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Top 10 Internet of Things Developments of 2010

first_imgrichard macmanus A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… Internet of Things (IoT) is a term for when everyday ordinary objects are connected to the Internet via microchips. The technologies include sensors, RFID and smartphone standards like NFC. The use cases are still evolving, but over 2010 we saw large organizations like HP and IBM build out impressive platforms for the Internet of Things. We also saw companies as diverse as Nike and Pachube enjoying success with consumer applications based on these technologies. Here are our picks for the top 10 Internet of Things developments of 2010. On Page 1 of this post we detail 5 large scale developments (3 specific trends and 2 IoT platforms). On Page 2, we select the 5 best consumer products for IoT. These include a product that connects your car to the Internet, an internet-connected shoe and a self-described “Cisco for small things.”This round-up was co-written with Deane Rimerman, who has been a regular contributer to ReadWriteWeb on this topic.HP’s CENSE NetworkOne of the leading IoT projects is being built by HP, in the form of a platform called CeNSE – which stands for “Central Nervous System for the Earth.” The goal is to create a worldwide network of sensors, which will create a feedback loop for objects and people. These sensors will measure data such as vibration, rotation, sound, air flow, light, temperature, pressure and much more. Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… ReadWriteWeb’s 2010 In Review:Top 10 Semantic Web Products of 2010Top 10 RSS and Syndication Technologies of 2010Best BigCo of 2010: FacebookTop Trends of 2010: App StoresMost Promising Company For 2011: SimpleGeoTop Trends of 2010: Internet TVTop 10 Startups of 2010Top Trends of 2010: PrivacyEarlier this year ReadWriteWeb visited HP Labs and spoke to several of their leading scientists. Parthasarathy Ranganathan, aDistinguished Technologist at HP Labs, told us in May that there will soon be millions of sensors working in real-time, with data sampled every second. He said there’ll be lots of different applications for this data; including retail, defense, traffic, seismic, oil, wildlife, weather and climate modeling. Hewlett Packard is at heart a computer hardware and IT services company. It’s building this platform because it sees that the coming data explosion will lead to huge demand for more powerful computers and better processing of all that data. Or, in the words of CeNSE lead Peter Hartwell, “one trillion nanoscale sensors and actuators will need the equivalent of 1000 internets: the next huge demand for computing!”IBM’s Smarter Planet IBM’s Smarter Planet campaign is about connecting objects to the Internet and applying intelligence and services on top of that. Like HP, IBM uses the central nervous system analogy. “The planet has grown a centralnervous system,” it states on the Smarter Planet overview page.In January of this year, IBM CEO Sam Palmisano gave a speech in London which shed light on Big Blue’s sensor platform. He said that IBM had developed 1,200 “smarter solutions” up till that time. HP’s Peter Hartwell: “one trillion nanoscale sensors and actuators will need the equivalent of 1000 internets: the next huge demand for computing!”Due to its scale, IBM has the ability to provide sensor systems to support city infrastructures. Palmisano talked about “four cities where IBM has helped deploy congestion management solutions, traffic volume during peak periods has been reduced by up to 18 percent, CO2 emissions from motor vehicles were reduced by up to 14 percent, and public transit use increased by up to 7 percent.” Big Blue is also working with organizations in healthcare, banking, power metering, retailing, manufacturers and goods suppliers. In May IBM announced the free open-sourced Mote Runner Software Developer Kit. It’s software that runs sensor-communications devices, like the Crossbow Iris.Government IoT: China, EU The Internet of Things was a key strategic concern for both the European Parliament and the Chinese government this year. Our Parliament of Things post covered the EU’s resolution to endorse the development of the sector, as long as there is an exhaustive survey of the effects of this technology on “health, privacy and data protection.”In the middle of the year, China announced a plan that will “fix a clear positioning, development goals, timetable and roadmap of the IoT industry.” China plans to strengthen policy support of IoT, including financial and taxation measures. This was closely aligned with an IoT conference in China that was impressively covered by Florian Michahelles.Maturation of RFID, Thanks to DASH7The amount of electricity it takes to power a trillion nodes, or things, that communicate with the Web is significant. Yet battery life and battery production costs have not declined at the same pace as processing power. RFID is well positioned to address this. Thing Magic’s 100 uses of RFID campaign was an an effective awareness raising tool in the second half of 2010. Even more notable this year was DASH7, a networking technology that uses the ISO/IEC 18000-7 standard for RFID – an open standard for license-free use in 433 MHz wireless bandwidth. This networking system has rapidly advanced. It’s used for supply chain tracking by the US Department of Defense, which paid nearly a half-billion dollars for its deployment 2 years ago. In April, we wrote about the implications of DASH7 in the next generation of cellphones, as well as specific use cases. In December, Google’s Nexus S became the first phone that made use of the Dash7 standard. This month we reported that Google is testing this technology in Portland, by giving store fronts Google Places window stickers that you can touch your phone to – which automatically directs your phone browser to the store’s website.Also worth mentioning is Novitaz, makers of Dash7-based smart cards that reside in your wallet and automatically perform many of the location-based tasks we currently manually do on our phones. The Emergence of the Smart Grid In 2010 the more practical uses of IoT began to take shape, in particular conserving energy – a.k.a. the Smart Grid. This year we took a tour of an Internet of Things home, where we discovered that half of the software in it was related to home energy conservation.Also notable was the USNAP alliance, a group of companies including GE and Google which are attempting to standardize the meter-to-device in-home monitoring stage of the smart grid. “This is the equivalent of USB for consumer products,” Barry Haaser of the USNAP Alliance said. USNAP is an acronym for Utility Smart Network Access Port and the consortium has been developing its technical specifications for three years. Consumer products aside, the greatest challenge to building a smart grid is the energy companies themselves – many of whom who are reluctant to invest in unproven technologies. Marshall Kirkpatrick touched on this issue in his Summer post called, Why Smart Grids Could Be Slow to Beat Web 2.0.Nike + shoesNike+ running shoes are possibly the most well-known example of sensors in a non computing device. The shoes come with a sensor that tracks your run and sends the data to your iPod. It even has its own social network and can automatically tweet and post a status report on Facebook. Later in the year, we also discovered that Nike + can be set up to automatically post to Foursquare.Nike + showed that the Internet of Things is already part of our everyday life, at least for those people who are motivated to track their running!AutoBot While the Nike + shoes have already arrived, a product that is still in private beta impressed us enough this year to also be included in our annual top 10.The winner of the Consumer Electronics Association’s i-Stage competition (where I was a judge) was AutoBot. Developed by Louisville, Kentucky company Mavizon Technologies, AutoBot is a car appliance that allows you to control aspects of your car with your smart phone. It also connects to the Web and offers integration with services like online mapping and instant messaging.The AutoBot device plugs into the OBD-II connector in your car. It then syncs to a web service, accessible via a smart phone app or a web browser. Features include locking and unlocking doors, controlling window settings, locating your car if you forget where you parked or it gets stolen, doing diagnostic checks on your car, and messaging friends and family when the driver has been in an accident.The appliance will become available next year, but already it’s a great example of smartly connecting an object millions of people use every day (a car) to the Internet.PachubePachube (pronounced “PATCH-bay”) was on our Top 10 list last year and this open IoT platform continued to progress in 2010. Pachube lets you tag and share real time sensor data from objects, devices, buildings and environments both physical and virtual. The goal is for it to become a platform that is responsive to and influences your environment – for example your home.A glimpse of what products may look like built on an Internet of Things platform is the partnership Pachube announced in June this year. It’s with Current Cost, a producer of real-time energy monitors. Current Cost is using Pachube’s Internet of Things platform for the Bridge, an ethernet device that connects Current Cost electricity monitors to the Internet. Pachube is being used for data management on the Bridge, enabling the device to deliver tracking, notifications, comparison tools and more. Related Posts center_img Arduino In 2010 the clear leader in capturing the IoT hobbyist’s imagination was Arduino. In recent months the company’s blog feed has seen a steady increase in posts about interesting things people are doing with their Arduinos.Not only is it the first company to have a popular documentary with a trailer that earned 75,000 views in one day, but they are also designing with an eye to the future by educating the next generation of programmers. ReadWriteWeb’s Audrey Waters explained what Arduino is in a recent post:Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform with both a hardware and software component. Arduino’s hardware is programmed with a language similar to C++, and although it may not be the easiest of entry points for learning programming, there’s something about building things that actually move that can be pretty compelling. Projects that use Arduino to introduce children to programming include a modification of Scratch to support simple programming on the Arduino hardwareArrayentArrayent is a new Internet of Things company that came across our radar early this year. It bills itself as the “Cisco of small things.” It is basically middleware for companies wanting to connect their products to the Internet. In particular it’s targeting smartphones. Arrayent made its first public appearance in January at CES. Arrayent offers a “turnkey communication system” called the Internet-Connect System, which enables product companies to connect their products to smartphones and computers via the Internet. It counts toy company Mattel and audio/video components supplier Monster Cable among its early customers.We think Arrayent is a great example of a startup seeing a commercial opportunity in the type of Internet of Things experimentation that Arduino exemplifies. As more and more objects become connected to the Internet, it will need the likes of Arrayent to be enablers.There you have it, our pick of the top 10 Internet of Things developments or products in 2010. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!Green Home photo by Svilen Milev. Tags:#2010 in Review#Features#Internet of Things#NYT#web#Year in Review Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Marketlast_img read more

4 Tips for MongoDB Beginners

first_imgSenko Raši? has created a list of tips for MongoDB beginners called MongoDB gotchas for the unaware user. All of these “gotchas” are in the MongoDB documentation, but are the sorts of things that you might not remember until it’s too late. Taking Raši?’s advice early could save you some major headaches later on.Raši?’s tips:Use the 64-bit version The 32-bit version is limited to about 2.5GB of data, and you can’t switch to the 64-bit version after install without starting all over.Have a slave DB on another machine If your MongoDB instance crashes, you’ll want to recover it from a slave on another server because the data from the master could be hopelessly corrupted.Secure it MongoDB doesn’t use any authentication by default. If you don’t want the entire world to be able to tamper with your database, you need to setup some security rules.Always use getLastError “Unless you need lightning speed, it pays to wait a little to be sure the database is ok with your changes, and that there were no errors modifying the data,” Raši? wrote.Read his post for more details. There’s also a helpful discussion on Hacker News.See also: 3 New NoSQL Tutorials to Check Out This Weekend. Why You Love Online Quizzes klint finley Related Posts How to Write a Welcome Email to New Employees?center_img Tags:#hack#tips 7 Types of Video that will Make a Massive Impac… Growing Phone Scams: 5 Tips To Avoidlast_img read more

IBM’s Watson and SAP Hana: A Worthy Combination?

first_imgTags:#enterprise#Trends Cognitive Automation is the Immediate Future of… 3 Areas of Your Business that Need Tech Now alex williams Related Posts center_img Massive Non-Desk Workforce is an Opportunity fo… IT + Project Management: A Love Affair I want to end the week with a short video by Dennis Howlett. The video is a fascinating exchange between Dr Vishal Sikka, an executive board member with SAP and Vijay Vijayasankar associate partner at IBM.The conversation is playful and quire insightful about the relationship between the companies. The two technologists explore in-memory technology in the context of IBM Watson and SAP Hana. But I particularly like the lead discussion about game mechanics and machine over human inequities that the Jeopardy match illuminated.Sikka opened the conversation by stating how he is a lifelong Jeopardy fan. In jousting fashion, he declared how astounded he was that he could beat Watson on four questions, including one about Chicago. Vijayasanka replied that it showed Watson deductive reasoning. It had low confidence and thus did not make the decision to click the buzzer. Sikka also pointed out that Watson had an inherent capability to click the button faster than its human counterparts. Vijayasanka had his own response again, saying Watson got to the button because it had the question answered first. It’s a humorous and insightful exchange that then extends into a conversation about how IBM Watson may someday be used with SAP Hana. Vijayasanka cited the potential for customer service engagements. Sikka said he expects that this year SAP will have some announcements about its text search technology.Of note is Sikka’s statement about the two companies working together through IBM Global Services and the ways SAP’s structured and unstructured text search technologies could work with the natural language processing capabilities that comes with Watson.This video is worth watching a few times to pick up the insights, particularly in how in-memory technology applies to text search. It can speed up searches on a scaling basis. That part of the equation will be particularly interesting to watch play out the rest of the year.last_img read more

ONI Report Details Western Complicity in Mideast Online Tyranny

first_imgA Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… Related Posts curt hopkins Today, the OpenNet Inititative has released a report on the roles Western tech companies have played in enabling repressive Arabic regimes to filter and control the use of the Web by their citizens. In the report, authors Helmi Noman and Jillian C. York “find that nine countries in the region utilize Western-made tools for the purpose of blocking social and political content, effectively blocking a total of over 20 million Internet users from accessing such websites.”Key Findings Among the key findings by the investigation team of Ronald Deibert, John Palfrey, Rafal Rohozinski, and Jonathan Zittrain, are nine Middle Eastern countries with ISPs who use Western tech to muzzle the Internet: Bahrain, UAE, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Sudan and Tunisia. They use these services to block sites based on a host of content criteria, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender material; proxies and anonymization; sites skeptical of Islam as well as those with a secular or atheistic focus; and dating services. Among the products used are U.S. tools including Intel‘s McAfee SmartFilter and Websense, as well as Canadian-made Netsweeper. The massive blocking lists, the lists of content, specifically sites, that can be blocked by a given software, are maintained by the filtering software company in partnership with their national clients. So the companies themselves are engaging in actions which make blocking of a specific non-profit or tool possible. They are hardly neutral tools, the screwdrivers or wrenches of the Internet. They are purpose-built, dynamic systems.To co-author Jillian York, the most important discovery in the report is “how the US throws so much money into circumvention technology to get around filtering that its own companies produce.” And the most surprising is how easy it is for a site to get misclassified by the filtering producers as porn. Famously these sites have, in the past, included those devoted to breast cancer prevention and treatment. Why Should We Care?In addition to the fact that a mislead country is easier to control and its citizens have less information to use when facing an increasingly global reality, there is also the fact that Western communications companies have grown up in societies that, to a greater or lesser degree, value free speech. It is far from coincidental that the largest tech communications companies are American. The atmosphere where free inquiry is an ideal encourages the development of such tools. By abandoning these ideals when abroad (usually under the cover of “local laws”), the companies that collaborate are implicitly stating, “These are not the sort of people who should have free speech, who could handle free speech if they had it.” If there is such a thing as institutionalized economic racism, you could hardly do better at finding an example of it. As an American it also feels to me that, given free speech is a bear to manage, why should these companies be thriving under my good graces, then throwing it out the window because of a fictional “responsibility” to their shareholders to not make $12 billion when they could make $13 billion. Of course there’s also that little issue of whether we actually believe in democracy. Democracy without access to information is mob rule. As a society, what do we believe? Should we hold companies to the standards we try to achieve as a country? I think we probably should. Unfortunately, according to ONI, only one company, Websense, has ever made a statement objecting to the use of their tools in the service of strangling speech, But their products, ONI finds, are used for just that thing. As ONI itself concludes:“Despite documentation by the ONI and other research and advocacy organizations, little discussion has taken place in the public sphere on the use of Western technologies for government-level filtering.”>”Despite documentation by the ONI and other research and advocacy organizations, little discussion has taken place in the public sphere on the use of Western technologies for government-level filtering.”The photo of the gas canister with the U.S. markings during the Egyptian uprisings was big news. The complicity of Western countries in the stiffing of the basic human right of free speech is even more damning and much less talked about. Tear gas photo by James Buck | Mediterranean map by OttomanPictures Tags:#international#politics#privacy#web center_img Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Marketlast_img read more

What’s the Difference Between the Energy Code and the DEA?

first_imgWhat will it take?So how will we get to a higher level of code enforcement?The current political climate, particularly the rise of the radical right, is pushing the country towards less rather than more government. I’m reminded of a few months I spend as one of the very few liberal and environmental leading members of the Georgia governor’s energy policy council in 2006. One discussion focused on budgeting for energy code training and enforcement. There was a lot of pushback from the group, one heavily weighted towards utilities and large corporations. My argument was that we already had the rules, we just needed to enforce them better – not much different from putting more cops on the street to make people safer.I did manage to persuade the group that it was the right thing to do, although most of the final plan still remains to be implemented. I do have hopes that code enforcement, along with increased consumer demand for better and more efficient homes will lead us on a path to better buildings.I am afraid, however, that along with drugs, drinking and driving, speeding, and paying people off the books, energy code enforcement will take a back seat to other pressing issues for many years to come. The code is getting more stringentThe 2009 IECC is a good start toward higher performing buildings, and the 2012 code will be even better, but neither will be any good if builders don’t abide by them. As I discussed in an earlier post, Georgia has implemented some good amendments to the 2009 code, including required blower door and duct testing for all new homes.The problem is that enforcement is moving slowly. The 2012 code, significantly more stringent than the current one, should be in place in a few years. If the industry can’t meet the current code almost two years into the process, how are they going to meet the new, tougher code? I’ve been on a bit of a rant lately about the poor state of energy code enforcement and its effect on building performance. The rules are there, but not enough people are following them. This misbehavior leads to excessive energy use, providing support to the energy and utility industries, and does nothing to reduce our dependence of foreign oil.That got me thinking about other rules and laws that don’t get followed and the resulting consequences. The first thing that comes to mind is illegal drugs. They are against the law, but lots of people use them and only few get caught. Buying those drugs tends to support crime and violence, but the risk of getting caught is low enough to keep people buying.Many people also pay employees and subcontractors off the books – supporting tax evasion and illegal immigration. A few get caught, but like drugs and energy codes, the risk/reward relationship is one that leads many to flout the rules. Other examples include speeding and drunk driving – when the rules are enforced, fewer people break them.last_img read more

Designing Homes and Communities That Can Survive a Disaster

first_imgBouncing back after storms, floods, and power outagesIn light of this, BuildingGreen and I have launched the Resilient Design Institute (RDI). Resilience is the ability to bounce back from a disturbance or interruption, whether from an intense storm, flood, drought, wildfire, extended power outage, or shortage of heating or transportation fuel. Some of these interruptions have their origins in nature (“acts of God”), while others could be caused by human actions, such as terrorism.Resilient design addresses the collection of strategies and practices that can help keep us safe and secure in our homes and communities during and following such events.While sustainability and green building are motivated by altruism (doing the right thing), resilient design is a life-safety issue. Many of the end-points are the same, but the motivation is a little different.I believe that resilience can ultimately be a stronger motivation for building highly insulated buildings, creating walkable communities, and carrying out other actions that will help us maintain safe, livable conditions should we find ourselves without power for three weeks or if political strife in the Middle East results in shortages of gasoline or heating oil. We get the comfort and security, and in so doing, we get a cleaner environment and help to mitigate climate change. Some 27 years ago, following a five-year stint as director of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (which was then based in Brattleboro), I launched my own company focusing on information about environmentally responsible design and construction. That company, now called BuildingGreen and with a staff of 18, remains a leading player in the green building world — a trusted source of information on green building products, the place to find objective news on happenings in the green building world, an independent voice on the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Rating System.It’s a great place to work, and I’m thrilled to serve as executive editor at BuildingGreen and be able to research and write about all the cool stuff that our subscribers need to know. Nadav Malin has been doing a superb job at running the company since I handed the reins to him several years ago.My shift away from company management at BuildingGreen has given me the space to focus on where we’re heading in the building industry and what sort of changes will be needed to solve the many challenges we face, led by climate change. My sabbatical last year, which I began with a contemplative 1,900-mile bicycle trip through the Southwest, provided an opportunity to delve deeply into this thinking.What emerged was the need to find a new motivation for creating more sustainable, lower-impact buildings and communities. From what the climate scientists tell us, we’re simply not making rapid enough progress in slowing our consumption of carbon-dioxide-spewing fossil fuels, which are warming the planet. The motivation of “doing the right thing” isn’t driving change at a rapid enough pace. Alex is founder of BuildingGreen, Inc and executive editor of Environmental Building News. He also recently created the Resilient Design Institute. To keep up with Alex’s latest articles and musings, you can sign up for his Twitter feed. Check out the RDI websiteI encourage you to visit our website and give us some feedback. The website is new, but will expand over time. I’d love to hear your comments and recommendations. Send them to Staying warm and ensuring access to drinking waterResilience has a lot of components, including: ·      Superinsulated, passive solar houses that will never drop below 45–50°F even after weeks of power outage or loss of heating fuel; ·      Pedestrian-friendly and bicycle-friendly towns and cities that allow us to get around without cars; ·      Access to fresh water, and an ability to use it frugally, should drought cause shortages or power outages prevent us from pumping it; ·      Local food production that can help keep us fed should drought in the West cause crop failures or should diesel shortages limit trucking; ·      Strong communities in which neighbors get to know each other and are able to rely on one another during times of emergency; and ·      Healthy local economies that can weather recessions, perturbations in markets, and, ultimately, the inevitable transition from a growth economy to a steady-state economy.center_img Defining Habitable TemperaturesResilient CommunitiesResilient Design: Passive Solar HeatResilient Design: Dramatically Better Building Envelopes Designing Houses and Communities To Be Smarter and More ResilientResilience: Designing Homes for More Intense StormsMaking the Case for Resilient DesignBuilding Resilience for a ‘Close Encounter’ with DisasterGreen Building Priority #9 – Create Resilient HousesMaking Houses Resilient to Power Outages RELATED ARTICLES Plans for the Resilient Design InstituteOur intent with RDI is to provide a go-to repository for information on all aspects of resilience, with a focus on practical solutions for achieving resilience in these various areas. Along with developing a comprehensive website with such information, we will produce fact sheets, handbooks, white papers, course curricula, and other resources.We will hold symposia and retreats to delve into various aspects of resilience. Topics of such meetings could include metrics for measuring vulnerability and resilience, incorporating resilience into building codes, resilient agriculture practices, and strategies for boosting the biodiversity and resilience of ecosystems. Foundation support will be sought for such gatherings.We hope to obtain foundation support for developing methodologies for assessing vulnerabilities and resilience of municipalities and institutions. Donations are welcome to aid in this effort! Secure donations can be made online by clicking on the “Donate” button (lower right side of any page on the website), or you can mail a check to the Resilient Design Institute.last_img read more

A California Builder Makes Artificial Turf Standard

first_imgFresno getting tough on waterGranville’s move to artificial turf is part of a bigger picture of aggressive water conservation in the city.According to an article in The Los Angeles Times, the city is taking a much more forward approach to water monitoring than most other California cities.A team of city water watchers is on the hunt for flagrant water violators and was responsible for 374 of the 838 penalties handed out by California water districts in a single month — more than 44 percent. The city was able to scale back water use by 33 percent last month, far above Gov. Jerry Brown’s order for a 25 percent cutback in urban water use.There’s a good reason. Fresno’s groundwater dropped by 4 feet last summer, The Times reported, and allocations of imported, stored water dropped sharply. In August, lawn watering was restricted to twice a week.According to the newspaper, the city’s new mantra is “Don’t frown on brown.” The continuing drought in California is convincing builders to modify what they offer prospective homebuyers in the way of landscaping.In Fresno, Granville Homes has been making synthetic turf standard in all front yards since May. That costs the builder six times as much as genuine turf but it looks a lot more appealing than grass turned brown by a lack of rain and lower groundwater supplies. Homebuyers can still get real grass as an option.Fresno is an inland city of a half-million people about halfway between Bakersfield and Sacramento in the Central Valley. The average high temperature is 96°F in July, and annual precipitation averages just under 13 inches. This year, rainfall has totaled just 3.75 inches, according to the University of California.That’s left a lot of conventional plantings begging for water.“Brown lawns are convincing buyers that this is a good way,” Granville President Darius Assemi told The Fresno Bee. “Our goal is to have completed neighborhoods that are timeless, that look attractive now and in the years and decades to come.”Other builders in the area also are offering artificial grass as an option and looking for more drought-tolerant plantings, according to the Bee. But Granville Homes is apparently the first to make the fake turf a standard feature on single-family lots.It’s not, however, Granville’s first foray into water conservation or energy conservation. Within the last few years, it has added irrigation systems that adjust themselves to the weather, preventing the sprinklers from starting when it’s raining, for example. Its “Eco-Smart” homes have R-40 ceilings, rigid foam over blown-in insulation in R-28 exterior walls, and rooftop photovoltaic panels.The front yards at Granville homes are between 500 and 600 square feet, and may also include drought-tolerant shrubs and two trees per house that are watered by a drip irrigation system.last_img read more

Do Humidifiers Create IAQ Problems?

first_imgIt’s that time of year when heating systems start coming out of their summer hibernation. (Except maybe in Vermont. Michael Blasnik’s Nest data showed that Vermonters are about the last to start heating their homes in the fall.) Then everyone starts looking for their lotion and lip balm. Gaps appear in hardwood flooring as it dries out. Buildings begin to creak and pop. And then the humidifiers come out.Yes, humidifiers can help with low indoor humidity. But what effect might they have on indoor air quality?Why does indoor air get so dry in winter?We’ve been through this before. I wrote about it in A Humidifier Is a Bandaid back in 2013. Shortly afterward, a certain manufacturer of humidifiers called and left me a nasty voicemail. I didn’t save it, but the gist was, “You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Call me back so I can yell at you.” I didn’t call back.OK, let’s go through it quickly.Low temperatures mean less water vapor in air.When outdoor air comes into a building, it gets heated up.When air with little water vapor comes in and gets heated up, it can end up with a really low relative humidity (RH).I proved this with the psychrometric chart in the bandaid article. There’s no disputing it.How does that cold, dry air get into a home? For most homes, it comes in through infiltration. Most homes leak. A lot. When they leak, heated air with decent humidity leaves the building. Cold, dry air enters. The humidity goes down. The lotion comes out. The humidifier gets turned on. A better solution is to reduce the infiltration with air sealing. The ideal range for relative humidityThis is the part that confuses a lot of people. If you go online, you can find all kinds of recommendations for what the relative humidity should be inside a home. Some say 30-50% RH. Others, including the creators of the chart shown in Image #2 below, say that you should keep it between 40% and 60%.That chart is a really interesting one. It shows some of the problems that develop when the relative humidity goes toward the extremes on either end. Also, it’s important to note that its focus is purely on health effects. Even more important, this chart is focusing on the relative humidity in the middle of a room. What happens near surfaces can be very different.The ideal humidity for winterAgain, this isn’t new ground. Earlier this year I wrote an article on the best relative humidity for winter. The short answer is that when you look at recommended RH ranges, you want to shoot for the high end in summer (staying below 60%) and the low end in winter.In an article titled, What You Need to Know About Mold, Joe Lstiburek, Nathan Yost, and Terry Brennan wrote, “There is rarely a reason to use a humidifier if the RH is above 25%.” This is more true in cold climates than in warmer climates for reasons explained below.Why? Because you don’t want to get frost on your ceiling or condensation on your windows. More about that in the next section.Humidity and indoor air quality in winterIn winter, it’s cold outside. In Florida, the temperature can drop down into the 60s or even the 50s Fahrenheit. In Vermont, subtract a hundred degrees. In Canada, they get down to -40° FC sometimes. (You can write it FC because at -40°, the Fahrenheit and Celsius temperatures are equal. Or you can say the FC stands for something else. Either way, it’s just really cold.)When it’s cold outside, some parts of the building enclosure will be cold. Some of those parts will even be able to “see” that indoor air with all its water vapor. Let’s say you have a ceiling where some of the insulation above has gotten disturbed. That part of the ceiling will be cold. Water vapor likes cold surfaces. It starts sticking to the cold places. If enough sticks, you start growing stuff. In Image #3 below, you can see mold on the ceiling. This house is in Georgia, and the mold grew in winter. Why? The humidity was too high and it found the cold surfaces. This was only one of them. (In this case, the homeowner was running a different kind of humidifier: unvented gas space heaters.)In that house, the mold was visible because it was on the ceiling. But it can grow in places where you don’t see it so easily, too. If you’re keeping the humidity high to save on lotion and lip balm, you may be growing mold in a number of hidden places. Take a look behind the furniture on your exterior walls. It could also be in the closets. Or it could be in that most hidden of places, inside your walls.Of course, there’s another way that humidifier could be growing mold. If it’s attached to your central heating system, like the one in the photo above, it sprays water into the heated air. That warm, moist air then travels through the ducts. Where are your ducts? If they’re in unconditioned spaces like an attic or crawl space and if they aren’t insulated well — or at all — that moist air may find the cold surfaces it so desires. As a result, you may well be growing mold inside your ducts. This really happens. It’s not hypothetical.When you crank up the humidifier in winter, you may well be growing mold in your home. You don’t really want to do that, do you?Relative humidity recommendationsGeneral recommendations for the ideal range of relative humidity are all well and good, but you’ve got to understand what can happen if your humidity is too high. Here’s a better list of recommendations for dealing with low humidity in winter.Infiltration is the source of dry air in most homes. Air sealing is the solution.Water vapor likes cold surfaces. For surfaces in contact with your indoor air, use insulation and air sealing to keep them warmer. As long as the temperatures of those surfaces stay above the dew point of the indoor air, you shouldn’t have a mold problem.Shoot for different parts of that range in different seasons: the low end in winter, the high end in summer.If your indoor relative humidity is above 25%, you don’t need to use a humidifier. If it’s below 25% RH, don’t humidify to higher than about 35%.What spurred this article was something Joe Lstiburek said last week at the Experts’ Session. Discussing walls in cold climates, he said, “It’s totally unhealthy to put in a humidifier.” If you have a house with a good building enclosure (airtight and well insulated), your indoor humidity should be fine without having to resort to a humidifier. If your enclosure isn’t so good, do what you can to improve it before doing something that could have a negative impact on your indoor air quality.Extending that earlier metaphor a bit, if a humidifier is a bandaid, in some cases it might be a used bandaid. It may give the appearance of making things better — but who knows what kind of infection you’re introducing? Allison Bailes of Decatur, Georgia, is a speaker, writer, building science consultant, and the author of the Energy Vanguard Blog. Check out his in-depth course, Mastering Building Science at Heatspring Learning Institute, and follow him on Twitter at @EnergyVanguard. RELATED ARTICLESWhat Is the Ideal Relative Humidity in Winter?How to Use the Psychrometric ChartAll About Indoor Air Quality Understanding Indoor Air QualityPreventing Water Entry Into a HomeAll About DehumidifiersDehumidifiersDesigning a Good Ventilation SystemVentilation Rates and Human HealthHow Much Fresh Air Does Your Home Need?last_img read more

The Rashkin Plan for Higher Profits with High-Performance Housing

first_imgSam Rashkin is a man with a mission: a mission no less ambitious than to change the way American homebuilders conceive, construct, and promote their products.As the father of the Energy Star Certified Homes Program, and now as chief architect of the building technologies office at the U.S. Department of Energy, his day-job description involves promoting super-energy-efficient construction. As a designer with businessman’s heart, he prefers to call it high performance construction. Building FerrarisIf you resent increasingly stringent energy codes, which now address indoor air quality concerns and incorporate a whole-house, engineered-standards approach to construction, then Sam Rashkin would challenge you to move beyond mediocrity and embrace the trend toward higher building standards. He would convince you by showing you the numbers, gathered over two decades with the Builder’s Challenge and now with the Zero Energy Ready Home program.Sam will guarantee that if you build high-performance homes, you will be more profitable. Branding is bragging“When I buy a Lexus or a Prius, it does not perform or look like a Toyota Corolla,” says Sam. “High-performance homes, like Ferraris, define an architectural brand. To be successful in marketing high-performance homes, you cannot keep making the same-looking house, but better — it has to have an elite look that brands it as something more desirable. Yeah, it costs a little more, so make it distinctive so people know it’s something special.”Sam gets excited as when he makes his pitch: “Work with me,” he says, urging builders to join him in the Zero Energy Ready Home program, “and do a few — just 15 to 20 of these high-performance homes — and you will see such a radical change in your profit margins. You’ll be convinced it’s the strategy for you.” RELATED ARTICLES Fernando Pagés Ruiz is a developer and author who speaks, writes, and consults on how to build high-quality, affordable, and energy-efficient homes. A builder with 30 years of experience, Pagés is the author of two books published by the Taunton Press: Building an Affordable House (2005) and Affordable Remodel (2007). Two books worth readingSam wrote a book about it, Retooling the U.S. Housing Industry, in which he examines the five critical components of our industry: land development, design, construction, performance, and sales. Published in 2010, it’s only slighted dated. Sam is a home building futurist, so most of us have not yet caught up to his old standards. It’s brief and practical. I do recommend it.To help you sell your product, I also recommend Sam’s book for home buyers, How to Avoid the 10 Biggest Mistakes Buying a New Home. Not that you’ll learn something new as a builder, but this book, inspired by questions from friends and family, addresses the most common pitfalls in selecting and negotiating for a new home. It will certainly help you in conveying the benefits of your high-performance home over the competition. “If you think only about first costs, and plan to compete with fire-sale homes, you have an old and now-defeated business model,” he told me. Then he fleshed it out with an example: “I’ve been working with builders for the last two decades or so, and I have built long-term relationships with a whole cadre of builders, in different markets — maybe 60 or more — and in my mind it’s like a secret club. These builders each put up about 20 homes a year, and what they experience is near zero callbacks and no marketing expenses, because they have a very loyal following. And they have higher profit margins because their customers know the value of their product.”Sam was struck by the business angle of building high-performance homes. He realized that “high performance” could be an effective message to promote better building standards: in effect, setting a high bar as a standard, in the same way that successful manufacturers not only provide a commodity service, such as transportation, computing, or phone calls, but also establish an aura of exceptionality that defines the marketplace. Think Audi, Apple, and, well … Apple. Zero Energy Ready HomesThe Zero Energy Ready Home program is a Department of Energy (DOE) initiative to encourage builders to construct now what we will all be building by 2020 — that is, homes that are so energy-efficient that a renewable energy system, such as a roof-mounted solar array, can offset all or most of the annual energy consumption.Sam’s program at DOE goes beyond energy to incorporate just about every high-performance standard, such as indoor air quality, 300-year durability, and natural disaster resistance — rigorous requirements that the DOE says will ensure outstanding levels of water and energy savings, comfort, health, and durability. If you partner with the DOE, they will provide plenty of promotional material.In fact, Sam suggests that builders get involved in any and all the builder programs, from Energy Star to LEED for Homes, as a means of marketing by association with established brands that represent high quality standards, along the lines of “Intel Inside.” Involvement in multiple programs also assures a well-rounded approach to construction that leads to better quality than any single-focus program can supply.But keep in mind that while a Ferrari represents high performance, it also represents social status, high design, and economic success, in the same way that a Rolex wristwatch represents much more than a timekeeping instrument. So it pays to partner with an excellent architect who can provide the chic necessary to showcase high style, not just energy performance. People still want to embody their green moral values and long-term energy-saving goals in elegant wrappings. Government Ups the Energy Star Ante The Energy Star Homes Program Raises the Bar with Version 3Will the Energy Star Homes Program Survive Version 3?LEED for HomesDenver Developer Focuses on Zero-Energy HomesLarge Connecticut Home is ‘Zero-Energy-Ready’Department of Energy Honors Innovative BuildersDepartment of Energy Seeks Student Designerslast_img read more

The Unequal Burden of Noise

first_imgMost Americans think of cities as noisy places — but some parts of U.S. cities are much louder than others. Nationwide, neighborhoods with higher poverty rates and proportions of black, Hispanic, and Asian residents have higher noise levels than other neighborhoods. In addition, in more racially segregated cities, living conditions are louder for everyone, regardless of their race or ethnicity.As environmental health researchers, we are interested in learning how everyday environmental exposures affect different population groups. In a new study we detail our findings on noise pollution, which has direct impacts on public health.Scientists have documented that environmental hazards, such as air pollution and hazardous waste sites, are not evenly distributed across different populations. Often socially disadvantaged groups such as racial minorities, the poor, and those with lower levels of educational attainment experience the highest levels of exposure. These dual stresses can represent a double jeopardy for vulnerable populations. Mapping city soundsIn 2015 we stumbled across a Smithsonian Magazine post about the National Park Service sound map. The sound estimates are meant to represent average noise levels during a summer day or night. They rely on 1.5 million hours of sound measurements across 492 locations, including urban areas and national forests, and modeling based on topography, climate, and human activity. National Park Service colleagues shared their model and collaborated on our study.By linking the noise model to national U.S. population data, we made some interesting discoveries. First, in both rural and urban areas, affluent communities were quieter. Neighborhoods with median annual incomes below $25,000 were nearly 2 decibels louder than neighborhoods with incomes above $100,000 per year. And nationwide, communities with 75% black residents had median nighttime noise levels of 46.3 decibels — 4 decibels louder than communities with no black residents. A 10-decibel increase represents a doubling in loudness of a sound, so these are big differences. FHB: The Quest for a Quiet Room FHB: Quiet, PleaseInterior Walls and Floor FramingQ&A: How do I Soundproof a Bedroom?SonicLQ: Reconnecting Acoustics and Airtightness Curbing noise pollutionThe U.S. government has done relatively little to regulate noise levels since 1981, when Congress abruptly stopped funding the Noise Control Act of 1972. However, Congress did not repeal the law, so states had to assume responsibility for noise control. Few states have tried, and there has been scant progress. For example, in 2013-2014 New York City received one noise complaint about every four minutes.Without funding, noise research has proven difficult. Until recently the United States did not even have up-to-date nationwide noise maps. In contrast, multiple European countries have mapped noise, and the European Commission funds noise communication plans, abatement, and health studies.A highway noise barrier in Croatia.In 2009 the World Health Organization released a report detailing nighttime noise guidelines for Europe. They recommended reducing noise levels when possible and reducing the impact of noise when levels could not be moderated. For example, the guidelines recommended locating bedrooms on the quiet sides of houses, away from street traffic, and keeping nighttime noise levels below 40 decibels to protect human health. The agency encouraged all member states to strive for these levels in the long term, with a short-term goal of 55 decibels at night.Nonetheless, inequalities in exposure to noise still exist in Europe. For example, in Wales and Germany, poorer individuals have reported more neighborhood noise.The most successful U.S. noise reduction efforts have centered on the airline industry. Driven by the introduction of new, more efficient and quieter engines and promoted by the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990, the number of Americans affected by aviation noise declined by 95% between 1975 and 2000.Moving forward, our findings suggest that more research is needed for studies on the relationship between noise and population health in the United States — data that could inform noise regulations. Funding and research should focus on poorer communities and communities of color that appear to bear a disproportionate burden of environmental noise. Our research shows that like air pollution, noise exposure may follow a similar social gradient. This unequal burden may, in part, contribute to observed health disparities across diverse groups in the United States and elsewhere. By Joan Casey, Peter James, and Rachel Morello-Froschcenter_img RELATED ARTICLES Joan Casey is a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. Peter James is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Rachel Morello-Frosch is a professor of environmental science at the University of California, Berkeley. This post originally appeared at The Conversation. Segregated communities are louderWe also found higher noise levels in more racially segregated metropolitan areas, such as Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, Trenton, and Memphis. This relationship affected all members of these communities. For example, noise levels in communities made up entirely of white Americans in the least segregated metropolitan areas were nearly 5 decibels quieter than all-white neighborhoods in the most segregated metropolitan areas.Segregation in U.S. metropolitan areas is a process that spatially binds communities of color and working-class residents through the concentration of poverty, lack of economic opportunity, exclusionary housing development, and discriminatory lending policies. But why would even all-white neighborhoods in highly segregated cities be noisier than those elsewhere? Although we did not find conclusive evidence, we believe this happens because in highly segregated cities, political power is often unequally distributed along racial, ethnic, and economic lines.These power differences may empower some residents to manage undesirable land uses in ways that are beneficial to them — for example, by forcing freeway construction through poorer communities. This scenario can lead to higher levels of environmental hazards overall than would occur if power and the burdens of development were more equally spread across the community.Segregation can also physically separate neighborhoods, workplaces, and basic services, forcing all residents to drive more and commute farther. These conditions can increase air pollution and, potentially, metro-wide noise levels for everyone. Why worry about noise?A growing body of evidence links noise from a variety of sources, including air, rail and road traffic, and industrial activity, to adverse health outcomes. Studies have found that kids attending school in louder areas have more behavioral problems and perform worse on exams. Adults exposed to higher noise levels report higher levels of annoyance and sleep disturbances.Scientists theorize that since evolution programmed the human body to respond to noises as threats, noise exposures activate our natural flight-or-fight response. Noise exposure triggers the release of stress hormones, which can raise our heart rates and blood pressure even during sleep. Long-term consequences of these reactions include high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and lower birth weight.As with other types of pollution, multiple factors help explain why some social groups are more exposed to noise than others. Factors include weak enforcement of regulations in marginalized neighborhoods, lack of capacity to engage in land use decisions, and environmental policies that fail to adequately protect vulnerable communities. This may lead to siting of noise-generating industrial facilities, highways, and airports in poorer communities.last_img read more

Will Windows 8 Bring HTML5 To Enterprise Applications?

first_imgCognitive Automation is the Immediate Future of… Related Posts cormac foster When Microsoft gave its first public preview of Windows 8 in 2011, the now-President of Windows Julie Larson-Green sent shockwaves through the Windows development world with just four words: “our new development platform.” The reason? That platform was based on HTML5 and Javascript.To casual observers, that makes sense. HTML5 is roaring to the forefront of development far faster than industry predictions. We even saw some commercial proof of the platform’s “Write Once, Run Anywhere” promise in 2012. To seasoned Windows developers, though – particularly those building enterprise apps in dedicated Microsoft shops – it crushed their world. After spending decades learning to use different languages and development environments – most recently Microsoft’s proprietary but feature-rich WPF and Silverlight – the thought of jumping ship for HTML5 was devastating.Microsoft has backpedaled in a number of forums since then, assuring developers that while HTML5 is the new standard for cross-platform apps, other tools will continue to work for Windows-only development. But the writing is on the wall. HTML5 is the future, so if you develop enterprise Windows applications, should you bite the bullet and make the move?Will HTML5 Save Enterprises Money?The cost argument will rage for some time. One camp holds that HTML / Javascript developers are cheap and plentiful, so HTML5 is necessarily cheaper. The other side believes that instability of the HTML5 spec (only recently finalized and not scheduled for Recommendation status until 2014) compared to the more mature development environments available for “traditional” Windows development means developers can build complex applications faster, without worrying about tweaking things down the road.The CTO of one small software vendor saw value in both views: “For our simpler apps, I can hire kids with good Javascript skills and let them learn the Windows specifics on the job. For really complex applications with tens of thousands of lines of code or more, It would be dumb to break what already works.” He added that his more experienced Windows developers are mentoring the generally younger HTML developers to cross-pollinate knowledge. “Ultimately, each tool will have a use, for at least the next several years, and I want all of my devs to be able to pick the one that makes sense.”“Serious Coders” vs. “Script Kiddies”His biggest problem so far is a reluctance to embrace change. “I have a couple 28-year-olds who act like grumpy old men, afraid that the ‘script kiddies’ without any real computer science knowledge are moving in on their turf. To them, HTML5 cheapens the application, dumbs down their resumes, and opens the door to a whole lot of bad coding from people who know how to make Web pages, but don’t have any formal experience with structured coding.”The last point is probably the most valid. Knowing HTML and some Javascript isn’t a particularly high bar, so enterprises need to be diligent about hiring and mentoring. If you pull developers off of Craigslist for $15 an hour, you’re not going to get quality enterprise work. Even well-established Web developers coming from a LAMP background may not have the right experience. A mentoring program using Agile or another pair-programming methodology – can be a great way to ease Web developers into a more formal programing environment.What Do Developers Want?One long-time C++ and (more recently) C# developer wasn’t excited about the rise of HTMLt5: “Eh. I get what they’re doing. It’s all about the portability of UI. They’ve been on that path for a long time, but whatever. The thing is, developers don’t want to learn a new markup when Microsoft has already forced them to learn one recently. WPF / Silverlight is crap, but so was Winforms. If they’d skipped WPF, they’d probably have more success trying to get people to shift to HTML5… I’ll go where the money is, though.”That last point is telling. Developers will follow the work, they really don’t have a choice. And that it won’t be long before everyone will be doing at least some work in HTML5. Smart enterprises will be begin mixing in some of that work now makes sense, but there’s not yet good reasons for a complete shift. IT + Project Management: A Love Affaircenter_img 3 Areas of Your Business that Need Tech Now Tags:#app development#enterprise#hack#HTML5#Microsoft#Software#Web Development#Windows 8 Massive Non-Desk Workforce is an Opportunity fo…last_img read more

How Online Comments Are Becoming A Big Business

first_imgRelated Posts adam popescu They almost seem like an afterthought, the comments attached to Internet content. These scribblings may seem like the anonymous musings of the masses, but many corporations are viewing them as a high-powered vehicle to drive lead generation and community building, and funding trends for commenting vendors suggests that this is not afterthought: Comments are a very valuable Web business.Chances are you’ve used Livefyre and not known it. After all, their clients include some of the biggest media out there. With huge partnerships with Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, and TechCrunch, Livefyre’s business is largely enterprise, and geared towards giving its clients, who boast millions of readers, new outlets to express themselves. Way beyond the typical social login, those options include live chat discussions, comment threads where users can embed YouTube videos, media and pictures, and new second screen experiences geared to drive engagement.So when Livefyre announced a $15 million funding round last month to ramp up their mobile and moderating features, people took note.If Livefyre is the new kid on the block flexing its muscles, then the tried and true veteran is Disqus, which has raised more than $10.5 million in VC investment. The six-year-old Y Combinator startup is the other major player in this sector, powering a total of 2.5 million sites, including big names like CNN and — ahem — ReadWrite. Disqus operates on a freemium model, with pro accounts at $99 a month. While it may not be fancy as Livefyre, it’s effective, just like other commenting services like IntenseDebate and Echo, other players in this space.That’s a lot of choices for publishers, because there’s value in giving customers varied options as to how they interact online. Let Them CommentUsers crave both more options from comments and more ways to engage with other readers and writers. As a result, publishers are shelling out dollars to increase that back-and-forth interaction. At the end of the day, people commenting on a page means longer active time spent on a site, and the potential of driving up click rates on adjacent ads. It’s also about community building on these comment threads, and leveraging that community for more page views and reader loyalty.Robyn Peterson, CTO of Mashable, says Livefyre has amped up conversations in three ways. Comment streaming drives up the “organic and lively feel of the conversation, which in turn drove more commenting from other readers. Second, since Mashable is a very social brand, a lot of our reader conversation takes place on Facebook, and Livefyre is able to cull those conversations and mirror them on our article pages, which coalesces the across-the-web comments into a single comment stream.”Lastly, Peterson says, social functions — like the aforementioned embeddable media — help readers “add more interesting content to a given article.”Interfaces that fuel user engagement creates maximum return on these comments, says Jordan Kretchmer, Livefyre’s founder and chief executive officer. He sees comments as way beyond a linear and threaded tool.“Our approach of integrating all conversations about an article or topic into one place makes us unique, regardless of the format those comments are displayed in,” he said. “The centralization of social content is key to getting users to interact more.”Steve Roy, a Disqus VP for marketing and PR, says his company is not trying to build a better comment mousetrap. Instead, he wants to make it easier for people to participate in discussions and introduce them to communities where they can explore their passions:Our AudienceSync feature enables users to easily connect their Disqus profile to publisher sites with one or two clicks. It makes it easy to participate in discussions on even more sites while enabling publishers to manage their own registration systems.Roy explained that these tools are getting people to stay on the site and express themselves, a boon for publishers. “Our data shows more than half of all our page visits include time spent engaged in comment, either reading, sharing or leaving comments. Audiences truly care about this discussion. And as page real estate, it’s unharvested revenue territory,” to the tune of 15 million organic new clicks to publisher content a month.A new tool called the discovery box recirculates traffic back to the publisher through promoted articles, providing a “new revenue stream each time a reader clicks on an advertiser’s content,” Roy said. “It’s optimizing their comments section much like they already optimize the headlines and articles for search.”That interaction between commenters and blogs is producing real revenue. “This quarter, we’re making revenue share payments to our publishers who have participated in our pilot native advertising launch,” Roy said.Real Value?Comments are seeing a serious build up of online niches and sub-communities, to the point where some sites like Gawker have even toyed with the idea of charging readers to comment.A year later, it seems they’ve given up on this pay-to-play approach, but Gawker has since introduced a new level of comment curation. Users who reply to an existing comment are more likely to get their opinions seen higher on the page than an earlier user who added a reaction directly to the original post. Gawker is attempting to highlight the most-trafficked and replied-to material, doing away with the chronological commenting stream, all in an effort to keep readers on site.It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where charging a fee to comment becomes plausible or scalable. It’s not something that we believe in culturally since speech tends to be viewed as both free as in freedom and free as in beer.But publishers are investing in comment systems in an effort to generate more indirect revenue. People are commenting more than ever, driving huge consumption and engagement that publishers would lose if they didn’t recognize the value of comments. A value that’s at least the equal of the material they’re commenting upon.Photo courtesy of Shutterstock Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hostingcenter_img Tags:#behavior#comments#community A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Marketlast_img read more

Yahoo Keeps Buying Startups That Don’t Make Their Own Apps

first_imgRelated Posts Role of Mobile App Analytics In-App Engagement owen thomas Yahoo is deploying its billions of dollars in cash and its newly buoyant stock to purchase a bevy of startups.It’s worth asking whether its shareholders are getting their money’s worth.Qwiki, a mobile-app startup based in New York whose acquisition Yahoo announced this week, is getting sued by Chaotic Moon, an Austin, Texas-based app-design studio, which claims it hasn’t been paid for work it did developing Qwiki’s iPhone app, which assembles pictures and videos together into short movies. (That’s a very different idea than the one Qwiki launched with, an iPad app which read Wikipedia entries aloud while displaying related imagery.)(See also: Yahoo Picks Up Qwiki For A Rumored $50M and Move Over, Flipboard: Qwiki Is The iPad’s Newest Killer App)In its filing, Chaotic Moon said it’s owed $168,000. In its response, Qwiki said it fired Chaotic Moon and had to hire another, unnamed firm, to finish the app. Qwiki is asking for $250,000 in damages.Chaotic Moon CEO Ben Lamm acknowledged the lawsuit and told ReadWrite that his firm “did design and develop a late iteration of the Qwiki product.”It’s up to a court to decide who’s right in the case. But whoever prevails, one thing is clear: Qwiki did not actually build the app for which it gained enough notoriety to land itself at Yahoo.Talent, Or Show?In discussing past acquisitions, CEO Marissa Mayer has said that her goal is to “bring … engineering and technical talent” to “accelerate our efforts in mobile development.”It’s a good strategy. Is Yahoo actually doing what Mayer says it is, though?The Qwiki episode reminds us of another splashy acquisition: Summly, which Yahoo paid a reported $30 million for early this year. Summly, it turned out, did not actually develop its core artificial-intelligence technology for news summaries; that came from SRI, the research organization that also spun off Siri, the voice-recognition startup Apple bought in 2010.Plenty of startups hire contractors or license intellectual property. There’s no inherent shame in it.But the logic of a “talent acquisition,” as Mayer characterized several of Yahoo’s recent purchases, is that you’re not buying the code as much as you’re hiring the coders. And so if the people who created a compelling user interface or a brilliant algorithm aren’t part of the package, it’s questionable what the startup’s worth.We asked several Yahoo spokespeople for comment on the matter and haven’t heard back.Update: A Yahoo spokesperson pointed us to Yahoo’s announcement of the acquisition. It cites Qwiki’s “awesome technology” and notes that the team is joining Yahoo. Tags:#acquisitions#lawsuits#Qwiki#Summly#Yahoo center_img What it Takes to Build a Highly Secure FinTech … The Rise and Rise of Mobile Payment Technology Why IoT Apps are Eating Device Interfaceslast_img read more

Smart city accelerator grows in Brooklyn’s hippest zip code

first_imgTags:#food#Internet of Things#IoT#Mini#Smart Cities#SOSV Related Posts Surveillance at the Heart of Smart Cities Donal Power How IoT Will Play an Important Role in Traffic …center_img Amid North Brooklyn’s man buns and artisanal kale donuts, the Urban-X accelerator is bulking up to focus on smart city reports on the hardware-focused accelerator program’s move from Manhattan to trendy Greenpoint. It is relocating to the A/D/O center in order to boost its capacity and space as it gears up for its second cohort.Urban-X is backed by a joint venture between BMW’s Mini car subsidiary and SOSV, an Irish VC, and runs seed accelerators in China, Taiwan, Ireland as well as the U.S.The program’s managing director Micah Kotch says the Urban-X is especially suited for hardware startups developing products for smart cities. Specifically, Kotch adds that the accelerator is seeking “people solving really hard problems” in such fields as transportation, public safety, food supply and energy.These areas of interest are at the crossroads where transportation and smart cities meet, which experts say need stronger collaboration in the future.A key area which the accelerator can assist participants is to help them develop strong revenue models, which remains a challenge in the emerging smart cities space.“There’s a lot of buzz around smart cities, but the space is still emerging,” said Kotch. “Some of the business models are still in flux.”Those startups accepted into the Urban-X accelerator will get the chance to build prototypes with BMW designers and engineers, and join excursions to BMW’s facilities in Munich.From Brooklyn to ChinaAs well, participants will get the opportunity to travel to Shenzhen, China to visit SOSV’s accelerator which focuses on hardware development.An example of an Urban-X graduate is Brooklyn-based Industrial/Organic.  The startup, which is developing efficient composting systems for cities, recently landed funding from Brooklyn Bridge Ventures.The application deadline for the 14-week program is Sept. 6. Up to 12 successful applicants will each get $60,000 for a 7% equity share that will be split evenly between SOSV and Mini.Applications are open to startups from across the U.S. and around the world. Almost half of the accelerator’s first cohort was from outside America. How Connected Communities Can Bolster Your Busi… For Self-Driving Systems, Infrastructure and In…last_img read more

Is BlackBerry going all-in on driverless car tech?

first_imgIn an effort to secure a future for the company, BlackBerry announced on Monday that it will open an autonomous driving research center in Canada.The QNX team, responsible for infotainment and telematics systems, will run the autonomous center from its Ottawa facility. In the announcement, it said it will embed software into sensors, cameras, and other self-driving car components.See Also: Apple self-driving effort shifts from hardware to software“What QNX is doing is providing the infrastructure that allows [customers] to build higher-level algorithms and to also acquire data from the sensors in a reliable manner,” said Sebastian Fischmeister, an associate professor and employee at QNX, to Reuters.BlackBerry does not want to work on artificial intelligence and other highly complex problems in the self-driving industry, at least not yet. Instead, it will work as a “sidekick”, according to Reuters, to automakers and tech firms.QNX already popular in connected carsQNX is already a popular operating system in the automotive world, so bringing its services to the self-driving market is not a massive change in operations. BlackBerry recently partnered with Ford to become its primary software supplier for future cars.That said, it does show that BlackBerry is willing to invest its capital into software and services, rather than hardware, where it has been lowering operational budgets and cutting staff.BlackBerry does suffer from a lack of capital and lacks a cash cow, like Intel’s processors or Google’s search engine, so it may not be able to spend billions on research and development. It may also be forced to sell its self-driving software and services at a cost, or at least with a license fee, instead of bundling them for free with hardware. Tags:#autonomous cars#BlackBerry#driverless cars#mobile#QNX#Self-Driving David Curry Break the Mold with Real-World Logistics AI and… For Self-Driving Systems, Infrastructure and In…center_img Related Posts IT Trends of the Future That Are Worth Paying A… 5 Ways IoT can Help to Reduce Automatic Vehicle…last_img read more

Add Light Effects to Your Videos with Volumetrix 2

first_imgidustrial revolution’s popular Volumetrix light spill plugin updates to support presets in Final Cut Pro X.Volumetrix takes the hassle out of adding interesting light effects to your video and animation projects!  Say goodbye to extensive keyframing – spicing up your text, images or video with impressive lighting is now as simple as adding a one-click preset.  Volumetrix includes a ton of lighting options, including the ability to add glows, rays, glints and highlights.It’s simple to customize each lighting effect to make it your own, by adjusting the timing and display parameters included in each preset.  Stack different lighting effects to create a one-of-a-kind look or transition.  The newest version of Volumetrix offers up full support for Final Cut Pro X, but the plug-in can also be used in:Final Cut Pro 7Motion 4 & 5Final Cut Express 4Adobe After EffectsTo get Volumetrix running in your editing application, download FXFactory and find Volumetrix in the list of available plfug-ins (Volumetrix runs on the FXFactory plugin management system).  For $49 you’ll get the full Volumetrix suite of light effects and the ability to run the plugin in any of the above applications.Get more info and download the Volumetrix light spill plugin.last_img read more

Video Encoding Presets for Kindle Fire, Nook, iPad and Android Tablets

first_imgEncode videos for playback on a tablet device using presets for Adobe Media Encoder CS6.Hot off the heels of the Creative Suite 6 release, Adobe is already making preset updates to Media Encoder.  New tablet products mean more avenues for video playback.  Adobe is making it simple to optimize your video encoding for tablet devices.The free preset download specifically addresses video encoding for:Amazon Kindle FireBarnes and Noble NookApple iPadTablets using the Android operating systemKindle Fire and Barnes and Noble Nook Color are two emerging entrants into the tablet arena and it’s nice to see they’re already receiving some 3rd party encoding support (makes it much simpler for video editors / media managers).  On top of encoding support for these tablet devices, presets are also included for XDCAM EX and AVC-Intro in MXF wrappers.Although this update is avaliable for both PC and MAC versions of Adobe Media Encoder, MAC users can also download an additional set of ProRes video presets.If you’re not already using Adobe Media Encoder, you can receive it as part of CS6 Production Premium or as one of the apps in Adobe’s new Creative Cloud subscription service.Adobe Media Encoder users download tablet encoding presets HERE.last_img read more

The Sony A7II: 5-Axis Stabilization Under $2K

first_img5-axis stabilization is going to shake up the filmmaking world.Sony has announced their new A7II, a sibling to the popular A7S. The A7II has a powerful feature set and looks like a great multi-purpose photo/video camera for under $2k. In this post we’ll look at a few of the cam’s features – notably the impressive 5-axis stabilizer.5-Axis StabilizationThe A7II is the first-full frame camera to have 5 axis in-camera stabilization. This means that even if your lens doesn’t feature any stabilization you should be able to see a noticeably smoother image in both photographs and videos. Photographers will be able to shoot at a slower shutter speed and still minimize camera shake. In fact, Sony is claiming that by using the built-in 5 axis stabilization you will be able to get 5 extra stops of image stabilization! Filmmakers will love this feature because it means you can get stabilized footage just from holding the camera by hand.In the following video shot by Andrew Reid of EOSHD you can see just how good the A7II’s 5-axis stabilization is when shooting video:From the footage you may notice that when it comes to dynamic range the footage isn’t astounding, especially when you compare it to that of the A7S.24.3 MP ImagesAt 24.3 megapixels the A7II outputs raw 14-bit images that are even larger than the Canon 5D Mark iii, and at a fraction of the price. Photographers will also love the improved autofocus which is 30% faster than it’s predecessor.Tech Specs SensorCMOS, 35.8mm x 23.9mm LCD Screen3″ Tilting Touch Screen Audio CompressionAAC LC, Dolby Digital 2ch, Linear PCM (Stereo) Resolution1920×1080, 1440×1080, 640×480 Subsampling 4:2:0 In-Camera, 4:2:2 Output Reference OutputHD via Mini HDMI Cablecenter_img ISO100 – 25,600 Compatible CardsSD & Memory Stick Video CompressionAVCHD, MPEG-4, XAVC S, Uncompressed via Mini HDMI Frame Rate24, 30, 60 fps Other notable features include:5fps Burst Shooting Mode2.36M-Dot OLED ViewfinderWi-Fi ConnectivityIf you’re seriously considering the A7II as a potential camera purchase, I highly recommend watching the following video by photographer Tony Northrup. In the video Tony examines the A7II on a variety of criteria and compares the A7II to the A7S.Initial ThoughtsWill this camera make a splash in the filmmaking world? Possibly, but it’s got steep competition against the Lumix GH4 (similar price points). With certainly we’ll see more 5-axis stabilization introduced in future cam models, especially from Sony. As test footage is only now coming out, it will be interesting to see more test shots, especially in regards to the cam’s dynamic range capabilities.Pricing and AvailabilityThe A7II body is available for Pre-order for $1,698 and will be available December 9th (in time for Christmas!)Recommended Reading:A7II Tech Specs– B&HSony A7II Arrives in the U.S. – NoFilmSchoolSony Officially Announces A7II – PetaPixellast_img read more

How to Craft a Cinematic Frame Within a Frame

first_imgA well-composed frame within a frame can fracture screen space, add depth, and create visual interest in your cinematic compositions.Top Image: Paris, Texas via 20th Century FoxCrafting a cinematic frame within a frame is easier than you think. By utilizing your shooting location and positioning your characters in the right spot, you can create a beautifully cinematic frame within a frame. Let’s take a look at a few of the most famous examples of frame within a frame in Hollywood and how you can create them yourself.Geometry and Blocking a Frame Within a FrameA striking composition is all about geometry and the arrangement of the subjects, objects, and locations within your frame. An early step in setting up a cinematic frame within a frame is a keen awareness and organization of the physical elements with which you will be working. Thankfully, many of the frame within a frame elements that you can employ may already be available at the location. These include anything that breaks your frame into smaller sections: mirrors, windows, doors, trees, and power lines.It is a good rule of thumb to work under the assumption that whatever you include within a frame will be viewed as an intentional stylistic choice when it’s time to show your work to an audience. For this reason, storyboarding and pre-production are crucial in planning out effective ways for you to divide your frame during production.Twilight Zone Episode “Mirror Image” via MGMThe Z-AxisThe cinematic frame within a frame is achieved by understanding the importance of the Z-axis when composing your shot. This breaks down to a consideration of the foreground, mid-ground, and background in each and every shot that you intend to capture. Think of your Z-axis as a hallway that moves away from you in space, kind of like the creepy hallways in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining:The Shining via WarnerIn the above image from The Shining, the foreground figure is framed within the carpeted floor of the hallway. The two girls up the hall are framed both within the hallway walls and within the window frame behind them. It’s important to understand that the cinematic frame within a frame happens constantly in motion pictures, but the power and usefulness of the device arises when it is used purposefully.Shapes and PatternsA cinematic frame within a frame is not limited to a rectangular shape. Any shape or form may be used as a secondary framing device within your shot as long as it somehow surrounds your subject. Andrei Tarkovsky and his cinematographer, Vadim Yusov, used a jagged frame within a frame in the film, Ivan’s Childhood:Ivan’s Childhood via MosfilmQuentin Tarantino and his cinematographer, Robert Richardson, used multiple rectangular frames and a circular frame in this shot for Kill Bill Vol. 1:Kill Bill via MiramaxKar-Wai Wong and his cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, made use of frame within a frame many times during the film, In the Mood for Love:In the Mood for Love via Block 2 PicturesWim Wenders and cinematographer, Robby Müller, used a reflection to achieve a very unusual frame within a frame for this shot from Paris, Texas:Paris, Texas via Twentieth Century FoxDeeper MeaningMeaning will always arise from your composition choices and using a frame within a frame is no different. If the frame within a frame is tight and restrictive, this may indicate claustrophobia, as can be seen in the opening of The Graduate:The Graduate via MGMIn the above image, we see Ben (played by Dustin Hoffman) sitting in front of a fish tank. He’s trying to figure out what to do with his life after graduating from college. Notice how the seaweed in the tank creates an enclosed frame around Ben’s head. This seaweed can be read as a visualization of Ben’s anxiety. The little figure pointing a harpoon at Ben’s head adds a nice comical touch.Ben’s father enters frame, replacing the harpooner, and creates a second and more oppressive frame within a frame.Later in the film, Ben will be enclosed by the leg of Mrs. Robinson.Steven Spielberg and his cinematographer Janusz Kaminski used circles to interesting effect in the film Artificial Intelligence: AI. In the image below, the circular lamp fixture suggests the isolation of the young robot, played by Haley Joel Osment, at the dinner table with his “parents.”AI via WarnerLater in the film, the circular frame within a frame is used to suggest a chance at fulfilling the main character’s purpose.AI via WarnerThere is no standardized meaning for a frame within a frame. It all depends on the content and your own purpose and intention as a creator. However, certain trends in the meaning of cinematic frame within a frame do tend to arise.Imprisonment and IsolationIda via OpusBecause the frame within a frame can so easily suggest a form of entrapment or identity in conflict, using vertical lines of any kind can be read as an imprisonment for your character.One of the more interesting uses of this isolated imprisonment appeared in American Beauty by way of the computer monitor.American Beauty via DreamworksAlong with the sense of isolation, the cinematic frame within a frame can indicate character conflict and separation. This early shot from The Gift foreshadows the trouble to come and reminds us that prison cells can also be made of glass.The Gift via Blue-Tongue FilmsThe Ipcress FileThe Ipcress File, released in 1965, has a heaping portion of cinematic frame within frame, which adds to the fitting paranoia of the classic spy thriller. The use of frame within a frame in the film has gotten some much-deserved attention from Vashi Nedomansky in one of his awesome video compilations:ConclusionThe cinematic frame within a frame is your chance to divide the composition of your shot using geometric lines of various shapes and sizes. Whether you choose to use foreground or backgrounds shapes to create this effect, the technique of cinematic frame within a frame can emphasize and highlight the underlying meanings within your story and break up the information in your frame for maximum impact.What are your favorite examples of a frame within a frame? Share in the comments below.last_img read more

Today’s Top Video Essay Creators

first_imgJacob T SwinneyMore likely than not, at some point you’ve probably come across one of Swinney’s essays in the past. Exuding a love for all manner of film, Swinney tastefully pieces together clips that flawlessly work together to focus on topics like similar directing styles, forms of filmmaking, and cinematography. Channel CriswellTaking a long-form approach to video essays, Channel Criswell (from Lewis Bond) has given us profound looks into some of our favorite films, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, Her, and The Social Network.Bond’s wide range of knowledge covers obscure and independent work as well, as demonstrated by his look into the subconscious operatic nature of David Lynch’s films. Every Frame A PaintingFounded by Tony Zhou, Every Frame a Painting offers scholarly, detailed analysis of directors and films. Zhou’s recent video essay on contemporary film scores went viral (and for good reason), prompting response videos that worked to further the conversation. Lessons from the ScreenplayRelatively new to the video essay scene, Lessons from the Screenplay (from Michael Tucker) has already given us some excellent think pieces. Lessons from the Screenplay focuses on what makes a film flow well and (as suggested by the channel’s name) why a good story and strong dialogue are the most important aspects of making a great film. Fandor KeyframeFandor Keyframe is one of the more prolific video essay operations on the web. They consistently release high-quality content that both informs and presents thought-provoking questions to viewers. Digging DeeperInstead of supercuts or catchy montages, the minds behind Digging Deeper focus on walking viewers through their thought process when analyzing some of today’s best movies. In addition to offering thoughtful theories on a film’s subject matter, Digging Deeper provides evidence and audio clips to prove valid points in these insightful think pieces. If you’re looking for daily film inspiration, then these top video essayists should not be overlooked. Their passion for film is obvious in every frame.Film essays have become all the rage over the last couple of years on Vimeo or YouTube. Video editors around the world slice together these thoughtful pieces to teach, inspire, and enlighten us as to what the world of film can offer. Here are some of the best video essay creators in the game right now.Burger FictionLets start this list off right with an appropriate send-off for one of the greats, Gene Wilder. Burger Fiction (helmed by Andy Schneider & Jonathan Britnell) made this video tribute to Wilder, demonstrating the legend’s comedic timing and genius mannerisms.The rest of Burger Fiction’s videos are equally enthralling and happen to be extremely easy to watch. Kick back and let this channel’s genuine love for movies take you through the history of awkwardness, fatal kicks, and one liners. The NerdwriterThe Nerdwriter is an informational joyride. Created by Evan Puschak, the channel is essential for anyone keeping up with current events and films. By dissecting ideas and pieces of work, The Nerdwriter presents facts and lets viewers decide how to feel. The channel is definitely worthy of your subscription. Who are some of your favorite video essay creators? Share in the comments below!last_img read more