. However, they caught it in time through visibility with IoT. Prof Jan Meyer, the academic lead of this project, has called it ‘Village 4.0’. The aim is to duplicate the concept in other villages around South Africa and Africa, says Laval. It can significantly enhance lives with a relatively low investment.

Laval says that Sigfox does cover some rural areas but this is based on demand and looked at on a case-by-case basis. As Sigfox is a commercial enterprise, the business case needs to work. He says that demand in rural areas is primarily driven by farming ie efficiency in agriculture and tracking livestock.

The Smart City

Mekuria believes that one of the most important 5G use cases is where we efficiently use natural and technological resources for the benefits of society to create a Smart City. Through IoT networks (as well as other networks), smart sensors can be embedded everywhere to collect data to create and optimise Smart Cities.

By optimising the use of resources (through data feedback and analysis), we can reduce costs. Furthermore, predicting demand allows for effective planning, and customising offerings enhances efficient delivery. Examples include smart power grids, traffic management, smart parking, utilities management etc.

Technology can also be used for harm, such as illegal surveillance and other privacy issues. Mekuria says that 5G is now being commercially rolled out in SA and globally. While it’s a global standard, technical regulations, business models, policy, and ethics of use are still in their infancy. He sees 5G and IoT and the associated technologies and skillsets as part of realising the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) vision.

View more

4IR and its positive impact on waste sector

Covid-19 has spearheaded the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) during 2020. This transformation has become essential to not only help businesses be at the forefront of global trends but is being used to help them expand and retain clients within all sectors and at the end of the day to support with economic transformation.

“This is evident as South Africa’s newly formed Presidential Commission on the 4IR hopes to increase the influence of digital on the economy by working on infrastructure and resources, research, technology and innovation, capital and industrialisation to name a few,” says Ablé van der Merwe, National Logistics Manager at waste management company Averda.

“We realised that there is no better time to implement change and prioritise digital transformation to ensure growth and safety within the waste sector and that we keep moving forward,” he says.

Being the first in the industry, Averda South Africa has been rolling out their new Delivery Management System (DMS), which entails equipping each of their vehicles with onboard mobile technology, and each crew member with their own digital log-in. This means that Averda knows the exact location and the real-time progress in service of all vehicles and of all staff on the ground.

This kind of digitisation within the waste management industry has been around for two years with Averda having deployed ‘TruTrak’ which specialised in medical waste services.

Averda’s healthcare clients have benefited from end-to-end visibility in the collection, transportation, and disposal of potentially infectious medical waste with every container of medical waste traceable from collection through to final safe disposal.

“From our years of experience, we are aware that not only medical waste can be hazardous, and now want to give all our clients the same level of assurance that their waste is being transported and handled correctly. The adoption of these digital technologies and systems will change the way we serve and interact with our clients,” says Van der Merwe.

“Making sure clients have peace of mind is essential within our industry knowing that their waste could be a negative contributor to the environment if not handled correctly from start to finish. This is vital in making sure we help to curb climate change and keep our communities safe. So, this new system will be able to log each collection, check against the collection schedule and will raise any issue, for example with blocked access to roads or entries can be identified immediately.”

These newly digitised landscapes will bring the general waste management sector closer to the required level of oversight and vigilance.

These systems improve staff safety and business accountability by providing faster and more accurate reporting. South Africa is well known for illegal dumping and smaller cheaper but unreliable waste collectors taking shortcuts, with many not knowing if their waste has been handled and disposed of correctly. It’s important for all waste generators to keep and monitor these reports so that they stay within government regulations.

Also, many businesses and manufacturers are still unaware of the kind of waste they may be producing and the harm this could be causing to the communities and environment.

Through constant and accurate reporting waste management companies and government are able to implement the best waste management practices for all.

Dynamic oversight and control of these real-time systems will be managed from two ‘mission control’ rooms, one for Western Cape based in Cape Town and the other for Gauteng, KZN, and inland regions, based in Johannesburg. In addition to providing real-time oversight and support to Averda crews, the data collected by these technologies will allow for smarter, more efficient routes to be developed.

They will also permit intelligent route optimisation which has the potential of minimising our fuel consumption and maximising our efficiencies.

In other countries where Averda has deployed these technologies, we have found they led to an average 15% reduction in fuel use and means less time on the road.

“Waste is not just the responsibility of the waste management sector but of waste generators and making sure they implement a responsible end-to-end waste management regime and partnerships with waste management companies that have everyone’s best interest at heart,” concludes van der Merwe.

View more

SANEDI encourages road-cooling technology this Transport Month

Cool road surfacing can combat rising temperatures due to “urban heat islands” and spur the economy.

Continue reading View more