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Henry Paulson: Urbanization key to China's economic development | People's Daily Online

Henry Paulson: Urbanization key to China's economic development | People's Daily Online | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Founder of the Paulson Institution Henry M. Paulson, Jr., who is also former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and chief executive of Goldman Sachs, receieved an exculsive interview from the People's Daily, in which he shared his views about the challeges China faces in the process of urbanization.

 

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Our Global Future in the 21st Century is based on "The Third Industrial Revolution" which finally connects our new ICT infrastructure with distributed energy sources that are both renewable and sustainable
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Japan: Fraud campaign installs rogue app on non-jailbroken iPhones | Lucian Constantin | NetworkWorld.com

Japan: Fraud campaign installs rogue app on non-jailbroken iPhones | Lucian Constantin | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Cybercriminals in Japan are targeting iPhone users with an online scam that tricks them into installing a malicious application when they attempt to view porn videos.

This type of attack, known as one-click fraud, is not new and has been used for years against Windows, Mac and Android users. However, what’s interesting in this particular case is that it works even against non-jailbroken iPhones.

Apple tightly controls how iOS apps are distributed to users by forcing developers to publish them on the official App Store where they are subject to Apple’s review procedures. However, there are exceptions to this rule in the form of special development programs for which participants have to pay extra.

One such program is called the iOS Developer Program and has an annual membership fee of US$99. Developers enrolled in this program can distribute apps over the air, outside of the official App Store, but there are some restrictions. They can only distribute apps in this manner to 100 devices per year and the unique IDs (UDID) of those devices need to be registered in advance.

Another program that’s more flexible, but also more expensive, is called the iOS Developer Enterprise Program. It is intended for companies who develop their own apps and want to install them on their employees’ iOS devices without publishing them on the App Store. Participation in this program costs US$299 per year.

Researchers from antivirus vendor Symantec believe that Japanese cybercriminals are abusing the iOS Developer Enterprise Program in their latest one-click fraud campaign, even though they don’t have confirmation yet.

“They could have either applied for membership on their own or compromised someone else’s account,” the researchers said Tuesday in a blog post.


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How renewable energy in South Africa is quietly stealing a march on coal | Jeffrey Barbee | The Guardian

How renewable energy in South Africa is quietly stealing a march on coal | Jeffrey Barbee | The Guardian | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The howling wind drives the turbines, their blades bent back from the force as they spin in the evening light and send electricity to local villages in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.

High up on the top of the turbine, local resident Lungela Vongu, dressed in a safety harness and hard hat leans far out over the 100 meter drop to check that the wind speed detector is working properly. “This wind farm is bringing a lot more jobs into this community for the people, without it there is no future here,” he says.

The Cookhouse wind farm is the biggest wind system built in Africa, with 66 turbines generating 138MW of clean power. It started feeding the grid at the end of 2014 and it is far from unique.

Although still heavily dependent on fossil fuels, South Africa has been quietly creating one of the world’s most progressive alternative energy plans. Solar, biomass and wind energy systems are popping up all over the country and feeding clean energy into the strained electrical grid.

“It is set to completely transform these deep rural communities in terms of healthcare, education, job creation and a raft of other interventions. All this while putting green electricity on the grid at affordable prices,” said Johan van den Berg, director of the South African Wind Energy Association.

Like all the projects in the country a percentage of the equity of the Cookhouse wind farm is held by the Cookhouse community trust. The trustees come from the local community and they funnel the profits of 15% of the sale of the energy into health care, education and job creation.

But it is low price for the electricity that is really making the difference. Wind energy from new projects now costs 5 US cents per kWh, roughly half the cost of new coal.

Renewable energy has a long way to go to overtake South Africa’s reliance on coal though. It is number 11 in the world for total CO2 output from energy use and the fifth largest producer of the climate-changing fossil fuel.


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Bitcoin's first killer app? Bankymoon lets you pay your utility bills in digital currency | Jacques Coetzee | ventureburn

Bitcoin's first killer app? Bankymoon lets you pay your utility bills in digital currency |  Jacques Coetzee | ventureburn | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

We’re living in a world where everything’s being labeled as smart. From our phones to watches and even our cars. But something that’s really being taken for granted is our utility grids — including gas, water and electricity. And while the majority of the world might be migrating onto the so-called smart grids, they are still filled with a lot of dumb problems. The biggest being payments.

South African bitcoin startup Bankymoon is boldly taking on this industry. That’s besides having a killer name for a bitcoin startup.

Presenting its application for the first time recently at the Bitcoin Conference Africa, the startup is enabling people to pay their utility metres in the digital currency. This means more efficiency — very low fees and near instant transfers from anywhere in the world, among other things.

“A grid is something we all interact with everyday of our lives. We don’t even give a second thought to them, but without them civilisation as we know it wouldn’t exist,” explained the founder and CEO of Bankymoon, Lorien Gamaroff.

“You’d think that with all the smartness happening in our grid, that the problems are solved. But in fact this brings us to the most difficult and biggest problem of all, which is payments. Your grid could be as smart as you like but if all customers aren’t paying, it’s worthless and it becomes unsustainable and will collapse.”

Gamaroff, who’ll be presenting at the Bitcoin Conference in Prague next month, reckons that by 2023, 80% of the grids in the US will be smart. Sixty percent in Europe and 45% in the Asia Pacific.

But as smart as these systems are, most of them rely on intermediaries like a municipality which channels utility to its commercial, industrial or residential customers. And more middlemen means higher fees.


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The fossil-fuel industry’s campaign to mislead the American people | Senator Sheldon Whitehouse Op-Ed | WashPost.com

The fossil-fuel industry’s campaign to mislead the American people | Senator Sheldon Whitehouse Op-Ed | WashPost.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Fossil fuel companies and their allies are funding a massive and sophisticated campaign to mislead the American people about the environmental harm caused by carbon pollution.

Their activities are often compared to those of Big Tobacco denying the health dangers of smoking. Big Tobacco’s denial scheme was ultimately found by a federal judge to have amounted to a racketeering enterprise.

The Big Tobacco playbook looked something like this: (1) pay scientists to produce studies defending your product; (2) develop an intricate web of PR experts and front groups to spread doubt about the real science; (3) relentlessly attack your opponents.

Thankfully, the government had a playbook, too: the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. In 1999, the Justice Department filed a civil RICO lawsuit against the major tobacco companies and their associated industry groups, alleging that the companies “engaged in and executed — and continue to engage in and execute — a massive 50-year scheme to defraud the public, including consumers of cigarettes, in violation of RICO.”

Tobacco spent millions of dollars and years of litigation fighting the government. But finally, through the discovery process, government lawyers were able to peel back the layers of deceit and denial and see what the tobacco companies really knew all along about cigarettes.

In 2006, Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia decided that the tobacco companies’ fraudulent campaign amounted to a racketeering enterprise. According to the court: “Defendants coordinated significant aspects of their public relations, scientific, legal, and marketing activity in furtherance of a shared objective — to . . . maximize industry profits by preserving and expanding the market for cigarettes through a scheme to deceive the public.”

The parallels between what the tobacco industry did and what the fossil fuel industry is doing now are striking.


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Tough competition ahead as China's Big Three telecoms operators eye red-hot internet of things | George Chen | South China Morning Post

Tough competition ahead as China's Big Three telecoms operators eye red-hot internet of things | George Chen | South China Morning Post | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

One of mainland China's largest mobile network operators is hoping to beat its domestic rivals in expanding into the internet of things, which includes wearable devices, mobile payment and smart cars, a senior executive said on Monday.

Liu Chunyang, general manager in charge of online platforms and corporate partnership at China Mobile IOT Company, said China Mobile would have major advantages to succeed against its domestic rivals – China Unicom and China Telecom – for internet of things (IOT) related business due to the company's wider and more stable mobile data services coverage nationwide.

“In terms of data, messaging and broadband services, I don’t think China Unicom and China Telecom can compete with us because they don’t have the same ability as we do [in those areas],” said Liu at a media briefing on the sidelines of the inaugural Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Asia conference in Shanghai.

China Mobile IOT is a relatively young subsidiary of its parent company, established just about two years ago to meet the growing demand of IOT related services in mainland China, especially among younger and more tech savvy consumers.


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Nokia wants to build data centers for mobile operators | Mikael Ricknas | NetworkWorld.com

Nokia wants to build data centers for mobile operators | Mikael Ricknas | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Nokia wants to help mobile network operators launch new services and cut their costs with a new range of servers, switches and storage they can use to virtualize their networks.

Enterprises have already adopted virtualization and cloud-based IT infrastructures, and now telecommunications operators are looking at doing the same thing. Meanwhile equipment vendors like Nokia are increasingly offering operators the hardware and software to provide telephony, messaging and mobile broadband as virtualized services.

Telecommunications operators instigated the move away from dedicated, proprietary equipment to virtualized hardware. A group including AT&T, Verizon, China Mobile, Orange and Deutsche Telekom proposed a concept called NFV (Network Functions Virtualization), which is now being standardized by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).

ETSI’s aim is to help operators build more agile networks that are able to respond dynamically to the traffic and services running over them.


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China: Vincent Callebaut unveils ambitious sustainable mall concept | Adam Williams | GizMag.com

China: Vincent Callebaut unveils ambitious sustainable mall concept | Adam Williams | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Regular readers are likely familiar with Vincent Callebaut's futuristic output by now, and the Belgian architect is at it again with a new project that follows in much the same vein as its predecessors. The Wooden Orchids project envisions a large sustainable shopping mall in Jiangxi Province, China, that boasts solar and wind power, geothermal heating, rainwater recycling, and a design that's part-inspired by the orchid.

Wooden Orchids comprises twin buildings which sit very close together and are joined by multiple footbridges. Located on a plot measuring a total of 20,000 sq m (215,278 sq ft), they sport a total usable floorspace of 30,000 sq m (322,917 sq ft). Each building has three main floors, plus a mezzanine and attic space. It's a remarkably complex concept, and draws inspiration from various sources, including orchids, on account of its proximity to a noted local flower garden.

The northernmost building would include cinemas, a public library, a gym and restaurants, while its counterpart would boast 200 shops which promote organic foods, in addition to a farmers market. Customers would be able to visit flower tea gardens and partake in flower therapy, according to the firm. Though ample bicycle parking is available, cars are relegated to large multi-level carparks hidden underground.


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CoCoRo underwater mini-robots school like fish and share knowledge | Ben Coxworth | GizMag.com

CoCoRo underwater mini-robots school like fish and share knowledge | Ben Coxworth | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Starting in April 2011, the European Union CoCoRo (Collective Cognitive Robots) research consortium has been developing three varieties of autonomous underwater robots that school together like fish. By doing so, the little bots can share and learn from each others' "knowledge" of their environment, acting as a collective cognitive system that's smarter than any one of its individual parts.

The robots communicate with one another via built-in flashing LEDs, using onboard electronics such as computer vision systems, compasses and accelerometers to find their way around aquatic environments.

Utilizing an algorithm inspired by the clustering behavior of bees (not fish!), they can seek out others of their kind and then settle together around one central base location, becoming aware of the growing size of their group as more robots arrive. Individuals can then leave that cluster to go on their own missions, subsequently returning to share their findings with the group.


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Netherlands: Paleisbrug pedestrian bridge doubles as park in the sky | Stu Robarts | GizMag.com

Netherlands: Paleisbrug pedestrian bridge doubles as park in the sky | Stu Robarts | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A new bridge in the Netherlands is designed to do more than get people from A to B. The Paleisbrug, in the city of 's-Hertogenbosch, is a raised park, pedestrian bridge and cycle-link all in one. Designed by Benthem Crouwel Architects, the bridge joins the city center with its newly-developed Paleiskwartier district, which is home to the city's court building, university buildings, homes and offices.

Much of the surrounding area is said to remain undeveloped, due to having been flooded as a means of defending the city during the Eighty Year War. The bridge's location had the potential to provide excellent views of this now open, green area known as the Gement and, with this in mind, it was designed to be a destination in itself.

The Paleisbrug is 250 m (820 ft) long and 10 m (33 ft) wide, providing 2,500 sq m (26 900 sq ft) of park-like space for flora, fauna and leisure. There are four lanes in total, each 2 m (7 ft) wide, that alternate between flower beds and paving. Plants, trees, paving, furniture and lighting are integrated into the design using folded sheets of weather-proof steel, in which the bridge is also clad. The plants, benches and paths are lit up by LED lighting at night.


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AccessKenya completes fibre rollout in three cities | TeleGeography.com

AccessKenya Group has completed the rollout of its metropolitan fibre network in Nairobi, Nakuru and Thika, ITWeb Africa reports, citing the company’s chief technical officer Raymond Macharia.


The upgrade forms part of AcessKenya’s KES300 million (USD3.0 million) investment programme that will see 18 major towns equipped with fibre connectivity and enhanced bandwidth by 2016.


‘The number of enterprises and county-reliant businesses that need high speed connectivity and other related solutions has been on the rise and this has been exerting a strain on existing resources,’ Macharia said, adding: ‘To meet this demand, we are deploying infrastructure to widen our network footprint as well as increase the bandwidth to reach more corporate customers with reliable connectivity… We have also ensured that the new hardware can now handle these additional demands in data rates of up to 100Gbps.’

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Norway: Telenor and Telekom Austria Group establish 4G roaming connection | TeleGeography.com

Norway’s Telenor Global Services has established a Long Term Evolution (LTE) Roaming peering interconnection with Telekom Austria Group which it has been claimed will benefit mobile network operator (MNO) subsidiaries belonging to both companies by ‘enabling a consistent, high quality LTE roaming experience for their subscribers’.


In a press release confirming the development the duo said that the peering agreement will allow them to expand their 4G global footprint with a potential reach of 220 million subscribers across countries in the Nordics, Central and Eastern Europe, and Asia.

For its part, Telenor noted that the partnership with Telekom Austria Group is one of several peering agreements already established, claiming it would contribute to a complete 4G/LTE coverage for Telenor Global Services MNO customers, giving travellers access to high speed data services when abroad. The new interconnection leverages on the company’s existing GRX peering agreement, as well as each company’s IP eXchange (IPX).


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Lancaster, CA: The Leading Solar City? – Episode 23 of Local Energy Rules | John Farrell | ILSR.org

Lancaster, CA: The Leading Solar City? – Episode 23 of Local Energy Rules | John Farrell | ILSR.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Jason Caudle, city manager with the City of Lancaster, CA, talked with John Farrell in April 2015 about his city’s solar boom. With more than 118 MW of solar, both private and public, operating within city limits, Lancaster is well on its way to producing or procuring 530 MW of clean energy by 2020. Hitting that target would make Lancaster one of the world’s first net-zero towns, producing more energy on an average day than the city consumes.


It started with installing solar projects on city-owned buildings such as the baseball stadium and city hall. The lowest upfront cost option for Lancaster was a power purchase agreement, allowing private company SolarCity to build and own solar arrays on city property and sell the energy to the city. Because electricity rates from Southern California Edison (SCE) are so high and the solar resources in the desert outside of Los Angeles are so good, Lancaster paid less for solar energy from SolarCity owned arrays on its property than electricity from SCE.


Although solar will work anywhere, Caudle says—and is particularly economical in the Antelope Valley— Lancaster made it work because city leadership was willing to say this is important. With all their solar ventures, city officials found that it just wasn’t that hard. “It was a story more of financing than it was a story of engineering or construction,” says Caudle.


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Overheating Earth staggers into Last Chance Saloon | Paul Brown | Climate News Network

Overheating Earth staggers into Last Chance Saloon | Paul Brown | Climate News Network | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The text of the agreement on how the world will tackle climate change and set targets that will keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels is being negotiated in Bonn this week.

The 2°C limit has been set by politicians to prevent the planet overheating dangerously − but the cuts in carbon emissions required to achieve it have so far not been agreed.

It is this gap between the policy goals agreed by world leaders and their lack of action to achieve them that the Bonn conference seeks to address.

The meeting, which opened today, will last for 10 days as working groups grapple with action to reduce carbon emissions, how to finance technology transfer, and how to adapt to sea level rise and other unavoidable consequences of present warming − such as the current heatwave affecting India, where temperatures in some southern states have topped 47°C.


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Data breach costs now average $154 per record | Maria Korolov | ComputerWorld.com

Data breach costs now average $154 per record | Maria Korolov | ComputerWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The per-record cost of a data breach reached $154 this year, up 12 percent from last year's $145, according to a report released by IBM and the Ponemon Institute,

In addition, the average total cost of a single data breach rose 23 percent to $3.79 million.

Loss of business was a significant, and growing, part of the total cost of a data breach. Higher customer turnover, increased customer acquisition costs, and a hit to reputations and goodwill added up to $1.57 million per company, up from $1.33 million the previous years, said Ponemon Institute chairman and founder Larry Ponemon.

Ponemon analyzed results from 350 companies in 11 countries, each of which had suffered a breach over the past year.

Data breach costs varied dramatically by industry and by geography.

The U.S. had the highest per-record cost, at $217, followed by Germany at $211. India was lowest at $56 per record.

Sorted by industry, the highest costs were in the healthcare industry, at an average of $363 per record.

The reason, said Caleb Barlow, vice president at IBM Security, is because the information in a medical record has a much longer shelf life than that of, say, a credit card number.


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Global Apollo programme seeks to make clean energy cheaper than coal | Damian Carrington | The Guardian

Global Apollo programme seeks to make clean energy cheaper than coal | Damian Carrington | The Guardian | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A plan to tackle climate change by emulating the race to put a man on the moon is launched on Tuesday, aiming to channel billions of dollars in research that will give renewable energy commercial lift off.

The Global Apollo Programme aims to make the cost of clean electricity lower than that from coal-fired power stations across the world within 10 years. It calls for £15bn a year of spending on research, development and demonstration of green energy and energy storage, the same funding in today’s money that the US Apollo programme spent in putting astronauts on the moon.

The plan is the brainchild of a group of eminent UK scientists, economists and businessmen including Sir David King, currently the UK’s climate change envoy, Lord Nicholas Stern, Lord Adair Turner and ex-BP chief Lord John Browne.

King said green energy already had advantages over fossil fuel power in cutting deadly air pollution and reducing the carbon emissions that drive global warming. But he said making clean energy cheaper was important too: “Once we get to that point, we are winning in all the battles.”


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Global warming could change the oceans more in 85 years than nature did in 3 million | Brian Palmer | onEarth.org

Global warming could change the oceans more in 85 years than nature did in 3 million | Brian Palmer | onEarth.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

One of the challenges in communicating the urgency of climate change is that our yardsticks aren’t grabby enough. Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations higher than 500 parts per million are impalpable to even humans with super-sensitive respiratory systems. Conceptualizing a two-degree increase in global average mean temperature is only slightly less challenging.

This is not one of those yardsticks: If we continue on the current emissions path, the oceans will experience greater changes in biodiversity in the next 85 years than in the previous 3 million years. According to a study released today in the journal Nature Climate Change, we are changing the state of life in our oceans—not just extinctions but also species invasions and relocations—at a rate unknown to science.

The authors of the study, an international team of geoscientists and oceanographers based in France, the United Kingdom, and Monaco, built a computer model of the ocean and populated it with pseudo species that created their own pseudo communities. It sounds eggheaded and theoretical, but the technique was designed to avoid a major obstacle to this kind of research—most of the oceans in the real world remain mysterious to scientists. We have a very poor understanding of what species occupy which ocean zones and at what levels of abundance. A model allowed the scientists to observe the effects of temperature changes without being thwarted by the limitations of existing data.


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Massachusetts Attorney General backs lifting cap on solar projects | Gintautas Dumcius | The Berkshire Eagle

Massachusetts Attorney General backs lifting cap on solar projects | Gintautas Dumcius | The Berkshire Eagle | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Attorney General Maura Healey said Monday she backs an immediate lifting of the cap on solar production in Massachusetts.

In written testimony to the chairmen of the Legislature's energy committee ahead of a hearing slated for Tuesday, Healey said public and private net metering caps have been reached in National Grid's territory, putting solar projects in 171 communities at risk as development slows.

Net metering allows electricity customers to offset their bills by receiving the retail rate for excess energy produced by solar panels.

"Increased market constraints can drive up costs, and reduce investment in the clean energy sector, to the detriment of customers, the clean-tech economy, and the Commonwealth's energy and environmental policy goals," Healey wrote in her testimony. "A limited cap increase will help avert this market boom-bust that would adversely impact 1,400 Massachusetts solar companies and place jobs at risk."

Caps exist for government-owned and private net metering solar projects, while residential projects or projects under 25 kilowatts aren't subject to a cap.

Solar industry advocates have pushed for a cap lift, while utilities have opposed it, saying customers without solar panels will be hit with higher bills. Gov. Charlie Baker's administration has said it opposes raising the net metering caps without a long-term solution.
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The Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, chaired by Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, and Rep. Thomas Golden, D-Lowell, is holding a hearing at 1 p.m. Tuesday on 13 solar energy bills and a net metering task force report.

Baker's energy and environmental affairs secretary, Matthew Beaton, has said Baker backs the previous administration's push for installing at least 1,600 megawatts of solar energy by 2020, but has also said the framework and incentives need to be reviewed.

Healey, who does not plan to attend the hearing, did not back a specific bill, and instead outlined elements of legislation she could support.

According to the two-page letter, the elements include lifting the cap and providing "relief" until an "open and transparent" study of the value of solar and distribution costs is published; directing the state Department of Public Utilities to decide the "appropriate rate mechanism for solar"; and reforming current solar incentive programs to "ensure that our solar industries continue to mature and ultimately thrive independent of policies that have helped launch their success."


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Hong Kong Shakes Its Head At Telephone Companies Still Wasting Time & Money With Copper Wiring | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

Hong Kong Shakes Its Head At Telephone Companies Still Wasting Time & Money With Copper Wiring | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Hong Kong Telecom Group (HKT) chief technical officer Paul Berriman believes copper phone wiring is a thing of the past and is nonplussed by efforts to wring a few more years of life out of infrastructure that cannot reliably support high-speed Internet and is costly to maintain. The only solution that makes sense is to get rid of the copper and replace it with fiber optic wiring.

While America talks about 1Gbps limited rollouts, he is thinking about speeds ten times faster with his announcement Hong Kong Telecom is preparing to launch 10 gigabit service across the territory and was continuing its efforts to tear out obsolete copper wiring.

The man partly responsible for ensuring Hong Kong’s broadband future is a fast and reliable one says HKT has 1.6 million broadband customers — 530,000 on fiber to the home service and 200,000 on less-desirable VDSL2 with vectoring, which still relies in part on copper wiring. He is not happy with copper wiring’s performance and support costs and wants it out of his network. His minimum target speed is 100Mbps and if he finds a building that for any reason does not deliver more than 30Mbps at all times, he instructs engineers to immediately tear out the copper and replace it with fiber.


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Farms of the Future Will Use Drones, Robots and GPS | Alex Thomasson | Drone 360 | Discover Magazine

Farms of the Future Will Use Drones, Robots and GPS | Alex Thomasson | Drone 360 | Discover Magazine | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Today’s agriculture has transformed into a high-tech enterprise that most 20th-century farmers might barely recognize.

After all, it was only around 100 years ago that farming in the US transitioned from animal power to combustion engines. Over the past 20 years the global positioning system (GPS), electronic sensors and other new tools have moved farming even further into a technological wonderland.

Beyond the now de rigeur air conditioning and stereo system, a modern large tractor’s enclosed cabin includes computer displays indicating machine performance, field position and operating characteristics of attached machinery like seed planters.

And as amazing as today’s technologies are, they’re just the beginning. Self-driving machinery and flying robots able to automatically survey and treat crops will become commonplace on farms that practice what’s come to be called precision agriculture.

The ultimate purpose of all this high-tech gadgetry is optimization, from both an economic and an environmental standpoint. We only want to apply the optimal amount of any input (water, fertilizer, pesticide, fuel, labor) when and where it’s needed to efficiently produce high crop yields.


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Biodegradable computer chips made almost entirely from wood | Ben Coxworth | GizMag.com

Biodegradable computer chips made almost entirely from wood | Ben Coxworth | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

As electronic devices are becoming outdated at an increasingly fast pace, e-waste continues to be a huge problem. That's why scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have started producing "wooden" semiconductor chips that could almost entirely biodegrade once left in a landfill. As an added bonus, the chips are also flexible, making them prime candidates for use in flexible electronics.

Although it would be neat to see a chip made from rich mahogany or knotty pine, the substrate of the UW-Madison chips is actually made of a translucent material known as Cellulose NanoFibrils (CNF) – it's also called nanofibrillated cellulose.

As outlined in a previous Gizmag article on CNF, the material is typically made by adding water to cellulose-containing materials (usually wood waste, as would be found at paper or lumber mills) then using high-pressure homogenizers, grinders or microfluidizers to rip the wood fibers into much smaller cellulose nanofibers. This results in a gel which is subsequently freeze-dried to remove the water, leaving the long, interconnected nanofibers behind.

Working with the US Department of Agriculture's Forest Products Library, the researchers added an epoxy coating to the CNF. This made the substrate smooth enough for application of the non-CNF circuitry (which makes up only a small part of the total chip), plus it kept the material from expanding or contracting by taking on or releasing moisture.


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UK: Zaha Hadid completes stainless steel-clad facility at Oxford University | Adam Williams | GizMag.com

UK: Zaha Hadid completes stainless steel-clad facility at Oxford University | Adam Williams | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Zaha Hadid Architects has completed work on a striking new £11 million (US$17 million) addition to the Middle East Centre at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. Contrasting markedly with nearby Brutalist and Victorian architecture, the modernist Investcorp Building is clad in stainless steel and sees the architect's distinctive flowing style used to great effect.

Comprising 1,127 sq m (12,130 sq ft) of usable floorspace split over three main floors and a basement, the Investcorp Building (named after the company that stumped up the cash for the project) doubles available space for the Middle East Centre. The building features a reinforced concrete primary structure, a glulam (glued laminated timber)-framed roof, and is clad in polished stainless steel. Its flowing form moves between two other buildings, and also curves to avoid harming a protected sequoia tree.

The interior is finished to a very high standard, and the decor is dominated by oak veneer timber panels and unfinished pre-cast concrete. The new rooms in the facility include a lecture theater, a gallery, library and archive reading rooms. The archives room boasts over 400 collections of private papers and 100,000 historic photographs concerning the modern Middle East for scholars and academic specialists to pore over.


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Facebook will send encrypted emails as users add PGP key to profile | Fred O'Connor | NetworkWorld.com

Facebook will send encrypted emails as  users add PGP key to profile | Fred O'Connor | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Some Facebook users should soon be able to receive encrypted emails from the social networking site if they add PGP public keys to their profiles.

Facebook called the PGP feature “experimental” and said it is slowly rolling it out, although a timeline wasn’t provided. The PGP key details will be added to the “contact and basic info section” of a person’s profile under “contact information.”

Facebook sends messages to private email accounts to inform users when they have a private message or friend request, for example. It currently uses TLS to establish secure connections to a person’s email provider, but this won’t keep the details of an email private from prying eyes.

By enabling PGP, Facebook will protect the content contained in an email, Facebook said Monday. Email service providers like Yahoo and Google scan a person’s inbox and run ads based on the content of a message, a practice some users don’t like. Revelations about widespread government surveillance programs have also made many people more concerned about online privacy.

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Iceland: Siminn extends LTE footprint to 84% of population | TeleGeography.com

Icelandic operator Siminn (Iceland Telecom) has announced that its Long Term Evolution (LTE) network now covers 84% of the country’s population, following the introduction of 4G services in the towns of Eskifjordur, Fellabaer and Neskaupstad. Going forward, the operator is planning to extend the 4G network to most of Nordfjord in the near future.

As previously reported by CommsUpdate, Siminn commercially deployed its LTE network in January 2014, using 2×20MHz spectrum in the 1800MHz frequency band. The network offered maximum download speeds of 100Mbps at launch, though in April 2015 Siminn upgraded its LTE transmitters and upped the maximum download speeds over the 4G network to 150Mbps, using equipment provided by Swedish vendor Ericsson.

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U.S. EPA proposing temporary pesticide-free zones for honeybees | Carey Gillam | Reuters

U.S. EPA proposing temporary pesticide-free zones for honeybees | Carey Gillam | Reuters | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

U.S. environmental regulators on Thursday proposed a rule that would create temporary pesticide-free zones to protect commercial honeybees, which are critical to food production and have been dying off at alarming rates.

The restrictions are aimed at protecting bees from "pesticides that are acutely toxic" to them, and would cover foliar applications when certain plants are in bloom and when commercial honeybees are being used to pollinate crops, the Environmental Protection Agency said in an 18-page outline of the rule. In foliar applications, the pesticide is put on the plant.

Honeybees pollinate plants that produce roughly a quarter of the food consumed by Americans, and beekeepers travel around the country with managed hives to help the process.

The rule, due to be published in the Federal Register on Friday, would apply to pesticide applications to blooming crops where bees have been contracted to pollinate and would cover 76 active ingredients used in pesticides, including a popular class of insecticide known as neonicotinoids.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said that honeybees had disappeared at a staggering rate over the last year. Losses of managed honeybee colonies hit 42.1 percent from April 2014 through April 2015, up from 34.2 percent for 2013-2014, and the second-highest annual loss to date, according to the USDA.

Commercial beekeepers reported adverse effects from pesticide applications to roughly 20,000 bee colonies pollinating almonds and roughly 2,000 colonies contracted to pollinate blueberries in 2014, and there are claims of tens of thousands more colonies similarly affected, the EPA said.

Beekeepers, environmental groups and some scientists say neonicotinoids, or neonics - used on crops such as corn as well as on plants used in lawns and gardens - are harming the bees.

But Bayer, Syngenta and other agrichemical companies that sell neonic products say mite infestations and other factors are the cause.

The White House has formed a task force to study the issue, and the EPA said Thursday it continues to conduct "chemical-specific risk assessments for bees" and will consider additional product-specific mitigation efforts.


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Climate change or natural variation? Understanding this ocean phenomenon will help us figure it out. | Brian Palmer | onEarth.org

Climate change or natural variation? Understanding this ocean phenomenon will help us figure it out. | Brian Palmer | onEarth.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Some of the most important research on climate change right now isn’t on climate change at all. Here’s what I mean: Every time an extreme weather event strikes, a debate ensues about whether manmade climate change caused the incident or if it was the result of “natural variability.”

There’s a big problem with this argument. We know a lot about climate change but very little about natural variability—the complex system that dictated all weather before humans intervened with our carbon emissions. As a result, the burden of proof falls on those arguing that climate change caused a storm or drought. If they can’t prove that human activity directly caused the event, it falls into the big black box labeled “natural variability.” No one asks for proof that natural variability caused an extreme event, and only in rare cases, such as the California drought, does such evidence exist.

If we better understood the natural forces that drove changes in the earth’s climate for the last 4.5 billion years, we could have a more informed discussion about how to attribute extreme weather events to either natural variability or anthropogenic climate change. To that end, we need more research on ocean currents, variations in solar intensity, volcanic eruptions, and other natural phenomena. That research is only starting to dribble out. Today, researchers at the U.K.’s National Oceanography Centre published a study explaining the forces that drive the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation.


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