Apple Now Runs On 100% Green Energy, And Here’s How It Got There

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The most important thing about the company’s big renewable push might be that it’s bringing everyone–from suppliers to local utilities–along for the ride.

You have to see Apple’s Reno, Nevada, data center from the inside to truly understand how huge it is. It’s made up of five long white buildings sitting side by side on a dry scrubby landscape just off I-80, and the corridor that connects them through the middle is a quarter-mile long. On either side are big, dark rooms–more than 50 of them–filled with more than 200,000 identical servers, tiny lights winking in the dark from their front panels. This is where Siri lives. And iCloud. And Apple Music. And Apple Pay.

Powering all these machines, and keeping them cool, takes a lot of power–constant, uninterrupted, redundant power. At the Reno data center, that means 100% green power from three different Apple solar farms.

The nearest one, and the first one built, is the Fort Churchill solar farm an hour southeast in desolate country near the town of Yerington, Nevada, where there’s nothing but flat, dry land bordered by low, jagged hills and blue desert sky. From the main road you can walk up to the fence and look down the seemingly endless lines of solar modules on the other side, with long concave mirrors catching and focusing the sun’s energy into the line of small black photo cells sitting just behind them.

Churchill is representative of the growing number of renewable energy sources that have popped up around Apple’s data centers in recent years. Since these massive computing machines use more power than any other kind of Apple facility, the company worked hard to get them powered by 100% renewable energy, reaching that goal in 2014.

Now Apple says it’s finished getting the rest of its facilities running on 100% green power–from its new Apple Park headquarters, which has one of the largest solar roofs on the planet, to its distribution centers and retail stores around the world. Though the 100% figure covers only Apple’s own operations–not those of of the suppliers and contract manufacturers which do much of the work of bringing its ideas to life–it’s also convinced 23 companies in its supply chain to sign a pledge to get to 100% renewable energy for the portion of their business relating to Apple products.

The achievement is the culmination of a furious effort over the past six years that involved financing, building, or locating new renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind farms, near the company’s facilities. Apple says it now has 25 operational renewable energy projects–with 15 more now in construction–in 11 countries. Just eight years ago, only 16% of its facilities were powered by renewable energy. By 2015 that number had increased to 93%, then to 96% in 2016.

Along the way, in 2013, Apple signaled its seriousness about green initiatives by hiring former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson as VP of environment, policy, and social initiatives. CEO Tim Cook wanted Jackson to focus Apple’s environmental initiatives, and perhaps act as a respected emissary to Washington, D.C. She’s done both.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

From Farmer to Fortune, How One Medical Device Revolutionized An Industry

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iwalk-free

Each year, many entrepreneurs bring their products to market. Yet, research shows that the majority of them will not make it. Among those new products each year, there will be rare items that not only make it, but that completely revolutionize an industry. That’s exactly what happened with the iWALK2.0, a medical device that is essentially giving crutches and scooters a run for their money and longevity. In fact, the company has seen such success from the sales of the device that they expect to hit their 100,000th unit sold this year.

“Crutches have been around for 5,000 years, but the iWALK2.0 has already earned its place in the industry as the device of choice for those who have a lower leg injury,” explains Brad Hunter, the innovator of iWALK2.0 and the chief executive officer of the company, iWALKFree, Inc. “Not only have we won multiple awards for the device, but the feedback we’ve gotten and the sales statistics we’re experiencing all point to a robust future for the iWALK2.0.”

The story of the iWALK2.0 begins with a farmer who created the original version to give himself an easier way to be more mobile while recovering from a lower leg injury. Little did he know he was sitting on a billion dollar idea. It was when Hunter came along and saw the potential in the product that the idea was brought to fruition for the mass market. Hunter purchased half of the company, took the device concept to a whole new level, and introduced it to the world.

During Hunter’s first year, the company had a million dollars in sales, confirming what Hunter had suspected, which was that this was going to be a successful product launch. A serial entrepreneur, he was no stranger to the hard work and dedication that it took to help products find their place in the market. While the device continued to do well, it really saw a huge increase in interest and popularity when Harrison Ford was seen using it. Ford then used it again, for a different injury, which further boosted awareness. Since that time, additional celebrities and athletes have used it, including surfer Kelly Slater and hockey player Nick Bonino, among others.

Hunter knows that there is more that goes into a successful company than just having a great product. His secrets to entrepreneurial success include:

  • Have a clear vision before you start anything, and stick with it – no matter what.
  • Do your homework and lay a strong foundation before you make your first commitment.
  • If others say you can’t do it, prove them wrong.
  • Don’t give it 100%. Give it 150%… or more.
  • Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.
  • Mediocrity is the enemy of excellence.
  • Build a strong team.
  • Watch your finances – daily.  Always know exactly where you are.
  • Be proficient at changing hats minute by minute.  Advanced multi-tasking capabilities are essential.
  • Know when to quit. Here’s a hint – never.

“Creating a truly great product is really hard. Building a truly great company is even harder,” adds Hunter. “But if you are dedicated to your vision, work hard, and believe in what you are doing you will increase your chances of success. Believing in yourself is a large part of the equation. I’m thrilled with where the iWALK2.0 is and in its future.”

Sales have soared, the company has won awards for the design and concept of the device, and it is literally revolutionizing the industry. Increasingly, people are opting for the iWALK2.0, which resembles a high-tech pirate’s peg leg, and makes it easier for them to be mobile while they are recovering from a lower leg injury. The iWALK2.0 attaches just below the knee, attaching to and recruits the user’s leg, giving people the ability to stand and walk as they normally do, thus replacing the need for crutches or a scooter. With this route, they are hands-free, which allows them to do things they are used to doing, such as walking their dog, drinking their coffee, using their cellphone, or carrying groceries. In 2017, sales were up 50% over the prior year, and on Amazon the sales were up 154% over the prior year.

The iWALK2.0 is hands-free, easy to learn to use, it’s intuitive, and safe. From the knee up, the leg is doing the same walking motion that comes naturally to it. The device is essentially a temporary lower leg, which gives people their independence and mobility back as they recover from an injury. The device is pain-free, and makes it possible for people to engage in many of their normal routine activities, such as walking the dog, grocery shopping, and walking up or down stairs.

Clinical research, the results of which are on the company website, shows that patients using the iWALK2.0 heal faster, and have a higher sense of satisfaction and a higher rate of compliance. The iWALK2.0 sells for $149 and is available online and through select retailers. Some insurance companies may cover the cost of the device. The device can be used with a cast or boot, and comes with a limited warranty. For more information on the iWALK2.0, visit the site at iwalk-free.com. To see a video of the iWALK2.0 in action, visit iWALK2.0 video on You Tube.

About iWALKFree

The iWALK2.0 is a hands-free knee crutch, made by iWALKFree, Inc.  It’s a mobility device used instead of traditional crutches and knee scooters. It offers more comfort and independence, with the hands and arms remaining free. The device offers people a functional and independent lifestyle as they are recovering from many common lower leg injuries. For more information on the iWALK2.0, visit the site at iwalk-free.com

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A Leading Voice in Diversity and Inclusion in Tech

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Wayne Sutton

Wayne Sutton is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Change Catalyst and its Tech Inclusion programs. Change Catalyst is dedicated to exploring innovative solutions to diversity and inclusion in tech through the Tech Inclusion Conference, training, workshops and the Change Catalyst Startup Fellows Program.

Sutton’s experience includes years of establishing partnerships with large brands to early stage startups. As a leading voice in diversity and inclusion in tech, Sutton shares his thoughts on solutions and culture in various media outlets, where he has been featured in TechCrunch, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal. In addition to mentoring and advising early stage startups, Sutton’s life goal is to educate entrepreneurs who are passionate about using technology to change the world.

Wayne has over 14 years’ experience in technology, design, and business development. Wayne has been recognized as one of the Silicon Valley 100 coolest people in tech, one of the 52 hottest new stars in Silicon Valley, one of the 46 Most Important African-Americans In Technology by Business Insider and one of the Top 100 most influential black people on social media in 2014.

In 2014 Wayne co-founded BUILDUP, a non-profit designed to support an inclusive ecosystem of entrepreneurs through educational workshops and fellows program for underrepresented tech founders. In 2011, Wayne co-founded the NewMe Accelerator, the first minority led startup accelerator/incubator in Silicon Valley which was featured in CNN Black in America 4. Prior to NewMe he worked in media in Raleigh, NC for NBC17 and the News and Observer. In 2009, Wayne was the co-founder of TriOut, a mobile location-based startup in Raleigh, NC which exited. Wayne has worked with large brands, Inc 500 companies and advises several technology startups. With a passion for community Wayne has organized Social Media Conferences, tech meetups, and hackathons such as the world’s first Food Hackathon, which assembled leading food innovators, chefs, developers, designers and entrepreneurs to collaborate on solutions in the food ecosystem.

Wayne has been featured on CNN, BBC, USA Today, TechCrunch, Mashable, Black Enterprise, and various online media outlets. Being an early adopter, Wayne was one of the first 1000 users on Twitter, which has led to a loyal following not only on Twitter, but also Facebook and Google+. His blog SocialWayne.com has been ranked one of the 50 best technology and social media blogs in the world over the years.

Wayne is a past TED attendee in 2012. With a passion for education and storytelling, Wayne has spoken at several universities and major internet and technology focused conferences, such as Stanford, UC Berkeley, Duke, UNC, NC State, TEDx, World Wide Web(WWW) Conference, O’Reilly Web 2.0 Expo, South By South West (SXSW), DockerCon 2015 and for the U.S. Embassy Jamaica during Global Entrepreneurship Week 2015.

Source: socialwayne.com

This New Prosthetic Limb Transmits Sensations Directly To The Nervous System

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Even with the most advanced prosthetics, amputees cannot feel the ground when they walk on a synthetic leg, or know if someone is touching a mechanical arm. This new MIT tech hopes to change that.

In 1992, Hugh Herr, now head of the Biomechatronics Group at MIT Media Lab, had both of his legs amputated below the knees after sustaining frostbite during a mountain climbing accident. “I”m basically a bunch of nuts and bolts from the knees down,” Herr says, demonstrating his prosthetic legs on the stage at TED 2018 in Vancouver, “but I can skip, dance, and run.”

Herr’s team at MIT focuses on building prosthetic limbs that respond to neural commands with the flexibility and speed of regular limbs. Around 24 sensors and six microprocessors pick up neural signals from Herr’s central nervous system when he thinks about moving his legs. They transmit those signals to the prosthetics, which move accordingly. But despite this remarkable connectivity between man and machine, it’s not a complete fusion. “When I touch my synthetic limbs, I don’t experience normal touch and movement sensations,” Herr says. In order to know his neural commands worked, he has to look and actually see his foot hit the ground–he can’t feel it.

Reproducing the sensations of having a real limb in prosthetics is, Herr believes, the last remaining hurdle to creating truly effective synthetic limbs. “If I were a cyborg and could feel my legs, they’d become a part of myself,” Herr says. But for now, they still feel separate.

His team, however, is working on a new type of limb that would receive not only commands, but sensations, from the central nervous system. This principle, which Herr calls neuro-embodied design, involves extending the human nervous system into synthetic body parts.

Since the Civil War, when limbs are amputated, doctors have generally truncated the tendons and nerve endings, which minimizes sensation and often leads to the “phantom limb” feeling experienced by many amputees. But in a new process Herr’s team pioneered at MIT, doctors leave the tendons and nerve endings intact so they can continue to feed sensations down past where the human leg ends and the prosthetic begins.

Last year, a fellow mountain climber and old friend of Herr’s, Jim Ewing, became the first patient to undergo the new amputation process and get fitted with a cyborg-like synthetic limb.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

Origami-Inspired Personal Shelter Provides A Quick Solution For Homeless

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Tina Hovsepian didn’t just want to get an “A” on her class project — she wanted to change people’s lives, too.

The architect is the inventor of Cardborigami — the collapsable, transportable and origami-inspired personal shelter she started inventing as a University of Southern California student in 2007. What started as Hovsepian’s academic assignment has become a feasible way to alleviate homelessness in her hometown of Los Angeles.

Hovsepian — who is currently raising funds to expand her product onto the streets of L.A. — was honored at a Women in the World event on March 18 for the design, and was awarded the Toyota Driving Solutions grant of $50,000 to further her work helping the homeless.

As she explained at the event, Hovsepian was moved to advocate for those in need after studying abroad in Cambodia, where her program helped redesign an impoverished school.

“It was… the first time witnessing firsthand third world poverty, and it got me really thinking about how privileged I am to be able to live in America, in Los Angeles, have an education, have supportive… people around me,” she said in a video produced by Women In The World, noting homelessness on Skid Row “is worse than [in] any third world country,” because the U.S. has the resources to do something about it.

Hovsepian is the founder and executive director of Cardborigami, the nonprofit, which is aiming to use the product as a way to secure permanent, long-term housing for those who need it.

The organization developed a four-step path out of homelessness, according to Hovsepian. First and foremost, Cardborigami will prioritize providing immediate shelter — such as its product — to those who need it. Secondly, the nonprofit will work with partner organizations that can provide social services to clients.

Securing permanent housing and then sustaining that housing through job placement are the third and final steps in the group’s model.

Continue onto HuffingtonPost to read the complete article.

MIT’s new headset reads the ‘words in your head’

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There’s always been a glaring issue with voice computing: Talking to a voice assistant with other people around makes you feel like a bit of a weirdo. It’s a big part of the reason we’ve been seeing the technology start to take off in the home, where people feel a little less self-conscious talking to their machines.

The advent of some sort of nonverbal device that gets the job done in a similar way, but without the talking, is a kind of inevitability. A team at MIT has been working on just such a device, though the hardware design, admittedly, doesn’t go too far toward removing that whole self-consciousness bit from the equation.

AlterEgo is a headmounted — or, more properly, jaw-mounted — device that’s capable of reading neuromuscular signals through built-in electrodes. The hardware, as MIT puts it, is capable of reading “words in your head.”

“The motivation for this was to build an IA device — an intelligence-augmentation device,” grad student Arnav Kapur said in a release tied to the news. “Our idea was: Could we have a computing platform that’s more internal, that melds human and machine in some ways and that feels like an internal extension of our own cognition?”

Continue onto TechCrunch to read the complete article.

Machine Learning At Google: The Amazing Use Case Of Becoming A Fully Sustainable Business

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Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. From the start, they have also made significant efforts to do this in a way that doesn’t deplete the world’s natural resources.

The company has been fully carbon neutral since 2007 and ten years later they are hoping they have achieved the next major goal – drawing every watt of energy they use for their business operations from renewable sources.

Kate E Brandt, their lead for sustainability, spoke to me about some of the ways they have been tackling this ambitious challenge while she was visiting London to speak at the Economist Sustainability Summit 2018.

She told me “We set a goal in 2012 that we wanted to reach a point where 100% of the energy used for our operations was coming from renewables – so it’s a longstanding commitment.

“We are completing our final calculations but all our indicators point to us having achieved that in 2017 – but stay tuned!”

Of course, Google being pioneers of machine learning and deep learning means they have some formidable technology available to them to achieve this. As you would expect, it has been deployed across a wide variety of use cases in order to achieve their aims.

With data centers accounting for 2% of the world’s global energy usage, creating efficiencies across its own network of 14 major hubs has been a priority for Google.

The challenge here is that the hugely complex nature of the equipment means there are literally billions of possible configurations of servers, chillers, cooling towers, heat exchangers and control systems. Knowing which configurations will lead to the optimum level of Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) – the metric used by Google to rate energy efficiency in data centers – is insanely complex for human beings to work out. Even a team of highly trained Google data center engineers.

But they took it as far as they could – building their own centers from the ground up so as to have maximum control over the variables at play, and custom-designing components to be free of extraneous, resource-sapping features common in off-the-shelf components.

Google – specifically, one engineer named Jim Gao – then turned to machine learning, the same technology which powers its image recognition and translation applications used by millions worldwide, to take things a step further.

Brandt says “So Jim took a machine learning course online, and got to thinking that it was really an interesting idea for optimizing data center cooling.

“One thing he told me which makes it so powerful as a tool – if you think about 10 devices each of which have 10 settings, that’s 10 billion potential configurations, and not something that the human mind can optimize.

“But once he was able to train this algorithm to see patterns across the various systems and how they impacted the cooling infrastructure, he was able to see that there was a tremendous opportunity.”

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

Apple Proposes Adding Disability-Inclusive Emojis to the Unicode Consortium

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Emojis of people using wheelchairs, service dogs, hearing aids and more could be coming to your iPhone. On Friday, Apple submitted a proposal to the Unicode Consortium — the non-profit that reviews requests for new emojis.

Apple’s request includes a total of 13 new emojis. The emojis fall into four categories, deaf and hard of hearing, blind and low vision, physical disabilities, and hidden disabilities, according to the company’s proposal. Apple collaborated with the American Council of the Blind, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and the National Association of the Deaf.

“The current selection of emoji provides a wide array of representations of people, activities, and objects meaningful to the general public, but very few speak to the life experiences of those with disabilities,” Apple states in its proposal. “At Apple, we believe that technology should be accessible to everyone and should provide an experience that serves individual needs. Adding emoji emblematic to users’ life experiences helps foster a diverse culture that is inclusive of disability.”

Apple is not the first to call for disability-inclusive emojis. People with disabilities have been asking for more inclusive emojis for years. In 2016, Scope, a U.K.-based nonprofit which promotes inclusion for people with disabilities, released 18 emojis featuring disabled people and highlighting the Paralympics. None of these emojis, however, are part of the Unicode keyboard.

Currently, there is only one disability-related emoji — the “wheelchair symbol” — despite the fact that approximately 20 percent of the population lives with a disability. Fictional creatures, like mermaids and zombies, on the other hand, have 14 different emojis. According to Scope, of the 4,000 Twitter users they polled, 65 percent of users said one emoji wasn’t enough to represent the full spectrum of disability.

Continue onto The Mighty to read the complete article.

The New SMARTGarden by SproutsIO

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SproutsIO

MIT Media Lab alumna Jennifer Broutin Farah, CEO and co-founder of SproutsIO, has spent nearly a decade innovating in urban farming, designing small- and large-scale gardening systems that let anyone grow food, anywhere, at any time.

All this work will soon culminate with the commercial release of her startup’s smart, app-controlled microgarden that lets consumers optimize, customize, and monitor the growth of certain fruits, vegetables, and herbs year-round, all through their smart phones. The soil-free system uses only 2 percent of the water and 40 percent of the nutrients typically used for soil-grown plants.

Philosophically, the aim is to power a “personal produce” movement, Farah says, in which more people grow their own food, encouraging healthier eating and cutting down on waste.

“Over the last 60 years, we’ve gotten out of touch with growing our food,” Farah says. “But when you grow your own food, you care more about what happens to it. You’re not going to throw it away, you’re going to know exactly what’s going into your plants, you’re going to share your food with friends and family. It gives a new meaning to produce.”

Sensors monitor plant growth and transmit data to what Farah calls the “backbone” of the system: SproutsIOGrow. The app lets users customize their plants and monitor the plant’s growth in real time. Depending on light and nutrients added, for instance, tomatoes can be grown to taste sweeter or more savory.

The app also provides predictive growth cycles and connects to personal activity trackers, meal planners, and calendars to help with meal scheduling. A built-in camera takes regular snapshots of growing plants for health diagnostics and to create time-lapse images for users on the app.

Individual SproutsIO units can save consumers water, energy, and resources, while easing into growing their own food. If enough people adopt the system, Farah says, it could save significant amounts of water and encourage local, efficient growing. But the concept of optimized watering systems, if designed at scale, could also benefit a world where around 70 percent of fresh water is used for industrial agricultural, she adds.

“We need to be considering different solutions for growing that start to optimize the needs of the plant, rather than just pouring tons of water and nutrients on them,” explains Farah.

Author:
Rob Matheson, MIT News Office
Source: Reprinted with permission of MIT News
Original article can be viewed here

Google Debuts Wheelchair Accessible Routes in Google Maps

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wheelchair accessible routes

Google Maps will now show wheelchair accessible routes in cities like Boston, New York, and London.

The search giant said Thursday that people can now use Google Maps to get directions that are catered specifically to people with mobility problems.

Although people can use Google Maps to get around using public transit, those routes may not be best suited for people with wheelchairs or who have other disabilities.

Google (GOOG, -3.63%) said that it teamed with transit agencies to help it catalogue the best wheelchair-accessible routes. To find those routes, Google Maps users enter where they want to go, tap on the “Directions” tab, and then choose “wheelchair accessible” as one of the options under the “Routes” section.

The company is debuting the new feature in major metropolitan areas worldwide. In addition to Boston, New York, and London, the option is available for Tokyo, Mexico City, and Sydney.

“We’re looking forward to working with additional transit agencies in the coming months to bring more wheelchair accessible routes to Google Maps,” Google product manager Rio Akasaka said in a blog post.

Continue onto Fortune to read the complete article.

This Restaurant Robot Is Designed To Help Servers–Not Replace Them

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robot serving food

People might not want to eat in a robot-run restaurant, but what if the waiter has a robot that helps them carry your food?

If you order bibimbap at the Kang Nam Tofu House, a Korean restaurant in a strip mall in Milpitas, California, a robot will help your server bring the food to your table. The restaurant is the first the world to use the robot, which was designed not to replace human servers, but to act as an assistant.

“Our goal is to automate the hard part of [restaurant] work, so employees focus more on customer service,” says John Ha, who is both the owner of the restaurant and the co-founder of Bear Robotics, the startup that designed the robot.

Before owning Kang Nam, Ha worked as an engineer at Google. But he was a frequent customer at the mom-and-pop restaurant, and when the previous owner decided to sell, he invested. He got a quick education in the world of restaurant work–filling in for dishwashers and cooks and servers when someone was out sick or quit–and realized that technology could help improve the experience. He decided to build a robot and pilot it first at his own restaurant.

“I realized, why have all the manual labor?” he says. “No one’s really happy. No one’s proud of a restaurant job . . . I thought robots could bring a huge impact to society. So I decided to quit Google, started building the prototype, and now it’s running as a daily operation at my restaurant.”

The small, pedestal-shaped robot, called Penny, is designed to navigate in a restaurant’s crowded, narrow spaces, using sensors to avoid any obstacles. If a customer’s foot is in the robot’s path, the robot will automatically stop. After restaurant staff programmed in the location of each table and the kitchen, the robot made itself a map of the restaurant; now, servers use a tablet to summon the robot whenever food is ready and tell it where to go.

At the Korean restaurant, which is fairly small, there are generally two human servers working, and one robot. One person stands at the kitchen window, loading food onto the robot and prepping side dishes. The other person greets customers, waits on tables, and handles the cash register. The robot goes back and forth, delivering plates and bills.

It’s a dramatic shift from past; Ha says that servers had to adjust to the fact that they were no longer running around, and he had to reassure them that they were still being productive by focusing on customers instead. “Some servers actually walk many miles a day, even in these smaller restaurants, because they’re literally running back and forth to get food that’s ready to go to serve to another table,” says Juan Higueros, Bear Robotics COO. “This actually cuts down on that for them, allows them to interact with the people who are coming, and hopefully allows for more return customers.”

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.