Technology

The only thing stopping software is hardware

toddham_iwatch_siri

I had the honor of sitting down with Sprint’s CEO Dan Hesse not too long ago. As you can probably imagine, he holds a wealth of insight about tech, and not just telecom.

I asked what he thought was the biggest market threat to software considering how well, á la Marc Andreessen, software has been “eating the world”. He gave an interesting response: “the only thing stopping software is hardware”.

But he wasn’t talking about computing power; he was talking about battery power.

This is actually not that surprising. Moore’s law aside, it’s been well documented that advances in software have fueled advances in hardware benchmarks. But what has not enjoyed an equally successful advance is the battery industry.

What’s the result? Exactly what Hesse was referring to—mobile computers are so powerful that they’re crushing battery life faster than ever before. It’s no wonder Apple is working on flexible batteries, kinetic chargers, and even wireless charging. When they debut their iWatch (or whatever the hell they’ll call it), they’d better have powerful voltage sources keeping it going considering how small the product will have to be. Apple has great engineers, but I wouldn’t place any bets just yet. Tech superstar Anand Lal Shimpi of AnandTech released his own study on iPhone battery power and found that iPhone battery life has increased by just 12 percent in the past six years. The iPhone 5S’s 1570mAh battery is barely more powerful than the original iPhone’s 1400mAh battery.

Of course, it’s not Apple’s fault. They have plenty of other things to worry about, like which lucky Ohioan downloaded the 50 billionth App from the AppStore. The entire tech industry is facing the same issue, and as a result, consulting giant McKinsey thinks that “the price of lithium-ion batteries could fall dramatically by 2020, creating conditions for the widespread adoption of electrified vehicles in some markets.” That’s not exactly a bad thing from a macroeconomic perspective, but what that does mean is that market analysts don’t see the energy capacity of batteries increasing, which would, of course, raise prices of Li-ion batteries.

Someone needs to step in here. Quartz writer Rachel Feltman already thinks Apple could start a “veritable Manhattan Project of batteries” with its hiring of energy storage experts—including solar engineers, which really makes you think—for its iWatch campaign.

At any rate, Hesse better pray to the E&M gods for an answer if he wants to keep Sprint afloat. Though maybe T-Mobile can help with that (emphasis on maybe).

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Economics, Politics, Technology

Solar is actually viable

One of my favorite websites these days is

http://mapsontheweb.zoom-maps.com.

It’s not an artfully crafted news aggregator, and it doesn’t feature new thought or commentary either. Rather, it features a collection of maps, charts, infographics, and other data representations that the site’s admins painstakingly add each day from all corners of the web.

The most moving addition so far, at least in my eyes, doesn’t even fit the criteria of what they usually post. It’s just a picture from Wikipedia that estimates the area of solar panels needed to power the entire world as per current energy consumption levels, and you’d be surprised just how little land is necessary. Fullneed(On a side note, I recently took ExxonMobil’s Energy Quiz and was surprised to learn that US power consumption is actually expected to fall over the next 30 years or so. During that period, global demand for wind, solar, and biofuels is expected to rise fivefold.)

Anyway, back to the image. It’s quite a telling sight because it illustrates how viable it is for solar to accomplish what many claim solar can never. It’s a moving sight that certainly gives me hope for alternative energy’s place in the future of production and consumption. But it’s also quite frustrating to see when considering the political gridlock that has plagued our renewable energy policies.

It doesn’t take long after a look at that picture to start extrapolating in your head a rectangle of similar size over the US. There are dozens of options here that could work, and many of those incidentally get almost as much sunlight as the Sahara Desert does (and also are completely uninhabited).

I realize the cost of setting up such a system is quite enormous, but I also believe that anyone who ventures into such a colossal project is bound to be rewarded. And by rewarded I mean paid, big time. India and China, for all the growth that they’ve seen over the past decade or so, have each faced several energy crises in recent years. Think of all the energy we could export eastward, and at rates that they’d have no choice but to accept. Additionally, it’s well documented that solar hardware prices have been falling in recent years due to technological innovation and the Chinese getting involved in production. So who knows how expensive inexpensive such a project will be in a few years.

Solar certainly has a future, and this image is a good means of proving that.

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Technology

Good vs. Google

http://www.alicekeeler.com/teachertech/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/gmail-hires-gmail1.jpg

Gmail logo © Google, Inc.

“In a blog post published Friday, Google said the Internet-wide efforts against unauthenticated emails, which can be used by spammers and phishers to fake email addresses and deceive users, are working. In fact, the vast majority of non-spam email that Gmail users receive is authenticated with standards designed to fight phishing.”

Great news from Google in the fight for cybersecurity. (Source link)

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