Way back in 2010 Google officially pulled out of China citing claims that it just couldn’t stand the constant harping and demands for from the Chinese government. It’s an emotion many of us in the divorced 50% of the population can sympathize with. You might think that would be that for Google and China but not so. The Chinese people have continued to adopt a plethora of Google tools and toys like GMail and Picasa….and of course search. Given that China has proved its self completely able to hack into pretty much anything or anywhere it wants to it makes you wonder why they continue to tolerate this leakage of information into China and what would happen if they really turned against it…now we know.
June 6th marks the 25th anniversary of that spectacular celebration of freedom and broad-mindedness also known as The Tienanmen Square Massacre. Each year around this time Chinese celebrates by playing an extra vigorous game of Whack a Mole with its people by shutting down as much access to the outside world as it can. In previous years they have done a pretty good job of it…this year on the 25th anniversary they have tried extra hard. What’s the result?…well if you use Google, Yahoo or any of their tools or toys you are pretty much out of luck, This time The Chinese government has used what they have learned in hacking into US companies to really stick it to their own people. The shut off is apparently close to 100%.
This points to a couple of things worth thinking about; first if anyone in China has access nowadays to information from the outside world it is apparently with the knowledge and tacit acceptance of the government…and second… they can take it away when ever they want to.
Google has just released data on the ethnic and gender background of the people who inhabit the Googleplex…and Shockingly it turns out that they are mostly white guys….by a large margin 60% white 70% male. The second largest (30%) ethnicity claimed is Asian which includes people in many cases imported directly from the Indian subcontinent. If you are lucky enough to ever visit the Google Plex the evidence of your own eyes will confirm the data….it is dazzlingly white and male with a very strong Indian/Asian component. Indeed Google serves some of the best Indian food you will find anywhere in their cafeteria.
The fabulous wealth and opportunity our industry represents will attract the best talent and I’d expect that talent to reflect the gene pool pretty quickly. Women will catch up perhaps in a couple of graduation cycles and minorities will catch up as fast as their societal challenges allow. It’s always been tougher for a very smart kid born into poverty to achieve the same things people dealt a better hand expect as their birthright….but it can be done and I look forward to that brave new and much more diverse world.
Home security is big business. It’s worth in the region of $25Bn per year projected to grow to north of $35Bn by 2017. It’s also an industry ripe for technological enrichment, as our homes get smarter it makes sense that our home security systems get smarter too. My home security is a 100lb American bulldog called Hedwig…we also happen to have ADT installed…but I have to believe Hedwig is a more effective deterrent albeit probably not as smart as some of the new home systems. It looks like Google is planning a move further into home security through Nest, its recent $3.2 billion acquisition that has put a high-tech twist on thermostats and smoke alarms. The company is considering buying the connected camera startup Dropcam.
Dropcam’s main product is a camera that saves its footage to the cloud, letting users check the recordings anytime and anywhere. The startup recently bolstered its security offering with improved video analysis technology and waterproof Tabs, which can detect motion in areas you couldn’t place a camera. Last year it announced a $30 million round of venture funding.
An expansion into home security would be in keeping with Nest’s mission of rethinking household technology for the 21st century. “Safety shouldn’t be annoying,” Nest CEO Tony Fadell told The Verge last year when unveiling the Protect smoke detector. ”We’re about reinventing unloved categories.” That’s a mission that Dropcam’s investors got behind, with Kleiner Perkins’ Trae Vassallo saying last year that “Dropcam can do for surveillance cameras what Nest did for the thermostat.”
Apple is set to make its own play for the connected home next month, according to a report in the Financial Times. Cupertino will reportedly offer a platform for third-party vendors to hook into the iPhone, allowing it to control lighting, security systems, and more. Apple is said to consider privacy an advantage over Google, which leverages user data for advertising revenue and recently told the SEC it could serve ads on “refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats” in the future — though it later denied any connection with the Nest acquisition. The iOS smart home software may be announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference on June 2nd.
I haven’t had an electricity bill in nearly two years. Each month our household is more or less net neutral…on a good month we are actually net contributors to the national grid. This is possible because I live in sunny SoCal and I have solar power. Two years after being proposed as an alternative power for many homes and businesses, US electrical engineer Scott Brusaw’s system of solar powered roads is in the second prototype stage, which could lead to wide spread use. Scott’s idea is to cover highways and other roadways with photo-voltaic panels that would collect energy and feed it into a decentralized power grid. If successful, these panels could generate enough energy to power the entire country. It’s an interesting perhaps genius idea with several barriers to entry. Solar is pretty big here in SoCal, I inherited mine with the house so I didn’t have to put up the capital directly. If I had it would likely have cost enough that I’d be looking at a twenty year payback. Photo voltaic is expensive to manufacture….scaling the current technology up in such a grand way is a very impressive idea.
As a kid in the 1960s, before most people had even heard of solar power, Scott Brusaw imagined “electric roads.” Almost five decades and two government-funded prototypes later, the electrical engineer from Ohio is on his way to raising $1 million to start producing solar panels for our streets and highways. Not to power the light, mind you—to function as streets and highways. Soon you may be driving on solar panels that power the buildings you’re passing by. One million bucks isn’t going to get anyone much past a Ted Talk…let alone re-engineer our infrastructure. It’s barely enough to buy the horse to tilt at windmills with…even if the windmills were actually generating wind energy at the time.
“We can use these panels to create roads, parking lots, tarmacs—anything under the sun,” Brusaw says. “All of the current asphalt and concrete currently soaking up the sun can be covered with our technology to turn that sunlight into clean, renewable electricity.”
The biggest challenge Brusaw faced was engineering a case to protect the fragile solar cells. He began by researching the technology used in black boxes for airplanes and ended up using thick hardened glass. It sounds fragile, but after impact resistance and traction testing, it has proved able to handle trucks weighing several times the legal limit. A prototype solar parking lot in Sandpoint, Idaho, has been successful as well.
It may take some time to see them on highways, though. Neil Fromer, executive director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute at the California Institute of Technology, says installing solar power on large structures will take a lot of testing and paperwork.
“The tremendous amount of solar energy that hits the earth’s surface in an hour is enough to power the planet for a year,” Fromer explains. “So when you think about renewable energy in the long term, solar is a huge part of that.” Considering that pavement covers as much as half of many U.S. cities, a lot of electricity could be generated by covering it all with solar panels.
Brusaw’s project could have a huge impact, especially if it overcomes the many challenges to getting it out into the real world.
“I think this is pretty cool, and I don’t want to sound too pessimistic about it,” Fromer says. “It’s really just a question of integrating solar energy into our existing electrical system. Roads are great surfaces to try it…. Technology innovation always helps.”
Back in 2010, a company called Quest Visual debuted an app called Word Lens. It hardly seemed possible, but the app translated a number of different languages in real time using just the smartphone’s camera. Currently, users can translate between English and Portuguese, German, Italian, French, Russian, and Spanish.
It’s easy to see why Google would want to own it — its stated mission is to make all the world’s information searchable in any language — and Google Translate generally does this quite well, at least for web pages.
With Word Lens, iPhone users can translate the world. Apple even featured the app in its recent “Powerful” television ad for the iPhone 5s, and it’s obvious why. Even better, it doesn’t require a connection to the internet, which is another benefit for business travelers.
Being a great translation app doesn’t come without some struggles. Word Lens has trouble with particularly stylized text or handwriting, and the translations will make occasional mistakes. However, most of the time, it will at least get the point across.
The app is currently free to download from the App Store, and is also available on the Google Play Store on the Android market. The translations are available via an in-app purchase, though they are also currently free.
Google’s YouTube is close to securing a $1 billion buyout of live streaming service Twitch, and has been chosen as the best suitor over many competing companies such as Microsoft.
Twitch is said to believe that Google can help the company become what it wants to be — the definitive platform for watching and streaming live video gaming. The company raised $20 million from investors in 2013 and is likely to turn a profit this year. But capital isn’t enough to allow Twitch to scale its technology and infrastructure to keep pace with its growth. It had plenty of offers from venture capitalists looking to give it more money, said the person, but what it needs is a partner that can help it handle massive amounts of live and user-generated video on a global scale.
Despite not being well known beyond gaming circles, Twitch already pushes more traffic during its peak hours than titans like Facebook and Amazon. ”To be quite honest, we can’t keep up with the growth,” Twitch marketing VP Matt DiPietro has stated. Microsoft and others have made serious approaches to Twitch, but YouTube was deemed the better fit. It’s unlikely that the gamer-friendly Twitch would have wanted any part of a deal that would tie the service to Xbox, as it’s embedded in Sony’s rival PlayStation console as well.
YouTube has been interested in testing the game-streaming waters by introducing an API at last year’s Game Developers Conference, but the effort never got much traction in the community — it only opened live streaming capability to all in December. Twitch, meanwhile, has huge mindshare among the video game audience, as evidenced by its role as the streaming platform for all major e-sports tournaments, giving it command over a lucrative advertising demographic. The proposed deal can be compared to Facebook’s $1 billion acquisition of Instagram back in 2012, where an established giant snapped up a fast-growing startup it saw as a potential competitive threat.