Saturday, May 10, 2014
Solar panels have become cheaper and more efficient in recent years, but you can't say the same for the big, costly inverters turning their energy into usable electricity. Google isn't happy with this lack of progress, so it's about to launch the Little Box Challenge, an open competition to build a tiny (and consequently cheaper) solar power inverter. The search giant is promising $1 million to whoever cracks the problem, although it warns that this won't be easy; don't expect to reach a breakthrough in your basement. If someone does produce this miniscule power box, though, it could lead to eco-friendly energy in places where it's currently unaffordable or otherwise impractical -- whether it's a remote village or your own rooftop.
Posted by Augustine at 3:18 PM
Friday, May 09, 2014
A research team in China just successfully tested a blisteringly fast transportation concept: super-maglev, a high speed train that could theoretically hit speeds of up to 1,800 miles per hour. That's three times the speed of a passenger jet.
Posted by Augustine at 5:04 PM
Cablevision revealed on its earnings call Thursday that it has been rolling out new smart wireless gateways, which create the equivalent of two wireless networks at the end of every cable modem, LightReading reported. The first is the customer’s private home network. The second is a public network, which any Cablevision broadband customer can connect to.
It’s the crowdsourced Wi-Fi model that Comcast has been pursuing aggressively since last year to grow its Wi-Fi hotspot network into neighborhoods, and it appears Cablevision has similar ambitions. According to LightReading, Cablevision plans to have 1 million hotspot nodes in the New York City tri-state area by the end of the year.
Cablevision has always been hot on Wi-Fi. It was the first to start installing outdoor public hotspots in a commercial corridors and high-trafficked public areas throughout its cable territory. But the addition of these new neighborhoods will give its customers access in areas beyond those so-called “hot zones.”
Though you can’t use Wi-Fi to build a cellular-network replacement, the cable operators have been toying with the concept of Wi-Fi First. In such a model networks using unlicensed airwaves could provide an underlying layer of cheap data access, complementing and in some case supplanting 3G and 4G networks. The more Wi-Fi is available in more places, the less we’re dependent on cellular data and ultimately that will make the costs of mobile networking go down.
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Posted by Augustine at 5:00 PM
Philips has taken the concept of lighting far beyond the traditional options as it has embraced LEDs. From connected hue bulbs for the consumer to giant sheets of lighting for architects, the company is taking the flexibility and programability offered by LEDs and changing how lighting is used. Much like the internet took the concept of phone calls and augmented that experience until it was so much more, Philips is doing the same with LEDs.
The latest example comes from the Green Sense Farms near Chicago. This indoor farm has outfitted a one-million-cubic-foot growing space with fourteen 25-foot-tall growing towers in two climate-controlled rooms for growing crops. Green Sense has been working with Philips to develop specific lighting recipes for different crops to help increase yields. The Philips LEDs emit the most appropriate wavelength of light for each plant so they can be grown indoors in racks without ever having to go outside. Because LEDs don’t get hot, they can sit close to the plants, and because they can be programmed to produce many variations of wavelengths (some we can’t see but plants can use), one can program the lights for the needs of a particular crop.
This is literally factory farming. Green Sense Farms grows the crops using machines to plant the seeds and then shunts them into racks in containers six stacks high. There’s no sunlight. The seeds germinate and seedlings are moved from the germination pod to the propagation pod. It is organic, uses the LEDs and can be produced inside urban areas, but it’s kinda creepy. This is how we will farm on spaceships as we leave our depleted earth and travel to other worlds.
Jokes about grow lamps and hydroponics aside, the problem Philips and Green Sense are hoping to help solve is of growing interest in Silicon Valley as companies try to apply technology to feeding the world’s growing population. From big purchases like Monsanto’s buy of Climate Corp. to startups using robotics, data algorithms or even manufactured nutrients, investors and entrepreneurs are looking at the future of food and seeing a chance to innovate.
Philips is no exception. What is cool about the company’s approach here is that it’s developing partnerships across an array of industries to try to take advantage of the opportunities that LED lighting offers to change design, provide ambient information and now, change our food production. It’s a lot of fun to watch.
Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:
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Posted by Augustine at 4:59 PM
Taxi companies aren't pleased with Uber and Lyft, but they could be making way better use of ride-sharing technology themselves, according to researchers. A study by MIT and Fujitsu examined why cabs are usually underutilized, but never available during surge periods when you need them. To combat that, they developed on-demand tech that automatically assigns vehicles three possible operating states: taxi, ride-sharing and fixed-route modes. Customers could choose one of those when they order a ride, and immediately receive the boarding times and fares, which would vary by mode. That could save passengers a lot of money, and a test on Tokyo roads resulted in operators making 80 percent more profits too. Fujitsu's goal is to see it operating in Tokyo by 2016, but it might take some convincing to get it adopted more widely. Still, why not beat the upstarts at their own game?
Posted by Augustine at 4:51 PM
At some point, you've probably sat back and said "Couldn't we solve climate change and the broader energy crisis just by sticking solar panels to everything?" It's not a bad idea, mind, but the cost and resistance to such a scheme would make it a nightmare to implement. But what about if we turned the nation's highways into solar farms that we could drive along? Scott and Julie Brusaw have been working on that idea, and after a decade of partially-successful flirting with the US Government, they're taking to Indiegogo to ask us to fund the next phase of their solar roadway.
Each interlocking hexagonal segment is covered with toughened and textured glass that's capable of withstanding 250,000 pounds. Beneath that, you've got a solar panel, a series of LED lights and a heating element that'll keep the ice and snow off the hardware in winter. The lights are used to replace conventional traffic lights, offering constantly updating safety warnings and guide lines that can adapt to traffic conditions on the fly.
The system would require a trench running down one side, which would hold the power cables, but could also be used as the backbone for a potential new high-speed data network. As each panel would also be connected, it'd instantly report a fault back to a maintenance engineer, and also track its location, should someone decide to steal one for their own nefarious uses.
Naturally, a nationwide, decentralized power grid could potentially guarantee energy independence and provide near-limitless power for our EVs and homes. That's why the couple is asking for a whopping $1 million required to hire the materials scientists, civil and structural engineers necessary to turn the panels from neat idea to workable project. There are plenty of pitfalls, and we're wondering if heating the ground to keep the roadway clear wouldn't in itself cause more climate change, but hopefully that's another issue that your cash could fix.
Via: Fast Company
Posted by Augustine at 4:50 PM
Sometimes breaking news happens right before your eyes while you're out and about. If you happen to be wearing Google Glass when those events take place, CNN now has a way for you to share photos and videos of the action directly from the headset. The news outfit announced the addition to its iReport citizen journalism effort earlier this week, and it's claiming to be "the first major news network" to allow contributing via the wearable. If you're interested in joining up, you'll have to authorize CNN to send notifications to Glass and link up an iReport profile in the settings. When you've completed those steps, the appropriate avenue for beaming captured media to the newsroom will appear as a sharing option for photos and videos. Folks have already opted in, as the first mobile coverage (relating to gas prices in Miami) can be seen here.
Posted by Augustine at 4:48 PM
Thursday, May 08, 2014
This is a grain of interstellar dust. To get one of these, your best bet is to get into a spaceship for a couple hundred years and get close enough to a red giant star, near its atmosphere. That's where they're formed and ejected into space. Or, like NASA, you can create a machine to make one from scratch—for the first time ever.
Posted by Augustine at 7:03 AM
The Pale Blue Dot—a book that should be mandatory for every single student in the world—is a vision of the cosmos that will inspire you to be a better human being. It's full of memorable passages but this is the best—the one that gives its title to the book.
Posted by Augustine at 7:02 AM
Everyone with a cool new idea or vision wants a concise and beautiful video to illustrate their story and broadcast it to the world. But oh, right—you suck at all things visual and just learned how to make something move in After Effects. Adobe's new iPad app, Voice, is there to hold your hand in the making of presentation videos.
Posted by Augustine at 7:00 AM
Animals do it
Posted by Augustine at 6:59 AM
Many green energy sources only generate power in a narrow range of conditions. Solar panels won't work when it's dark, for instance, and wind turbines are useless when everything is still. If Solar Wind Energy Tower has its way, though, we'll soon get clean electricity around the clock. It recently received permission to build a tower in San Luis, Arizona that produces power through hot air downdrafts; water injected at the top of the tower cools the desert winds, dragging them toward turbines at the bottom. Since it's almost always hot in the area, the plant should run all day and night for much of the year. An ideal summer day could have it churning out a healthy 1,250 megawatts per hour.
The downdraft tower should be ready for action in 2018, and Solar Wind Energy Tower hopes to license the technology to others. As you might imagine, the need for a hot climate is going to narrow the customer list -- you won't see this system in more temperate regions. However, it could be a boon to both the southern US as well as Africa, the Middle East and other places where heat is far more abundant than eco-friendly energy.
Posted by Augustine at 6:59 AM
Whether you're doing a book report or trying to show someone how to boil an egg: video can make it a heck of a lot easier for you to get your point across. Adobe's new iPad app, Voice, hopes to make the often time-consuming experience of creating your own such videos a lot faster and easier. The app guides you through making a sharable vid, from the conception of your idea to the finished product. We've had a chance to try it out for the past week. We found that the app makes it easy to create some pretty professional looking stuff without having any special skills or a lot of time, but there's just one thing missing.
To kick things off with Voice, you'll need to pick a topic and a story type. Once you do, the app will launch a project for your video -- complete with instructional cards that give you an idea of how to tell your tale. The app is broken into several types of stories, which you may not realize are formulaic, but they are. For instance, a "Hero's Journey" will start with a Setup Card, followed by a Call to Adventure, Challenge, Climax and finally, a Resolution. Each card provides a bit of detail on what you should be saying (and showing) on each card. It seems a bit elementary at first, but it's surprising how that little bit of direction can help you stay on track and create a video someone is actually going to be able to follow and want to watch.
Simple is the name of the game with Voice. The app's instructions are really easy to follow, as is adding desired elements to your story. Tapping on a card opens it up for editing. For each part of your story you can add a still photo, text or an icon from the app's built-in library. Voice doesn't support video elements (yet), which keeps things simple, but is a huge downer for someone who wants to include, you know, some actual moving pictures in their project. That said, the built-in photos and the icons are really great looking -- we considered them an asset rather than something we had to settle for. All of the (over 100,000!) images you can access from within the app are available under a Creative Commons license, so you're free to add them as you please. Even better, Adobe keeps track of everything you use, and includes proper attribution in the credits at the end of your video.
Rather than recording audio for the full video at once, Voice does it one card at at a time. Once you're done, Adobe enhances your voiceover to make it sound like it was recorded in a studio rather than on your iPad. It also adds a soundtrack to your monologue from its library. Track options are organized by the type of emotion they're intended to evoke -- i.e. playful, relaxed -- and are mixed in like the score to a good movie, so you barely notice them. Each video also gets the benefit of one of 32 different themes. Built by graphic artists, the themes take a page from Adobe's professional motion graphics program After Effects, and handle things like timing and transitions for your vid. The end result is a polished, professional-looking job (seriously) suitable for your business, or just making all the others kids in class look like rank amateurs.
Posted by Augustine at 6:58 AM
KDDI has just launched the first QuadHD (QHD) phone solely for the Japanese market, the Isai FL model built by LG. That gives us a preview of LG's G3's 5.5-inch 2,560 x 1,440 display and its record 538ppi resolution. As it happens, LG just announced that the panel has now been certified, and re-confirmed that it'll be installed in it's "forthcoming flagship smartphone," ie the G3. KDDI's model may may give us an idea of what LG's eagerly-awaited G2 successor will be like spec-wise, too. The Isai FL has the narrow bezels we saw in leaked images of the G3, but sports a different design lacking the LG's rear buttons and rumored metal back. It also has some of LG's Knock functions and will come in three colors with a 13-megapixel camera, 3,000mAh battery, 2GB of RAM and a quad-core Snapdragon 2.5GHz CPU. That lines up with some of the G3's rumored specs, but we won't have to wait long to know them -- it's set to arrive on May 27th.
Via: Engadget Japan
Posted by Augustine at 6:57 AM
Curious to watch all of the grisly deaths in Breaking Bad, but in a higher resolution? You've only got a month or so to wait, as Netflix has confirmed that it'll begin streaming the show in 4K and Dolby 5.1 at some point in June. The company also affirmed its commitment to screening all of its original shows in 4K, and is also currently experimenting with DVD-style extras. At present, tests are being carried out on Behind the Bars, a series of branching interviews with the cast of Orange is the New Black which will could in and out of the episodes when required. That said, the feature may not be ready for our second trip to federal prison, which begins on June 6th.
Posted by Augustine at 6:57 AM
Air France's new "La Premiere" luxury suite is the latest contender in the ongoing battle for luxury supremacy in the skies.
The new luxury suites will be available for the first time this September onboard Air France's Boeing 777-300 fleet. Though it may not be as palatial as some first-class suites found on Airbus super jumbos,"La Premiere" still represents Air France's boldest move yet to impart French luxury in international travel.
"Our new La Premiere suite, from among all our new products and services, is the one that best represents our commitment to service excellence and a French travel experience," said Air France chairman and CEO Frederic Gagey. The 32-square-foot La Premiere luxury suites will be located in an exclusive cabin, with access restricted to suite passengers. Air France will install a total of 76 suites on 19 Boeing 777s used primarily for intercontinental or transoceanic routes.
Each suite will feature tweed-patterned fabrics and leather headrests emblazoned with the airline's winged seahorse logo. Suite passengers will have access to a full complement of entertainment options in 12 languages accessed through a 24-inch HD touchscreen display. The fully adjustable seats will also have massage functions. Dining options come courtesy of Michelin-starred chefs, including Joel Robuchon, Regis Marcon, Guy Martin, and Michel Roth. Passengers will also have their c! hoice fr om a wine list that is updated every two months. All meals will be served over Bernardaud-designed porcelain china, beveled glasses, and Christofle flatware. At night, the adjustable seat will reconfigure into a 6.5-foot-long lay-flat bed. To mimic the relaxing feel of a Parisian hotel room, pillows and bedding for La Premiere passengers will be courtesy of Sofitel.For increased privacy, all suites feature fully retractable dividers and thick curtains.
Posted by Augustine at 6:55 AM
Cornell has unveiled its vision for the massive tech campus it plans to build on New York City's Roosevelt Island.
When the campus opens in 2017, it will provide a permanent home for an entirely new school called Cornell Tech that city officials hope will position New York as a major tech center. Cornell beat out top-notch schools like Columbia, Carnegie Mellon, and Stanford to create the new graduate school, which will be focused on classes in computer science.A recent $133 million gift from Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs and his wife, Joan, created The Jacobs Institute, which will offer dual-degrees in the applied information-based sciences.
Eight degrees will eventually be offered, three of which will be dual master's degrees from Cornell and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. The three degrees will cover "connective media," "healthier life," and "built environment."
The idea is that classes will position students to use technology to solve problems faced by various industries in New York City and the world.
"Cornell Tech will bring a sharp increase in science and engineering teaching, attract students from around the world, and spin off new local companies and thousands of new jobs, and inject billions of dollars into our economy," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a press release announcing the funding.
Roosevelt Island, a narrow strip of land between Manhattan and Queens, i! s an int eresting choice for a tech hub. It's fairly isolated and difficult to access, and cars are only allowed on certain parts of the island. In addition to campus buildings, the project calls for the construction of new roads and 2.5 acres of open space. The buildings themselves will be pretty high-tech, too. The architects hope to achieve net-zero energy in the academic building by installing solar panels on its roof. They also plan to install a system of 400 geothermal wells that will heat and cool the campus.
"Our hope is that this campus will become a place where people who are interested in using tech to make a difference in the world will find this to be a place that's a magnet for them," Cornell Tech Dean and Vice Provost Daniel Huttenlocher said in a video announcing the project.
When completed, the two-million-square-foot complex will house approximately 2,000 full-time graduate students. The campus won't be completed until 2017, but until then, a group of 18 engineering students enrolled in the new program are working out of temporary classrooms in Google's Chelsea offices. In January, the school enrolled eight students in a beta class for a master's degree in computer science.
Posted by Augustine at 6:51 AM
Wednesday, May 07, 2014
One of the primary advantages to Ripple and Bitcoin are speed. Where it takes up to five days for me to move U.S. dollars into my Scottrade account via ACH, I can move bitcoin into my Cryptsy account and start trading currencies in 45 minutes. Why? Because the ACH system is centralized and hog-tied by Federal regulations.
"NACHA CEO Jan Estep says ACH is inherently limited by Federal Reserve rules requiring interbank transfers to stop each day at 6pm ET," CNN reports.
Ripple's the technology that can change all of that because it doesn't require a centralized gatekeeper-like system. Every Ripple transaction is verified on a public ledger, and that process takes seconds. Its lifting a weight off the shoulders of the online payment processing industry.
NACHA sees Ripple as a serious threat. If it didn't, the organization wouldn't be jumping all over itself to find ways to allow same-day payments. On March 18, NACHA announced its plan to "phase in" same day settlements via the following schedule:
Phase 1: Same-day settlements via ACH credits for payroll, person-to-person payments and "expedited billpay."
Phase 2! : Same-day ACH debits for use on utility payments, mortgage payments, and loan and credit card payments.
Phase 3: Stacked same-day settlements (i.e. a second same-day settlement using the same money).
NACHA's launching a study into the costs of making these changes. The results should be completed by the end of 2014. If NACHA could have something implemented by then, it might have a chance of stopping upstarts like Ripple, but I think they're moving too slow. David's on the verge of taking down Goliath.
Posted by Augustine at 1:44 PM
There's a ton of new investment going into changing the way we do payments.
We need it.
Most of our transactions rely on eons-old technology. Even newer innovations are starting to show their age, whether in the form of millions of people getting their credit card numbers stolen, or in the fight over how much a credit card company can charge a retailer to sign up for its network.
It ends up costing the economy billions in lost productivity.
At the forefront of the movement to upend payments is Bitcoin, which has subtly begun morphing from an alternative currency aimed at taking down the dollar into a technology capable of addressing lots of payment problems in one go.
But there are lots of other guys and gals in the space. Below is a list of 10 things about payments they've already begun targeting, or, we would kindly suggest, they redouble their efforts on.
1) Signatures on receipts
No. 1 with a bullet. There is no justifiable reason for either buyer or seller to have to deal with this. The ostensible purpose is to indemnify a retailer in case of fraud. But someone has got to come up with a way to enable verification that doesn't involve scribbling on a small piece of paper.
Progress: Beginning late next year credit card companies will introduce technology that will someday allow us to enter a PIN instead.
2) Paper receipts in general
A f ew places these days ask if you want your receipt emailed, but this is a rarity. There has to be a more efficient, automated way to keep track of all your transactions without stuffing small scraps of paper in your pocket.
Progress: Jack Dorsey wants to turn receipts into a "full-blown application."
3) $10 minimum credit card usage
You're working late. You're out of cash. All you need is a Coke. You run downstairs to your bodega. You go to pay for the can with your credit card and the guy hits you with a minimum. Project doomed; resentment solidified.
The reason for these minimums is swipe fees, which make the cost of processing small transactions exorbitant for your average retailer and one of the things Bitcoin would help alleviate.
Progress: Wal-Mart is now suing Visa for $5 billion over swipe fees.
4) Cashing checks
Yes, banking apps can now scan checks. But not all do. It would be better if we could simply get rid of checks in general, which are essentially a centuries-old technology.
Progress: YapStone is slowly but surely working its way through Manhattan to offer check-free rent payments.
5) Checks in general
Studies have shown checks impose enormous burdens on retailers. One study has put the all-in cost of a typical grocery store check payment at $1.21 versus $0.78 for a debit card.
Progress: Venmo has obviated the need for you to write large checks to your friends for money they owe you.
6) Hackable retailers storing your credit card info
It cost the CEO of Target his job, but we should really be blaming the plastic game in general.
Progress: Blockchain cryptography could help alleviate this problem through the use of two-key encryption. As Ripple manager Alec Liu explained to us in an email, "If you are making a payment, you would personally access your private key, but the merchant never does—so it takes the merchant out of the equation as a potential vulnerability."
7) The card part of credit cards
The physical aspect, at least. You shouldn't have to face a temporary financial crisis if you leave your credit card on the Champ De Mars.
Progress: Mobile wallets, although no one has quite cracked the code to get them to expand en masse.
8) Having to re-enter your credit card every time you go to a new shopping site
I used to play a game as a kid where I would try to remember the longest string of numbers possible. I think I got up to about 80 — impressive maybe, but I know I am dwarfed by the capabilities of others.
Now I can't even get to 16.
Progress: Chrome, the world's most popular browser, does have an autofill feature, but it doesn't work on all websites. It's not clear whether FireFox, the world's second most popular browser, has a similar feature.
9) Keep tracking of business ! expenses
One final example of the paper mess. Some offices still make you physically staple your receipts to a sheet of paper to turn in. This is like the AOL of filing.
Ninety-eight percent of all electronic payment transactions in the U.S. currently go through a 40-year-old network that began life in the Air Force. It's called ACH. It processes an average of 60 million individual transactions a day. It takes 24 hours, at best, for the transaction to clear both parties' banks. Even the Fed has called out ACH for being a dinosaur. The goal is "real-time" payments that happen soon after you push go on the transaction.
Progress: Ripple, which uses a technology called "consensus" to process transactions instantly.
BOTTOM LINE: There are tons of problems in how we pay for stuff, and there are fortunes to be made by fixing them.
Posted by Augustine at 1:42 PM
DRM and the laws that back it up actively undermine our computer security. On this Day Against DRM, the first one since we learned about the US government's efforts to sabotage the integrity of our cryptography and security technology, it's more important than ever to consider how the unintended consequences of copyright enforcement make us all less safe.
Posted by Augustine at 1:24 PM
A quadcopter outfitted with an on-board 3D printer could be used to seal off and transport nuclear waste, or even to build structures in the middle of nowhere, according to its inventor, Mirko Kovac of University College, London. "In effect, it's the world's first flying 3D printer," New Scientist writes. "One day such drones might work together to help remove waste from nuclear sites or help patch up damaged buildings."
Posted by Augustine at 1:22 PM
Oof, here's one unexpected negative effect of ubiquitous smartphones—a sign asking people to turn off geotagging when they take pictures of endangered rhinos so that poachers can't figure out where they are.
Posted by Augustine at 1:22 PM
While we're monkeying with our MakerBots, large corporations have much better toys to play with. They insist on calling them "additive manufacturing" machines but, truth be told, they're just Replicators with a superiority complex. They sinter or melt powdered or solid metals using lasers or electron beams, then deposit them in layers to form objects. Companies were previously leaning on such (incredibly expensive) devices for rapidly building prototypes like the Audi concept car shown above. Though that's still a huge part of the industrial 3D printer business, the machines are now churning out finished products as well.
As the Economist points out, industry giants like Siemens are using selective-laser melting to build gas turbines faster and cheaper. That'll eventually reduce part prices by up to 30 percent and order times by 90 percent. The technology is also being rapidly adopted by the aviation business, with GE building nozzles for its next-gen Leap fanjet engines with electron beam melting printers, for instance. That makes for a product that's a quarter lighter and five times stronger than before, something most travelers would surely get behind. That's why the additive manufacturing industry is booming 40 percent higher than last year -- and explains why companies like Epson are neglecting consumer 3D printers in favor of industrial models.
[Image credit: Eirik Newth, Flickr]
Filed under: Science
Posted by Augustine at 1:12 PM
"It was always going to be tomorrow's city today. A new heart of New York City; Midtown expanding west." -- Thad Sheely, SVP operations for Related Companies
Tourists come to stop and stare, and sometimes throw pennies. This isn't a long-standing tradition. There are no wishes to make here. It's just a construction site they're filling with change; "the largest development in New York City since Rockefeller Center." Its 28 acres span west from 10th Avenue to 12th Avenue and the Hudson River, and north from 30th Street to 34th Street. The site is home to the final piece of the High Line park; an extension of the number 7 subway line; five office towers and nearly 5,000 residences; 14 acres of public space; a public school; and an active rail yard, from which it gets its name. This is Hudson Yards: New York City's first truly smart neighborhood. Or, it will be when New York University's Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP), a partner for the development, finishes outfitting it with sensors.
This "quantified community" is a real-life urban laboratory for connected living, and its future, deep-pocketed residents will be its well-kept lab rats. CUSP, a 2-year-old NYU program born of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Applied Sciences initiative, is the brains behind this real estate operation from developers Related Companies and Oxford Properties. They're the ones outlining which aspects of life will be measured when the first building, 10 Hudson Yards, opens in 2015; what sensors to install and the equipment used to make them. For CUSP, the opportunity at Hudson Yards is twofold: The site presents a unique look at the impact urban development has on a city vis-à-vis pollution and waste, as well as a chance for the center to model and analyze scientific assumptions regarding energy and water usage.
Constantine Kontokosta, department director for CUSP, said his team's just beginning to refine exactly what to prioritize for phase one of the construction. Air quality, noise levels, energy and water usage: These are all things Kontokosta believes can be tracked and meaningfully analyzed to not only help make life better for residents of Hudson Yards, but also make New York and other cities "more resilient."
This "quantified community" is a real-life urban laboratory for connected living, and its future, deep-pocketed residents will be its well-kept lab rats.
It's an especially weighty concern after the devastation that wracked much of the city in late 2012 during Hurricane Sandy. That frankenstorm caused rampant flooding in much of lower Manhattan that led to evacuations for the city's residents and the shutdown of subway stations, tunnels and streets. It even forced Con Edison to preemptively cut off power in parts of the financial district to avoid damage to its underground electrical systems. Thad Sheely, SVP of operations at Related Companies, pointed to the fallout from that natural disaster when describing the Yard's multipronged energy-management system.
"We're trying to think about it both from a sustainability perspective and efficiency ... but also from a redundancy side of things," Sheely said. "So if a Sandy event happens, we would still have power and be able to turn our buildings on."
Resiliency, redundancy, future-proofing: These are the big-picture buzzwords that get thrown around about Hudson Yards. The idea is that you can build a neighborhood that won't go down when disaster strikes; a haven of self-sustainability powered by Con Edison, diesel and an on-site cogen (natural gas/heat) power plant. "We have all these different energy sources and we want to make sure we're managing them effectively," Sheely said. "And why that's important is that in some ways, we're creating almost a micro-grid."
That micro-grid is the lynchpin of the Yards. But like the site's other high-concept, high-tech aspects, Related Companies hasn't yet nailed down specifics for this energy platform's creation. Though, discussions with "tech providers and vendors to create a master building-management system" are ongoing. When the grid is eventually completed, Sheely said the idea is to have an open-source protocol that can connect and manage the various, intelligent moving parts of the Yards -- the waste-management system, the energy grid, the sensor data -- while delivering insights based on all of that incoming data. The end goal, he admits, is cost savings.
"When we think about combining that data with some of the sensor data and the opt-in individual data about people flows and traffic ... to be able to have some predictive analytics about that we think will be really interesting," Sheely said. "It could determine your energy buy."
A lower energy bill may not strike you as a cutting-edge use of connected tech, but it's just one of the many practical perks of Hudson Yards' measured world. Since much of the info in CUSP's Big Data pool comes from its partnership with the city, things like GPS data from the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the MTA or bike-sharing initiative can be analyzed to make the life of a resident incredibly convenient.
"We could add that data to other things that we know about the way people come in our buildings and the way they enter and exit, and start directing them to where the best place to get a taxi cab is," Sheely said.
Resiliency, redundancy, future-proofing: These are the big-picture buzzwords that get thrown around about Hudson Yards.
The approach Related Companies and CUSP are taking to connected life in the Yards is more additive than intrusive. "We don't necessarily want to recreate someone's digital world; we want to just plug into it," Sheely told me. Neither he, nor Kontokosta envision tracking residents and visitors in a way that treads on their privacy. "Everything we do there is going to be an opt-in, voluntary scenario," Kontokosta said. That's on the individual level, however, and doesn't take into account the thermographic (heat) mapping planned to monitor pollution, energy usage and crowds visiting the area -- a number projected to be around 24 million per year.
There is, of course, also the question of security. A smart neighborhood like Hudson Yards harbors a great potential for nefarious data mining and cyber attacks. But again, since much of the planning for the site is still in progress, neither party was ready to speak in-depth about methods to secure the data harvested from residents and the Yards-at-large.
The "internet of things" is a nebulous term that somehow seems apt here. It's the sort of digital-era jargon imbued with such a multitude of meanings as to render it indefinable. And yet, it perfectly describes Hudson Yards, a 21st century neighborhood designed to digitally assist better living. This is a smart neighborhood that "lives" so long as it's persistently connected to the internet. Related Companies is aware that this crucial digital infrastructure is the lifeblood and major hook of Hudson Yards, and Sheely said the developer is "spending a significant amount of money to bring in a fiber loop that connects all the buildings." This future-proofed wired connection is set to offer access points for "almost half a dozen different fiber carriers."
Beyond laying just fiber in the ground, Related Companies is also outfitting its buildings at Hudson Yards with digital antenna systems, or DAS, to ensure strong and consistent mobile phone service. Think of these as repeaters that relay WiFi and cellular service signals, thus avoiding dead service areas common in heavily developed urban areas. It's a way for Related Companies to attract even more investment from wireless carriers since the system helps offload a carrier's network congestion to a wired system.
The "internet of things" is a nebulous term that somehow seems apt here.
In other words, carriers are going to have to pay to deliver quality service to the big-name corporate clients like Coach, Time Warner and L'Oréal residing at Hudson Yards. "We're gonna put in the upfront investment to put this core in and then you go and you cut your deals with Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint ... to basically pay you for access to that service," Sheely said. It's a model that has obvious potential for commercial buildings on-site, but Sheely admits implementing it on the residential side is a bit trickier due to the number of users relying on different service contracts.
That's the resident-end benefit. As the estimated visitor data and inclusion of public space prove, tourists are a large part of the plan at Hudson Yards and Sheely wants to help shape their visit (and credit card purchases) with a dedicated app. "We're going to have a really interesting target market to go after and deliver information to them. And a lot of them are tourists. So it's that digital tour guide for someone ... How can we help program someone's trip when they come to Hudson Yards?"
Retail therapy isn't the only perk Sheely hopes the Yards can provide for the 80,000 to 100,000 visitors that could drop in daily. There's also talk of modeling building security on airports. Not in the intrusive, TSA pat down kind of way, but more along the lines of electronic boarding passes for visitors that want to bypass security. "We could basically ... forward you your boarding pass and it would go right to your phone," Sheely said. "You would be pre-qualified and you could come right in without having to check in at the door."
There's just one problem with Hudson Yards' vision of the smart neighborhood: all tech-based futures are eventually rendered obsolete. Sheely's aware of how quickly the modern infrastructure built into the site could become antiquated. "With technology, you want to put those [decisions] off as long as possible," he said, adding that the developer has about a year or more before it needs "to start making end products that are hardware solutions." Which is to say, the current promise of Hudson Yards could change as technology advances. Kontokosta said CUSP could even add or subtract from its grandiose, sensor-laden plans with a "plug-and-play" approach, swapping things out as the project progresses toward its 2024 completion date.
Like the tech powering its modernity, Sheely also anticipates a progressive shift in attitudes toward privacy and the Big Data-reliant environment of assisted life at Hudson Yards. "Over time, it obviously evolves. The comfort level that people have with that obviously changes."
Posted by Augustine at 1:12 PM