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Siemens Canada opens smart grid centre of competence in Fredericton, New Brunswick | Electric Light & Power

New Brunswick Premier David Alward, NB Power CEO Gäetan Thomas and Siemens Canada CEO Robert Hardt were among those in attendance today at the official opening of Siemens' newest home in Fredericton, NB. The location will house both a smart grid centre of competence (COC) and a research & development (R&D) centre and is a milestone in Siemens' multi-year partnership with NB Power, announced in the summer of 2012.

 

The collaboration between Siemens and NB Power, involving a comprehensive Smart Grid Reduce and Shift Demand (RASD) modernization plan, will invest in technology and engage customers, offering business and residents more choice and control over their energy consumption. Using Smart Grid Compass methodology, Siemens will support NB Power in developing an energy road map for the next decade and beyond. Design and rollout of smart grid software will take place at the new Fredericton facility, located at 40 Crowther Lane, Knowledge Park 4.

 

Approximately 23 employees have been hired at the facility to-date, of which 15 are R&D hires. Invest NB has committed to support the hiring of a total of 25 R&D employees. The majority of new employees are local hires, aligning with Siemens' strategy to bring the best of global smart grid knowledge together with local expertise from New Brunswick's impressive talent pool.

 

Siemens' plans for 2013 include additional hiring, working with NB Power to further develop its RASD plan and implement base IT systems for smart grid applications, as well as develop partnerships with local universities.

 

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Philippines: PLDT adds London PoP to improve global connectivity | TeleGeography.com

The Philippines’ leading telecommunications provider by revenue Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) has further expanded its global network connectivity, with the opening of an additional point of presence (PoP) in London, through Telehouse Europe.


The deal will enable PLDT to offer pan-global connectivity between the Philippines and the United Kingdom, providing its customers with an Ethernet International Private Leased Circuit (E/IPLC) service from the United Kingdom to the rest of the world, as part of its Global Managed Ethernet service offerings.

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UK: Ofcom outlines plans for supporting Internet of Things | TeleGeography.com

British telecoms regulator Ofcom has announced that it is ‘taking steps to ensure the UK plays a leading role in developing the Internet of Things (IoT)’. The watchdog revealed that it is working with both industry and Government with a view to creating a regulatory environment which fosters investment and innovation in the emerging IoT, highlighting the fact that there are already over 40 million connected devices in the UK alone, a figure which it said is forecast to grow more than eight-fold by 2022.

In terms of the key areas of work for Ofcom, it said it had identified several priority areas following input from stakeholders last year, with those being: spectrum availability, with the regulator set to continue to monitor the IoT’s spectrum needs to help identify when additional spectrum may be needed; data privacy, with Ofcom to work with the Information Commissioner’s Office, government, other regulators and industry to explore solutions to data privacy issues in the IoT; network security and resilience; and network addressing.


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Oklahoma worries over swarm of earthquakes and connection to oil industry | Lori Montgomery | WashPost.com

Oklahoma worries over swarm of earthquakes and connection to oil industry | Lori Montgomery | WashPost.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The earthquakes come nearly every day now, cracking drywall, popping floor tiles and rattling kitchen cabinets. On Monday, three quakes hit this historic land-rush town in 24 hours, booming and rumbling like the end of the world.

“After a while, you can’t even tell what’s a pre-shock or an after-shock. The ground just keeps moving,” said Jason Murphey, 37, a Web developer who represents Guthrie in the state legislature. “People are so frustrated and scared. They want to know the state is doing something.”

What to do about the plague of earthquakes is, however, very much an open question in Oklahoma. Last year, 567 quakes of at least 3.0 magnitude rocked a swath of counties from the state capital to the Kansas line, alarming a populace long accustomed to fewer than two quakes a year.

Scientists implicated the oil and gas industry — in particular, the deep wastewater disposal wells that have been linked to a dramatic increase in seismic activity across the central United States. But in a state founded on oil wealth, officials have been reluctant to crack down on an industry that accounts for a third of the economy and one in five jobs.

With seismologists warning that the spreading earthquake swarms could trigger something far bigger and potentially deadly, pressure is building to follow the lead of other oil and gas-producing states and take more aggressive action.


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VineRobot will keep tabs on the grapes | Ben Coxworth | GizMag.com

VineRobot will keep tabs on the grapes | Ben Coxworth | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

While many of us may fantasize about running a vineyard someplace like the south of France, doing so wouldn't actually be all ... well, wine and roses. For one thing, you'd need to regularly walk up and down all those rows of vines, continuously stopping to check on the plants themselves and their grapes. It's the sort of thing that it would be nice if a robot could do. A robot like the VineRobot.

The robot is currently being developed through the European Union VineRobot project. Led by Spain's Universidad de La Rioja, the project involves eight partner groups from the wine-making countries of France, Italy, Germany and Spain.

The idea is that the solar-powered VineRobot will move autonomously on its four wheels, using RGB stereoscopic machine vision and GPS to navigate its way up and down the rows of the vineyard.


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Superbowl to be lit by LEDs for the first time | David Szondy | GizMag.com

Superbowl to be lit by LEDs for the first time | David Szondy | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

When the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks face on Sunday, it will also showcase new technology as the first Superbowl game played under LED lighting. According to the makers, the new high-performance LED stadium lights built by Cree and Ephesus Lighting will provide better lighting for less energy.

Ephesus says that LEDs have already been used in 1,000 sporting events and the new system for the Superbowl is a significant improvement over the 780 metal halide fixtures previously used in the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona stadium. These have been replaced with 44,928 Cree XLamp MK-R LEDs, which use only 310,000 watts as opposed to the 1.24 million watts for the conventional fixtures, reducing overall sports lighting energy consumption by 75 percent.

First introduced in 2012, the stadium-grade LEDs are not only cheaper, but Ephesus and Cree say that the new lighting is more uniform and brighter. This not only eliminates shadows, but is also better suited for HDTV broadcasts because the new lights reproduce colors more accurately, allow for greater depth of field, and closer zooming for more detailed slow motion replays.


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Smithsonian Institution may be headed to London | Adam Williams | GizMag.com

Smithsonian Institution may be headed to London | Adam Williams | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

For the first time in its 168 year history, the Smithsonian Institution may be "coming home," in a manner of speaking. Originally founded with funds from British scientist James Smithson, it has never established a longterm exhibition outside the United States. But recently unveiled plans for a new culture and arts center to be built at London’s Olympic Park site in the UK.

The plans make up part of a larger £141 million (roughly US$210 million) scheme to turn the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which was site of the 2012 London Olympics, in to a 4.5 acre (1.8 hectare) cultural hub with the unfortunate title of Olympicopolis. Olympicopolis will also contain universities, a museum, and dance theater, and is expected to host over 1.5 million visitors per year.

Details are scant at this stage, but Smithsonian plans for a 3,700 sq m (40,000 sq ft) gallery that will feature permanent and rotating exhibits, and a series of programs and activities. Entry will be free of charge, and costs will be covered by private philanthropy, temporary-exhibit admission fees, and retail income.


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There's more global warming coverage on your television | Jeremy Schulman | Mother Jones

There's more global warming coverage on your television | Jeremy Schulman | Mother Jones | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it
Here's some good news: According to a new study, the major broadcast news networks are covering climate change more than they have in years. Now here's the bad news: Much of that coverage includes misleading arguments from commentators who reject the scientific consensus that humans are warming the planet.

The new analysis is set to be released Wednesday by the liberal group Media Matters for America. (Disclosure: I used to work there.) Media Matters reviewed 2014 climate coverage from the evening newscasts and Sunday morning talk shows on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox Broadcasting Company.


All told, the networks devoted 154 minutes to global warming last year—up 19 percent compared to 2013 and far more than any year since 2009. That increase is a big deal. Millions of Americans watch the networks' evening news shows. And the Sunday shows—ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, NBC's Meet the Press, and Fox News Sunday—frequently set the agenda for the week's political reporting elsewhere in the media.


The networks have been under pressure in recent years to pay more attention to the climate. After Media Matters reported last year that the Sunday shows had aired a combined total of just 27 minutes of climate change coverage in all of 2013, a group of Democratic senators sent a letter to network executives calling for a greater focus on the issue. They got their wish: In 2014, the Sunday shows tripled their global warming coverage to a combined total of 81 minutes. Each of the shows devoted about 20 minutes to climate.


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President Obama wants to open the East Coast to oil drilling. Bad idea. | Brian Palmer | onEarth.org

President Obama wants to open the East Coast to oil drilling. Bad idea. | Brian Palmer | onEarth.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The Obama administration announced its five-year plan for offshore drilling today, proposing to open a section of the continental shelf from Virginia to Georgia that has been off-limits to drilling for three decades. And although the Interior Department moved to protect parts of the environmentally sensitive Chukchi and Beaufort seas off Alaska, large swaths of the fragile Arctic will remain open for leasing, as well.

Despite the fact that a spill off the Eastern Seaboard could wreak economic and environmental havoc, energy companies and some state governments have long pushed the federal government to open the Atlantic. By agreeing, President Obama is taking a major risk, especially given his messy history on this issue.

In 2007, then-Senator Obama said, “[O]il rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced.” In 2010, the president again endorsed offshore drilling that is “environmentally sound and not risky.” You probably know what happened next. The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in April 2010 and sank to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, causing the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. So much for all that advanced technology.

After 200 million gallons of oil leaked into the Gulf, the president promised he would “make sure that a catastrophe like this never happens again.” He also said, “We need better regulations, better safety standards, and better enforcement when it comes to offshore drilling.”

So far he and Congress have come up seriously short. Elizabeth Birnbaum, who oversaw government regulation of the offshore drilling industry at the time of the Gulf spill, wrote in April that she “would never have imagined so little action would be taken to prevent something like this from happening again.” According to Birnbaum, the administration hasn’t even implemented most of the recommendations by its own experts to prevent future disasters. Even the regulation of blowout preventers—the failsafe that is supposed to avert a massive spill when everything else goes wrong—has changed very little since the Deepwater Horizon’s floundered in 2010.

With so little progress made, it’s only a matter of time until another major spill hits. A 2012 explosion on a Black Elk Energy offshore oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico killed three workers. In July 2013, another Gulf rig failed, spilling natural gas for two days and catching fire in the process.


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Obama, Modi and India’s Solar Future: Juan Cole | Truthdig.com

Obama, Modi and India’s Solar Future: Juan Cole | Truthdig.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

In his visit to India, Barack Obama pressed unsuccessfully for India to set specific carbon limits. Nevertheless, he did get agreement from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the USA and India would pursue vigorously non-carbon energy sources, including nuclear and renewables such as solar.

That was a better outcome than would have been anticipated based on Indian cabinet members’ statements just last spring. They blamed most of the increased CO2 in the atmosphere on the wealthy countries and hinted that it would be unfair to impede Indian economic growth now, given that India had put relatively little of the extra carbon into the atmosphere.

This situation is sort of like if a bunch of people with water hoses were filling an inflatable swimming pool but were tied up so that if the water got too high they would drown. Saying that you didn’t help fill it at the beginning and so should be allowed to put extra water in makes no since if that policy would drown you.

Modi is known as a proponent of solar energy, though like Obama he has an “all of the above” approach to energy, including an insouciant attitude toward deadly coal.


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California rains bring little relief from harsh drought | Kieran Cooke | Climate News Network

California rains bring little relief from harsh drought | Kieran Cooke | Climate News Network | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Doing the right thing in the environs of the University of California, Davis – one of the foremost agricultural institutions in the US – means driving a carbon efficient car. And having a lawn that’s burned dry.

California’s worst drought on record is forcing people to cut back radically on water use – and that means letting lawns die. There was considerable rainfall last month, but it was not nearly enough to replenish the badly-depleted water resources.

“If we don’t have rain in significant amounts by early March, we’ll be in dire straits,” says Professor Daniel Sumner, director of the Agricultural Issues Center at Davis.

Higher than average temperatures – particularly during the winter months – have combined with a lack of rainfall to produce severe drought conditions across much of the state. Water restrictions have been brought in following the imposition of a drought emergency in January last year.

“Historically, California’s water has been stored in the snow pack in the mountains, but warmer winter temperatures have meant the pack has been melting.” Sumner says.

“The agricultural sector has made considerable advances in limiting water use, and new, more drought resistant, crops and plant varieties have been introduced, but aquifers have been pumped and they are not being replenished.


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Transforming Economic Growth With The Industrial Internet Of Things | Paul Daugherty | Forbes.com

Transforming Economic Growth With The Industrial Internet Of Things | Paul Daugherty | Forbes.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

As the world struggles to leave behind a period of weak demand and poor productivity growth, many business and government leaders are looking to the next wave of technology innovation to revitalize their economies. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) could be the largest driver of economic growth and employment in the next decade. But much of its potential is at risk of being lost as companies and policy makers fail to exploit the opportunity.

The IIoT will create new markets as data from billions of connected devices unleashes an era of services innovation that will generate new revenue streams for manufacturers and those who serve the industrial sectors. Its impact will extend to two-thirds of the world economy. It could add as much as $14.2 trillion to 20 of the world’s major economies over the next 15 years, according to the latest analysis from Accenture. It also promises a greater fillip to hard-pressed, mature economies than to their emerging market competitors. This would help restore a more healthy trade balance in the global economy.

The Industrial Internet of Things is already here. Today, global positioning system (GPS) navigation, smart phone health kits and connected vehicles make life more convenient for consumers. But the industrial world has barely begun to take note. Where it has, companies have used Industrial Internet of Things effectively to reduce costs, enhance worker safety or improve efficiencies. Oil refiners use wearable devices that protect workers with gas sensors that can call for help when they detect dangerous events. Miners use remote-controlled equipment to dig with greater precision and realize higher rates of output.

The opportunity for new revenue streams comes from unlocking the value of the data that can be captured and shared by smart, connected devices. As a result, engine manufacturers can go beyond selling products to charging fees for the reliability that can be achieved by pre-empting equipment failures. This is the outcome economy—the delivery of measurable results that are tailored to the needs of customers and how they use products.

While digital technology will automate more routine tasks, its capacity to create new markets and enable workers to undertake more advanced tasks will not only spawn new categories of jobs, but also increase the sophistication of jobs and inspire greater collaboration to deliver outcome economy services.

The vast majority of businesses are not ready for this opportunity, however. In a survey of more than 1,400 business leaders, half of whom are CEOs, 71 percent confess that their companies have yet to make any concrete progress with the Industrial Internet of Things. Just seven percent have developed a comprehensive strategy with investments to match.


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At WEF Talk, Technology Seen as Key to Reducing Inequality | Shoeb Kagda | The Jakarta Globe

At WEF Talk, Technology Seen as Key to Reducing Inequality | Shoeb Kagda | The Jakarta Globe | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

In a fast-changing world, driven by technology, network connection is fast becoming a basic social good. But technology is a double-edged sword as it will also widen income inequality around the world.

Technology has enabled unequivocal social gains in recent years, but the benefits have not been equally spread.

“Almost all of the problems we debate can be solved by more broadband connectivity,” said Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google. He cited broadband as the key public policy initiative that can promote social benefits.

In a session on the Future of Digital Economy at the 45th World Economic Forum annual meeting, corporate leaders said that digital tools, from farming and health care to education, have fundamentally transformed communities and raised living standards around the world, and greater network connectivity has the potential to improve livelihoods even further.

John Riady, a director at Lippo Group and co-chair of the World Economic Forum East Asia meeting in Jakarta, said inequality was one of the defining challenges facing businesses and governments.

“One of the things that we have to look at is the impact of technology on inequality,” he noted. “Technology has a lot of potential to improve lives and business efficiency, but one of the big risk is labor dislocation.”

According to a recent study, 6 percent to 7 percent of nonfarm labor in countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will be dislocated by greater adoption of technology.

“Our challenge is how can we mitigate the impact of technology so it is sustainable. If not there will be a backlash,” John said, adding that one way to lessen inequality is to harness technology through education.

“In a global world, where everyone has access to technology, those who don’t will be even further left behind.”

For Indonesia, to ensure that every citizen has access to technology, the solution is to build low cost and universal access to the Internet.

“Technology cuts both ways. It can create between $300 billion to $500 billion in economic value for Asean over the next two decades, but if we do not manage it well, it will backfire, leading to greater inequality within countries and between countries,” John said.


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Internet of things needs global privacy push, says UK regulator | David Meyer | GigaOM Tech News

Internet of things needs global privacy push, says UK regulator | David Meyer | GigaOM Tech News | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The U.K. telecommunications regulator Ofcom has called for international industry standards on privacy in the internet of things.

On Tuesday the regulator published an outline of its approach to the developing internet of things, largely based on responses to a call for input that it made last year. It noted that “stakeholders” had identified data privacy and consumer literacy as their primary areas of concern.

“We have concluded that a common framework that allows consumers easily and transparently to authorize the conditions under which data collected by their devices is used and shared by others will be critical to future development of the IoT sector,” Ofcom wrote. “If users do not trust that their data is being handled appropriately there is a risk that they might withhold its use.”

Respondents had said that existing U.K. data protection legislation would be appropriate for regulating the internet of things, though not necessarily a cure-all. They also favored industry-led approaches to keeping consumers in control.

However, Ofcom wrote:


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Ghana: Spectra Wireless, Microsoft launch Africa’s first commercial ‘white space’ network | TeleGeography.com

US technology giant Microsoft has launched what it claims is Africa’s first commercial broadband network utilising ‘white space’ broadcast frequencies in Ghana, via its 4Afrika initiative. In partnership with SpectraLink Wireless – and in the wake of successful white space pilot tests at universities in Koforidua, Ghana, from May 2014 – the new network will offer students affordable, high speed internet bundles and zero-interest loans in partnership with UT Bank for the purchase of eligible internet-enabled Microsoft, Lenovo, Dell and HP devices. Data packages start from GHS2 (USD0.6) for 24 hours access.

Professor H Nwana, executive director of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, of which Microsoft and Spectra Wireless’ parent company are both members, commented: ‘Having overseen TV white space (TVWS) trials in the UK at Ofcom, I am truly delighted to see Spectra Wireless and Microsoft’s move to make TVWS-based broadband a commercial reality in Ghana, a first in Africa. I applaud the Ghanaian regulator, the National Communications Authority (NCA), in granting a commercial licence, which allows use of TV frequencies on a secondary basis as long as TV is not interfered with. This would drive up spectrum efficiency of TV bands in Ghana, and I hope other countries learn from NCA’s decision.’

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Germany: Telefonica unlocks 4G for all contract customers | TeleGeography.com

Telefonica Germany, which provides fixed and mobile services under the brand O2, has revealed that it has unlocked access to its LTE mobile network for all contract customers with immediate effect.


The LTE activation for existing customers of O2 post-paid tariffs will occur automatically and free of charge, enabling customers to benefit from better LTE performance and additional network capacities when using mobile data in 4G coverage areas.


Telefonica claims that its 4G network currently covers 60% of Germans, though coverage can reach up to 90% in urban areas.

In October 2014 Telefonica Deutschland announced the completion of its EUR8.55 billion (USD11.9 billion) acquisition of KPN’s German mobile unit E-Plus, creating an operator with almost 47 million customer connections.


The deal received final clearance from the European Union (EU) in August 2014 and Telefonica Deutschland subsequently completed a capital increase the following month, paving the way for the conclusion of the transaction.

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UK: Cycling in Central London set to get safer with new superhighways | Adam Williams | GizMag.com

UK: Cycling in Central London set to get safer with new superhighways | Adam Williams | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Following an announcement from London mayor Boris Johnson yesterday, cycling in central London looks set to become significantly safer. Two new Cycling Superhighways are planned for the city, and – subject to final approval from Transport for London – work on building the routes will begin in March.

Though we're still waiting on confirmation from the mayor's office regarding the exact length of the new cycle routes, they are cited as "Europe's longest substantially-segregated urban cycleways." We originally reported on the plans back in 2013, but some changes have been made in the meantime to mitigate disruption to motorists.

The original proposal would have increased the morning rush-hour commute for drivers by a painful 16 minutes, but following a redesign that involved narrowing the two-way paths from 4 m (13 ft) to 3 m (9.8 ft) in some places, the current estimate is a more reasonable six minutes at the worst section – between Limehouse Link and Hyde Park Corner. Cyclists will be segregated from the road by a kerb at almost all times, excepting one area near the Upper Thames Street tunnel.


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Kevlar-reinforced lithium-ion batteries shouldn't catch fire | Ben Coxworth | GizMag.com

Kevlar-reinforced lithium-ion batteries shouldn't catch fire | Ben Coxworth | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

While lithium-ion batteries may outperform their older, lower-tech counterparts, they do have one drawback – occasionally, they catch fire. This can happen when fern-like metal structures known as dendrites form between the battery's two electrodes, causing a short circuit. Now, however, researchers at the University of Michigan have used Kevlar nanofibers to create a barrier between the electrodes, which is impervious to those nasty dendrites.

Ordinarily within a lithium-ion battery, a very thin microperforated plastic membrane is used to separate the two electrodes. While individual lithium ions are able to pass through the pores in that membrane, electrons cannot, so they instead travel through a circuit and create an electrical current in the process.

After repeated charge/discharge cycles, the lithium ions can begin forming into dendrites on the surface of one electrode. If the pores in the separator membrane are too big, the dendrites can grow right through the plastic, ultimately reaching the other electrode. Once that happens, the electrons can pass straight through the dendrites, shorting out the circuit and causing the battery to overheat.

In order to remedy that problem, the U Michigan team has used layered non-conductive Kevlar nanofibers to create a membrane with much smaller pores.


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BT promising 'ultrafast' broadband of 500 Mbps in UK within a decade | Tim Chester | Mashable.com

BT promising 'ultrafast' broadband of 500 Mbps in UK within a decade | Tim Chester | Mashable.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Here's some potentially good news while that film is downloading at a snail's pace: British telecom company BT has promised "ultrafast" broadband of up to up to 500 Mbps within a decade. The company is even saying speeds of 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) will be achievable on premium services.

Both are significantly higher than the current 18.7 Mbps average in the UK.

BT CEO Gavin Patterson set out the company's ambitions to "transform the UK broadband landscape from superfast to ultrafast" in a release published Friday.

The technology, named G.fast, will be trialled in two pilot locations in Cambridgeshire and Newcastle this summer, with full deployment starting in 2016 or 2017 if they're successful.


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Germany's A9 autobahn to become test track for self-driving cars | Tony Borroz | GizMag.com

Germany's A9 autobahn to become test track for self-driving cars | Tony Borroz | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Germany's Minister of Transport has announced a project that will see a section of the A9 autobahn that connects Berlin and Munich set it up for autonomous vehicle testing.

Hanging digital bells and whistles on the A9 will include infrastructure provisions for vehicle-to-vehicle communication, as well as liberating a chunk of the 700 MHz radio spectrum so the test cars can talk back and forth. The project is expected to get underway later this year.

Germany's Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the project will make the German car industry a leader in the field and enable them to build an independent data platform.


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VPN providers play 'cat-and-mouse' with China's growing censorship | Michael Kan | NetworkWorld.com

VPN providers play 'cat-and-mouse' with China's growing censorship | Michael Kan | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Amit Bareket calls it a “cat-and-mouse” game. In this instance, his company is the mouse, and the Chinese government is a giant cat.

The two sides are continually at odds, because Bareket’s company, SaferVPN, is one of many that provide software tools designed to circumvent the country’s notorious Internet censorship.

These tools are growing more popular in China, in spite of recent government attempts to block them, according to Bareket.

“I can tell you that more than 300 new VPN users come to our service every day in China,” said Bareket, who is the spokesman at SaferVPN.

VPNs, which stand for Virtual Private Networks, are essentially tools that can let users bypass Internet censorship. For about US$6 to $10 a month, subscribers to these services in China can access blocked sites such as Facebook, YouTube and more.

But lately, China has been more aggressive in trying to disrupt these services. Last week, several VPN providers reported access problems for users. Days later, one of the country’s top regulators defended the actions and signaled that the authorities were prepared to crack down further.

“As the Internet develops, and new circumstances arise, we will take new regulatory measures to keep up,” said Wen Ku, a director with China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

That said, the recent disruptions haven’t stopped the VPN services, only added a minor roadblock. Companies like SaferVPN still manage to bring their services to the country, and are working on new technologies to stay a step ahead of the censors.


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Coal Declines in U.S. but Grows Internationally | Bobby Magill | Scientific American

Coal Declines in U.S. but Grows Internationally | Bobby Magill | Scientific American | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Technological progress has been brutal to the yellow pages and compact discs. Coal may be headed the same way in the U.S., partly because of the market and partly because of national climate change policy.

Coal-fired power plants are the nation’s largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions and driver of climate change, and an old technology slowly being replaced by newer, cleaner sources of energy. With solar, wind and natural gas gaining ground on the electric grid, change is in the air.

Signs of coal’s decline are written all over the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s annual coal report released this week, showing that despite a slight increase in coal consumption in 2013, coal production is down and coal mining jobs are down even more. The EIA’s 2014 coal analysis will be released at the end of this year.

For the first time since 1993, coal production in the U.S. fell below 1 billion short tons in 2013, down to about 985 million tons in 2013 from 1.01 billion in 2012. (It takes about .00054 short tons of coal to generate 1 kilowatt hour of electricity. The average home uses 10,837 kwh of electricity annually, equivalent to the power generated by 5.8 short tons of coal.)

Production in the West, where most U.S. coal is mined, dropped 2.4 percent in that time as coal mine employment fell 10.5 percent nationwide.

Despite all of that, the U.S. actually burned 4 percent more coal in 2013 than it did in 2012, helping push U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions up about 2 percent because higher natural gas prices spurred a slight uptick coal use.

Additional coal that had been mined and reserved for later use made up for the increase in coal burning while allowing for coal production to fall, EIA analyst JenAlyse Arena said.

Other EIA data released last week showed that U.S. coal production increased about 1 percent in 2014 over the previous year, but is expected to drop to 2013 levels this year and drop off even more in 2016.

Analysts say coal mining and burning is going to slide, at least for a while.


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TX: Governor Abbott calls for killing Perry's technology fund, splitting leftover money | Patrick Svitek & Mike Ward | Houston Chronicle

TX: Governor Abbott calls for killing Perry's technology fund, splitting leftover money | Patrick Svitek & Mike Ward | Houston Chronicle | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday proposed abolishing Texas' controversial Emerging Technology Fund and using half of its leftover money to help colleges and universities recruit world-class researchers.

The move marked Abbott's first major step toward overhauling the funding pool established at the urging of former Gov. Rick Perry to attract cutting-edge technology and research as part of his plan to grow the state's economy.

Leaders of major public universities were quick to applaud Abbott's move, while others suggested it may be little more than a rebranding of current efforts.

Throughout his gubernatorial campaign, Abbott said government should not be picking business winners and losers and pledged to take a hard look at the technology fund and its sister Texas Enterprise Fund, the so-called "deal closing" fund to help bring new jobs to Texas. Highly critical audits and bankruptcies of several firms that the state invested in have left Abbott and other state leaders looking for new options.

"My plan will enhance Texas' ability to recruit nationally recognized researchers, promote economic development, and serve as a significant step toward ensuring Texas is home to five of the top 10 public universities in the nation," Abbott said in a statement. "Texas will be home of the research centers and great minds that will transform the next generation."


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UK Legislators Hoping To Rush Through New 'Snooper's Charter' In The Wake Of The Charlie Hebdo Attacks | Tim Cushing | Techdirt

UK Legislators Hoping To Rush Through New 'Snooper's Charter' In The Wake Of The Charlie Hebdo Attacks | Tim Cushing | Techdirt | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The UK legislators, law enforcement agencies and intelligence services looking to expand the government's surveillance programs got a big boost from the attack on Charlie Hebdo. This violent attempt to place extremist religious ideology ahead of free speech was twisted by many into justification for expanded government powers. Prime Minister David Cameron even went so far as to suggest that no citizen's communications should be beyond the government's reach.

This unexpected boost has propelled a raft of new amendments to the UK's so-called "Snooper's Charter," a once-rejected bill (Communications Data Bill) that would hand over ISP subscriber data to the goverment without a warrant. The amendments try to paper over the obvious flaws in the proposed legislation, limiting the use of this data to law enforcement and intelligence services only. (The previous version allowed several other government agencies to dip their toes into the data stream.)

The privacy protections are still insufficient and the wording is still vague, but those supporting this bill are hoping the recent terrorist attack -- combined with a very short time frame -- will help them guide this past the opposition, as the EFF points out.


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Davos diary: As new technologies emerge, what future do we want? | Don Tapscott | The Globe & Mail

Davos diary: As new technologies emerge, what future do we want? | Don Tapscott | The Globe & Mail | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Do you agree or disagree that in the future we will think “inserting radio-frequency identification in our babies’ bodies is as normal as vaccination.” This is just one of many provocative questions put to the participants in a spirited Davos session entitled “What Future Do You Want?”

Emerging technologies have the potential to reshape us as individuals, organizations and societies. How this will unfold depends on technological developments as well as on human choices which are driven by values, aspirations, imagination and the context we live in.


This session was organized around the work of the Forum’s Strategic Foresight group.


The reality is that the digital revolution is not going as well as many of us had hoped. The promise of new technologies has come with substantial peril.


The president of a European country described a factory that once employed 12,000 workers but now has less than 20 employees. Another participant cited Kodak’s death and Instagram’s birth. The former American manufacturing giant withered into bankruptcy in 2012. At its peak it had 145,000 employees. When Facebook bought Instagram for $1-billion (U.S.), the startup had 13 employees. It now has 57.


Digital technologies should bring us together to deal with issues such as climate change and wasteful energy use. Instead we are being fragmented, to the point that something that is a scientific fact – climate change – is not accepted by vast swaths of the population. Many natural resources are now being consumed by digital technology, such as massive power-hungry data centres used by companies such as Google and Amazon.


It was a lively session, and delegates were asked to vote on of dozens of assertions such as the baby radio frequency question above. Other insertions included: “Emotionally intelligent robots are part of our society.” Or “Work is no longer a source of social recognition or status.”


At the end I was asked to summarize the discussions and what should be our guiding values.


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Roundup: Chinese innovation draws international attention at the WEF | Grandesso Federico & Yan Lei | XinhuaNet.com

Roundup: Chinese innovation draws international attention at the WEF | Grandesso Federico & Yan Lei | XinhuaNet.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Many renowned experts spoke highly of Chinese innovation, technology, research and creativity at the ongoing World Economic Forum (WEF) here, citing China's rapid achievements in these areas.

Pedro Sander, an associate professor from University of Hong Kong, stressed the positive changes in China's research environment, including improved working conditions and greater incentives for researchers to travel to China and work at universities.

"Some well-known graphics went back to China to work even in research labs like Microsoft or in universities where they can build up their own groups and work on any projects they want. So it's very open and there are a lot of collaborations with outside as well," said Sander.

He said: "there is a big interest to learn about technology, and the government is trying to get people back, their goal is to establish big research groups."

Philip Jennings, general secretary of UNI Global Switzerland said that every nation should have the capacity for innovation in order to develop and to be competitive in the world of information and technology.

"I think this is logical and normal, and we've seen it certainly in China," Jennings said, "what I think is that it's important that how you adjust your labor market, how you keep Chinese workers with the skills that they can also be productive and to help in the innovation process."


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