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Offshore U.S. wind farm proposal uses Tesla batteries to store power

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Tesla’s energy business is focused in part on solar power generation, but a big component of the business hopes to use its Powerpack commercial storage batteries in tandem with renewable power generation to store energy until it’s needed. A new proposal, reports Bloomberg, by energy supplier Deepwater Wind would use Tesla’s batteries in a new offshore wind plant near Massachusetts for exactly that purpose.

The plan, which is one of the bids submitted to a request for proposals to supply power to the state of Massachusetts, would see a production facility with 144-megawatt capability build off the coast. The batteries from Tesla would then store the wind-generated energy at peak production times, and hold it in reserve for peak demand hours. It’s exactly how other Tesla Powerpack facilities function, including its Kauai energy storage installation, which opened earlier this year.

The proposed plan includes a 40-megawatt storage capacity, which is less than either 52 MWh facility on Kauai, or the planned 100 KWh set for construction in Australia. But the unique offshore installation would add yet another example of how Tesla’s battery storage can supplement a range of power generation methods, which would help with its larger goal of demonstrating how it can be applied to a wide variety of requirements.

Deepwater will still have to compete with other bids, but it’s already built the first ever U.S. offshore wind farm near Rhode Island.

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Gadgets

A week on the wrist with the Alpina Startimer

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It’s refreshing to wear a mechanical watch. The soft sweep of the seconds hand reminds us of the fleeting nature of time while the endless ticking in a dark room is a comfort and a spur to action. Add in a little limited edition provenance with big face and crown and you’ve got a stew going.

This particular stew is called the Alpina Startimer. It is a pilot’s watch, a watch with a large face and huge numerals used by old-timey fighter pilots during World War II. Designed with a huge crown which, as William Gibson wrote, “is rather more than usually prominent, so that you can do it without removing your whacking great RAF pilot’s gloves,” the pilot’s watch is the ultimate in utilitarian wrist-wear. You don’t admire a pilot’s watch, you address it for a split second while preparing to take Gs in a barrel roll.

This particular model is made by Alpina, a smaller Swiss manufacturer that has long specialized in a larger, bolder watch. The $1,150 piece runs a AL-525 movement which is based on the Sellita SW200. This is a Swiss movement that is, to a degree, mass-produced and is considered a workhorse in the watch world. It is part of their Startimer line but features special design cues and a limited edition engraving.

This piece is a commemorates Michael Goulian Aerosports, a stunt aerosports team that, we learn, straps these things to their wrists and whizzes around obstacles. The watch “is presented in a special edition box alongside a miniature model of Michael Goulian’s Red Bull Air Race World Championship competition airplane” and is aimed at fans of little planes that go really fast.

What’s special about this watch? Well, it’s a nicely made automatic watch at a price point that is on par with other entry-level pieces in the space. It has great lume – the numerals and hands glow in the dark making it very readable – and the band is a little thin but well-made. If you particularly like this mix of red, black, and titanium it’s a definite keeper.

I, for one, prefer either a steel or dark PVD pilot’s watch. All the bright metal on this piece is a bit distracting and takes away from the utilitarian nature of the original pilot’s watches. The traditional pilots watch also has broadarrow hands – IWC makes one that is a good example of the standard design – and the decision to add thinner hands to this piece is a bit incongruous.

I wore it off and on for a week and found it to be very readable and very precise. Watches slow down over time but this one managed to keep solid time over seven days with an average loss of a few minutes by the time my test was over. Again, you don’t buy these sorts of things to maintain atomic accuracy, you buy them to be reminded of a simpler time in aviation history.

Ultimately when it comes to a piece like this you’re buying quality and then design. The quality is there as Alpina has been making solid, dependable watches for decades. The design is subjective and if you’re into a “rather more than usually prominent” crown with a bold, handsome face then you could do worse for yourself. Now all you have to do is buy yourself some whacking great RAF pilot’s gloves and you’ll be set to take to the skies.

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Xage emerges from stealth with a blockchain-based IoT security solution

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Getting the myriad of devices involved in the industrial internet of things provisioned and communicating with one another in a secure way will be one of the great technological challenges facing companies in the coming years. Xage (prounounced Zage) emerged from stealth today with a blockchain-based security solution that could help simplify this.

The company also announced that Duncan Greatwood has joined the company as CEO. Greatwood is an experienced entrepreneur, who sold Topsy to Apple in 2013 and PostPath to Cisco in 2008. These exits have given him the freedom to pick and choose the projects he wants to work on, and he liked what he saw at Xage from a technology perspective.

“This is an area where a wave of change is sweeping through the industry. Security is a foundational element of this innovation,” Greatwood told TechCrunch.

He said that Xage is building a security fabric for IoT, which takes blockchain and synthesizes it with other capabilities to create a secure environment for devices to operate. If the blockchain is at its core a trust mechanism, then it can give companies confidence that their IoT devices can’t be compromised. Xage thinks that the blockchain is the perfect solution to this problem.

They do this by building a trusted network of people, machines and applications on the blockchain, which creates an irrefutable connection among these different entities and prevents anyone who has not been given explicit permission from gaining access.

“The blockchain is operating like a distributed, redundant tamper-proof data store. It connects with policies pushed from the cloud or configured locally. The [security] fabric enables the devices and AI and people to communicate with each other and controls the flow of information,” he explained.

Greatwood says this is helping solve a huge IoT security challenge because of the tremendous risk that’s inherent when everything can talk to everything. “Any to any communication at the edge with many devices is the worst case scenario for security because you are creating the maximum attack surface,” he said.

But, he says, Xage’s blockchain approach flips that because the more participation you have, the more secure it’s going to be. “The more participants you have, the more security you have, the more redundancy you have, the harder it is to attack the system and break the consensus the blockchain is there to establish,” he said.

What ends up getting deployed is a security fabric, a set of gateways and client devices on the industrial edge that form the blockchain among themselves,” he said. “ The company is working with IBM on the Hyperledger Fabric project to build their blockchain along with some of the Etherium technology.

The product is generally available today. The company is located in Palo Alto and currently has 20 employees. Among their early customers are ABB and Itron, which is using the technology to provision smart electricity meters.
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Andrew Ng’s Landing.ai wants to bring artificial intelligence to the manufacturing industry, starting with Foxconn

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AI pioneer Andrew Ng is probably best known for his work on the Google Brain project and for leading Baidu’s AI group (and his machine learning course on Coursera). After leaving Baidu earlier this year, it wasn’t quite clear what exactly Ng was up to (except for teaching more classes), but today he announced the launch of Landing.ai, a new startup that focuses on bringing artificial intelligence to the manufacturing industry. Landing.ai’s first strategic partner is Foxconn and Ng says he’s been working with them since July.

The idea here is to help bring AI to industries outside the traditional IT world. In his announcement, Ng argues that AI and machine learning have already transformed how many of the big internet companies do business. Other industries, however, are lagging behind. “It is now time to build not just an AI-powered IT industry, but an AI-powered society,” Ng writes. “One in which our physical needs, health care, transportation, food, and lodging are more accessible through AI, and where every person is freed from repetitive mental drudgery. For the whole world to experience benefits of AI, it must pervade many industries, not just the IT industry.”

So what will Landing.ai actually do? Ng writes that the company is working on a number of “AI transformation programs” that include introducing new technologies to companies, training employees and more.

The manufacturing industry is the first focus of the company, though Ng is clearly looking to expand beyond this initial vertical.

As for the Foxconn partnership, Ng says that he’s been working with them to develop “AI technologies, talent and systems that build on the core competencies of the two companies.”

All of this sounds a bit vague, and Landing.ai definitely strikes me as more of a consulting firm than a technology play. It’s unclear if the company will develop any of its own AI technologies or platforms, though given today’s launch announcement, the focus here seems to be more on bringing existing technologies to enterprises like Foxconn.
Featured Image: Luis Castaneda Inc./Getty Images Readmore

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