It’s January 31 – if you are ready to give up that weight loss New Year’s resolution, here are 5 gadgets to help including the Withings wi-fi scale. Check out the Time gallery for Striiv, Fitbit and others.
I am excerpting on this blog roughly 10% of my next book, The New Technology Elite due out in February (and available for pre-order on Amazon – see badge on left) . Chapters 18 through 20 focus on how society, regulators and analysts need to also evolve in a world of the “technology elite”. Note: the text is going through the publisher’s edits and subject to change.
During the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, U.S. Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu blogged, “My job has been to oversee the federal science team—a group of top scientists from the Department of Energy’s national labs, the federal government, and academia, along with outside industry experts. . . .”1
Around the same time, as the U.S. Department of Transportation was investigating multiple occurrences of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles, it announced it had brought in NASA engineers to help. The NASA charter was to determine “if there are design and implementation vulnerabilities in the Toyota Electronic Throttle Control System Intelligent (ETCS-i) that could cause UAs (unintended accelerations) and whether those vulnerabilities, if substantiated, could realistically occur in consumers’ use of these vehicles.”
Rocket scientists helping on auto investigations, nuclear physicists helping on ocean-based investigations, and a multitude of other specialists helping with rocket science. We saw glimpses of government efficiency and innovation in earlier chapters with the examples of the country of Estonia, the Hillsborough County Tax Collectors Office, and Roosevelt Island. Overall, though, it is becoming clear that technology is stretching the capabilities of regulators. The range of technical skills we need in our regulators becomes very apparent when you look at the 3M Periodic Table we present in the case study with its 46 “technology platforms” from Biotechnology to Optical Communications,
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has acknowledged that he would like to see his agency more involved in damage control from any future nuclear disaster. These were comments prompted by criticism of the IAEA’s role in the Fukushima accident after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in early 2011. “The IAEA itself will acknowledge privately that it did not cover itself in glory,” says James Acton, who studies nuclear policy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC.8
The Air France 447 crash off the Brazilian coast in 2009 raised a number of regulatory issues. The icing of Thales AA pitot tubes, which help calculate airspeed, had been shown to be a regular problem and yet “Regulators simply asked Airbus to watch the problem and report back in a year.” In our days of streaming TV and music, why do planes still store critical data on old technology called black boxes? In the case of the Air France flight, it took over two years to recover the black box from the bottom of the ocean. As a New York Times article suggested, we should be aiming for at least partial data streaming directly from the plane during events like failure of the autopilot.9
In July 2011, a report by the UK Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) of the UK House of Commons said, “The Government’s over-reliance on large contractors for its IT needs combined with a lack of in-house skills is a ‘recipe for rip-offs.’ The committee found that as a result IT procurement too often resulted in late, over-budget IT systems that are not fit for purpose.”10
Robert Hoffman has more than two decades of policymaking experience in Washington, including 11 years as a legislative aide and director in the U.S. Senate. He also has more than a decade of experience as a public policy manager and advocate for Oracle Corporation and Cognizant Technology Solutions.
He summarizes trends in technology oversight in Washington:
The U.S. federal government has long struggled with regulating information technology. U.S. state governments and the European Union have become comfortable playing the role of IT consumer advocate, and strictly defining the responsibilities and requirements of IT developers, vendors, and users on how sensitive personal information is stored. For nearly two decades, Washington has hesitated diving so confidently into the IT regulatory pool.
Even when the horror of 9/11 brought even more compelling arguments for tighter government regulation of crypto-products and IT systems, Washington again hesitated. It wasn’t just the threat of a mass exodus of high-technology and high-paying jobs that prompted Washington to hesitate. Legislators and regulators did not have a firm grasp of the technology landscape itself. Sending emails or surfing websites constituted the extent of a legislator’s or regulator’s exposure to technology. Indeed, the most tech-savvy people on Capitol Hill in the 1990s were overwhelmingly the young twentysomethings that wired-up the fledgling client-server operations and programmed the first mobile phones in each congressional office. If there were dominant regulatory arenas that the IT industry had to confront in Washington over the past two decades, they were antitrust and export controls. After all, policymakers may not fully understand technology itself, but they could easily conclude that too much of something in the hands of one or a few, whether that something was soft drinks or software, can’t be good for the U.S. economy. Similarly, they understood state-of-the-art technology may be good for financial institutions, but not foreign terrorists.
Hoffman continues with a focus on today:
So, fast-forward to 2011, and let’s review the key policy and regulatory issues that are on the IT policy agenda: cyber-security, data privacy, data breach reporting requirements, standards for critical infrastructure protection, and Internet neutrality. Today, there is no one federal department or agency that has singular regulatory authority over IT, and those that could assert such authority won’t do so without clear congressional authorization…I don’t see that lasting for much longer. For the next two to three years, regulators and policymakers are likely to achieve more regulatory authority and policy certainty over the IT industry than ever before. True, given the past track record, that won’t be hard, but several fundamental factors are working to create an environment where legislators and regulators will look at IT policy with greater creativity and confidence.
The keyboard, which is to be used in hospitals, automatically cleans itself by employing the germ-killing properties of ultraviolet light (UV-C). It is able to target microbes (a.k.a. germs) due to their ability to be broken down with just the right amount of ultraviolet light.
Tired of feeding more rodents than birds, my wife got new technology from Wild Birds Unlimited. The transparent hoods stop those that jump from trees above, the raccoon baffle keeps those that climb from below (it’s hollow inside). The feeders themselves have weight mechanisms to close the feeding portholes if the rodent does get near, they keep seed dry and have easy cleaning features.
The menu – we get flocks of birds several times a day – includes sunflower seed, peanuts, pecans and suet. The view of the canal is nice. Less than 5 feet away are bird baths with clean drinking water.
There is usually plenty of seed on the lawn and in other feeders which the squirrels can still access.
Spread the word – Margaret’s gourmet kitchen is open!
Visited our local Circle K and the clerk was proudly talking about the new Servend soda fountain in the photo. It has filtered water, more flavors in the same space, and produces '”Slushy” quality crushed ice.
I have written before about the Coke FreeStyle vending machine and food service vendors like Servend are helping convenience stores keep up with features like “chewable” ice (see this WSJ article on why that matters especially in Southern US states), ease of cleaning, flavor shots and other features.
This is my town’s annual day of debauchery. For decades we have had a pirate invasion from sea, then they parade our corniche in floats and shower beads and other gifts. A good time is had by all – many of them tourists to our fair city.
Last year, I helped my son’s sailing team run a charitable beer stand and I got to see the parade from a whole new set of eyes. Plenty of technology – refrigeration for the drinks (the charity netted $ 16,000 from a days worth of beer cans. Do the math how many gallons we sold, and we were one of 10-12 such stands), technology in the massive security, technology in the fancy floats, even LED in the beads.
Hey, forget the tech. Let’s join Johnny Depp and go
We're devils and black sheep, really bad eggs, Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho.
By far the most lucrative prize on Kaggle is a $3 million reward offered by Heritage Provider Network to the person who can most accurately forecast which patients will be admitted to a hospital within the next year by looking at their past insurance claims data. More than 1,000 people have downloaded the anonymized data that covers four years of hospital visits, and they have until April 2013 to post answers.
My friend Tom Raftery, the “Greenmonk” who blogs on Sustainability, happened to mention his wife, Pilar Carnicero Marquez has been using her iPad in the classes she teaches in Spain. I invited her to describe her experience and I was impressed with the school’s innovative roots and how Pilar continues that tradition. Here is her guest column:
“My school is called "Colegio Aljarafe" It is in Mairena del Aljarafe, a town 7-8 km from Seville. The school was founded in 1971, just a few years before the death of Franco and the transition to democracy in Spain. It was founded by a group of teachers and parents that wanted a school different to the schools of the time: a non-denominational school, open to all races and cultures, a school to educate the students to participate, act freely, be close to nature and cooperate in their daily work.
There are around 1200 students in the school from 3 to 17 years old.
I teach different courses: Science to 12 and 14 years old (1º and 3º ESO) and Biology to 16 years old (1º Bachillerato). I use the iPad in many ways:
I project presentations on different topics using Keynote. You can find some of them in my blog,
I show them videos from Youtube on different science topics
I record my students´daily progress using the application Numbers. The use of the iPad has made much easier for me to record the students´work, specially with the younger kids who need daily supervision. Before I had the iPad I recorded their work in two different ways: the results of examinations and project work corrected by me at home in the laptop, and the marks for the daily homework in paper. Every term I had to pass all the information recorded in paper to the computer in order to calculate their final grades. It was impossible for me to walk around the classroom carrying my laptop (even the light Macbook Air) and entering marks for each student. With the iPad this has changed, it is light, much easier to carry around and it´s easy to work on the screen.
I have also used the iPad with them outside of the classroom, to show them different constellations and the position of planets during astronomy class using pUniverse. All the classrooms in our school are open to outdoors, there is no indoor corridor, so that they can see the trees and the sky from any place in the school. So, just stepping out of the classroom in autumn and winter mornings (we start at 8:15 am), I have been able to show them how to use the traditional planisphere (the analog star charting device) combined with applications like pUniverse or Star Walk in the iPad and the compass from my iPhone.
We have also used it to record videos and take pictures in the school events, like the soccer league before Christmas. I also plan to use it to record video films made by my students in a collaboration and exchange project that we have with an Austrian school.
The kids love it. They all find it interesting, some of them downloaded at home applications that they have used with me in class like pUniverse. Occasionally, I let them use it in class, to find information or to look for science news, etc, and even the most troublesome kids focus when the iPad in his/her hand. I am only sorry that there is not an iPad for every child in the classroom! There would be no need to carry heavy books and copybooks any more!.”
I am excerpting on this blog roughly 10% of my next book, The New Technology Elite due out in February (and available for pre-order on Amazon – see badge on left) . Chapters 6 through 17 cover 12 attributes of what I call the elite. Each also has a case study. Here is the excerpts from the Google case study, for Chapter 17 which focused on being Sustainable. Note: the text is going through the publisher’s edits and subject to change.
“Jim Miller has an impressive resume. His career includes stints at:
Intel, at the birth of the Pentium; Amazon.com, in the early stages of e-commerce; Cisco, when broadband exploded; First Solar, as part of the green/solar resurgence; and now Google, where as Vice President for Worldwide Operations he is in the engine room for the emergence of cloud computing.22
Most of his employers prior to Google had hardware/logistics elements. So as he was being recruited by Google, he wondered how different it would be to work for a software company for a change. Even after months of due diligence on both sides, “My job offer letter had so few details about the operations I would be running, that I had to take a leap of faith in joining Google,” says Miller. That is no surprise, since Google is extremely secretive about its global operations.
Of course, this “software” company has lots of physical assets in its data centers, self-driving cars, and leased satellites that Miller is admirably qualified to optimize. And they are at a scale that challenges even a rocket scientist like Miller. “
“So, Google buys electricity directly from a renewable project developer in the form of a power purchase agreement, or PPA. Their first PPA was with NextEra Energy Resources. Google agreed to buy 114 MW of wind power for 20 years from a project in Ames, Iowa, directed to a data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. In Oklahoma, they added just over 100 MW of wind power for the data center in Mayes County. Since then, Google has announced another commitment of $38.8 million with NextEra in North Dakota.
This is where the energy reselling is involved. Google sells the power acquired under the PPAs back to the grid at the local, wholesale price. Today, because generic “grid” power is cheaper than renewable power, this may result in a slight net loss for Google, but longer-term, Google is betting the economics will reverse. In the process of selling, Google strips the renewable energy credits (RECs) to apply in the next step.”
“Google has been investing in various start-ups to gain access to other forms of renewable energy. BrightSource and eSolar focus on concentrated solar energy and use swiveling mirrors to reflect sunlight to heat towers of water. The resulting steam is used to generate electricity.
The investments in AltaRock Energy and Potter Drilling were to get access to enhanced geothermal energy. The principle is to drill deep enough to get to the hot core of the earth, then pump water into it and use the resulting steam to create energy. Think of them as manmade geysers.
Google also invested in a company called Makani Power which is leveraging high-altitude wind. One of their concepts is to fly kites with propellers. As the propellers spin they act like turbines, and the power is circled down a cable back to the ground.”
“In 2010, Google took over a former paper mill in Hamina, Finland, and retrofitted it into a data center. It continues to use a seawater tunnel that was built for the paper mill in the 1950s. The seawater passes through four different straining systems. This reduces corrosion from the salt and other minerals in the seawater before it reaches the heat exchanger and is used to cool the data center. On the way out, water then moves to a tempering building, where it mixes with a separate source of the seawater, so it is cooled before returning to the Gulf of Finland. The goal is to “return to a temperature that is much more similar to the inlet temperature, so as to minimize environmental impact in this area.”27
Google’s experience at Hamina and with every new data center it opens around the world adds to a sizable bag of tricks from a decade of running data centers. It increasingly shares with the world some of the best practices it has accumulated. “
“Google has also built the largest corporate installation of solar panels at headquarters campus in Mountain View, CA. Over 9,000 solar panels means that the “installed capacity of this solar grid is 1.6MW. . . . In one day the system generated 9,468 kilowatt-hours of electricity. This is enough electricity to power 83,000 hours of flat-screen TV viewing each day.”30 Google was an early adopter of Bloom Energy’s boxes on its campus, “Over the first 18 months the project has had 98 percent availability and delivered 3.8 million kWh of electricity.”31
Thanks to John Hagel, I saw this gorgeous Flavorwire gallery of college libraries, from the historic like The Long Room at Trinity College in Dublin Ireland, to a modern one at Free University in Berlin, Germany. Well worth a peruse. Frankly, well worth visits.
PS - even more interesting are the passionate reader comments