News Article | January 6, 2016
We live in an age where it's possible to be two places at once, in a manner of speaking. Programs like Skype and FaceTime have made it possible to see a friend, family member, or romantic partner's face in front of yours, even if they're miles upon miles away. Telepresence robots are, in a way, an upgraded Skype, giving the user an extended sense of autonomy with movement. Now, the company Double Robotics says it has come out with a telepresence bot that can bolster that experience — all with the help of self-stabilizing technology and a clearer, wider telecommunicative picture. Reminiscent of BB-8 in its movements, Double Robotic's self-balancing two-wheeler telepresent robot, named the Double 2, might look a little like a simple tablet interface on a stick — but the company's sturdier, upgraded bot might be a design game-changer. The Double 2 was designed with three new features: lateral stability control, which helps the bot retain its balance, even when faced with obstructed terrain or uneven ground (to an extent, at least — the Double 2 is definitely suited specifically for indoors); an upgraded power drive which lets it go up to 80 percent faster than its usual rate of mobility (up to 1.6 miles per hour, almost double the speed of its previous iteration) with the mere click of a shift key; and a detachable camera with a 150-degree wide-angle lens and and 5-megapixel HD imaging, which not only give the user wider peripheral vision, but let anyone on the "other side" interface with a clear and resonant picture. "The unveiling of Double 2 marks our deep commitment to our customers to make their experience with Double Robotics the best it can be," said Double Robotics CEO and co-founder David Cann in a press statement issued on Jan. 6. "The three new features are a direct result of customer feedback. Our mission is to enable all types of remote experiences, and the introduction of Double 2 will help us work toward that goal." The new Double 2 model and Camera Kit are available now; the Double 2 costs $2,499 and the Camera Kit is $249. There is a package deal that includes the Double 2, Charging Dock, Audio Kit, and Camera Kit for $2,999.
News Article | February 4, 2016
It's one of the biggest logistical challenges imaginable—how to secure a major urban area hosting one of the world's biggest sports events and expecting a blitz of tourists and fans. San Francisco is expecting almost 2 million visitors to the Bay Area for this Sunday's Super Bowl, and all of the city's hotel rooms are booked and dozens of local police departments are coordinating their procedures. Communications is key to this mammoth security operation and the quarterback of this effort is Jaime Ellertson, the CEO of security firm Everbridge, who is facing a unique challenge during this year's game. One of the complications for this Super Bowl is that the game will be played in Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, a suburb of San Jose nestled deep in Silicon Valley that's more than 50 miles south of San Francisco, where most of the major events and celebrations will happen. Santa Clara is a sea of mid-range hotels and chain restaurants anchored around the arena, a large amusement park, and a convention center—but let’s face it, San Francisco is just way more fun. This means more traffic and more visitors going back and forth than during a typical Super Bowl. The reason why the 49ers play in Santa Clara is a tangled tale of municipal politics that I won’t even try to get into, but the end result is easy to grasp: Coordinating security, traffic, and logistics for an event that straddles a city and its distant suburb will require some real teamwork from Ellertson's Everbridge, other security companies, and police departments. For local law enforcement, that means talking to tourists. Lots and lots of tourists. Captain Jeffrey Hunter of the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety told Fast Company that because the city of Santa Clara is on the smaller side for a host city (with a population of 120,245 in 2013), Santa Clara is working with law enforcement from the Bay Area and beyond to handle the Super Bowl influx. Hunter is head of operations for the Super Bowl’s Joint Information Center—a consortium of local and national law enforcement and public service agencies tasked with communications with the millions of visitors to the Super Bowl (a separate center attached to the big game handles intelligence and surveillance). One of the key goals of the Joint Information Center is to push out text message and email-based safety alerts to visitors and residents. Over 7,000 people have signed up for this service as of press time, he added. One of the major security headaches that visitors will endure, beyond omnipresent surveillance, is the fact that mobile phone service is likely to be disrupted around the Super Bowl due to overuse. Visitors to Levi’s during 49ers games routinely complain of poor phone service; the crowds around the Super Bowl—an estimated 2 million visitors to the San Francisco Bay Area and approximately 70,000 game attendees—will only make things worse. Everbridge, which provides the infrastructure for law enforcement to send text message alerts to visitors and residents for events like the Pope visiting the United States and the Boston Marathon bombings, is one of the more public-facing companies in a vast ecosystem of firms supplying law enforcement, government, Levi’s Stadium, local businesses, and others with surveillance equipment. According to a recent report in Wired, both Bay Area residents and visitors to the Super Bowl can expect unprecedented amounts of security and surveillance in play in the week leading up to the game. Although Everbridge is on the communications end—and isn’t involved in surveillance—they’re part of a continuum of companies that includes suppliers of mobile phone surveillance devices, facial-recognition software attached to security cameras, and license plate scanners deployed on local highways and in event venues. Ellertson, who said his service has had thousands of sign-ups in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl before most tourists arrived, told Fast Company that they let law enforcement "send information like safety alerts, weather traffic, alternate parking, anything going on the day of the game really. If there’s something like a major accident, it allows the police and joint information center to quickly communicate to residents." Essentially, Everbridge’s product—a messaging system called Nixle—lets law enforcement mass-text visitors to the Super Bowl in order to ensure smooth traffic flow, avoid accidents, and manage crowds in case any incidents occur. Although their Super Bowl product is strictly opt-in, other tools that Everbridge markets to law enforcement use Reverse 911 data to beam emergency text messages to the general public. These are typically used in situations such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and Amber Alerts. The company says one of the reasons they were chosen for the Super Bowl is the fact that the city of San Francisco, San Francisco International Airport, and many local police departments participating in the Joint Information Center already have a working relationship with them.
News Article | January 11, 2016
Since late December, the security community has been poring over a likely cyberattack in Ukraine that led to a section of the country temporarily going without electricity. Researchers who analyzed malware found in a network of the targeted grid management center claimed that a Russian hacking group was responsible. The coordinated nature of the attack is now coming to light. Michael J. Assante, director of SANS ICS, a group of researchers focusing on industrial control systems, writes that the hack compromised “multiple elements,” including measures to stop customers reporting the resulting blackout. The attack was first reported on December 23, when a Ukrainian power company announced that a part of the country had gone dark, and the country's security service blamed Russia for causing the outage. Shortly after, researchers obtained samples of malware found within the affected network. Robert M. Lee, a former US Air Force cyber warfare operations officer and CEO of Dragos Security, previously told Motherboard that this malware was “unique,” meaning it was likely linked to the outage. Assante’s analysis shows the highly organized effort of the campaign: rather than just infecting a target with a piece of malware, hackers made a concerted push to delay customers and responders from reacting. This shows the attack was likely purposeful, and planned in advance. One element of this multi-faceted approach was a “denial of service” attack on phone systems, Assante explains. This was to “deny customer calls that would have reported the power out.” The hackers also installed malware in an attempt to stop technicians from detecting the attack. “The attackers demonstrated planning, coordination, and the ability to use malware and possible direct remote access to blind system dispatchers, cause undesirable state changes to the distribution electricity infrastructure, and attempt to delay the restoration by wiping SCADA servers after they caused the outage,” Assante wrote. As other researchers have indicated, Assante says that there were likely also other targets, writing, “We assess with high confidence that there were coordinated attacks against multiple regional distribution power companies.” Some questions still remain about how exactly the cyberattack led to a power outage, however: Assante writes that the malware itself likely didn't result in the lights going off, but instead facilitated a remote attacker to open “breakers,” disconnecting the affected parts of the network.
Among the many disconcerting things about Tesla's offer to buy SolarCity was this line from Elon Musk during the June 22 conference call explaining the deal: "Since SolarCity is constrained in the short term from just going out and raising equity itself, Tesla would provide a bridge loan, if needed. I actually don't think it's going to be needed, to be clear..." This was disconcerting because, to summarize, a company burning a lot of cash was talking about buying another company burning a lot of cash and throwing out the idea of maybe lending that target company some cash to tide it over. So far, Tesla hasn't provided that bridge loan. But on Tuesday evening, SolarCity did reveal that it needs the money and that Musk is providing it himself. Musk, along with Lyndon and Peter Rive -- SolarCity's CEO and technology chief, respectively -- are buying $100 million of a $124 million offering of "solar bonds." Growing demand for rechargeable lithium batteries used in consumer electronics and electric vehicles is driving efforts to expand battery recycling, primarily to recover lithium, cobalt, and other valuable metals. But typical battery recycling methods, such as smelting and acid leaching, have significant disadvantages: Smelting is a high-temperature, energy-intensive process, and both processes generate harmful waste. So Jeffrey A. Cunningham of the University of South Florida is looking for a greener way to recycle lithium batteries. At the American Chemical Society national meeting in Philadelphia on Sunday, Cunningham reported on research that may pave the way for fungi to play a role in future battery recycling. More photos of the Ogin ducted wind turbine dismantlement have been “thrown over my transom.” These close-up photos show far more detail of the disassembly and scrapping process than before. Ogin’s Diffuser Augmented Wind Turbine, or DAWT, is a direct descendant of FloDesign’s ducted turbine announced with much fanfare in the tech and popular press in 2008. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency was hyping FloDesign’s “innovative” wind turbine by saying it “could deliver 300% more power than existing wind turbines of the same rotor diameter by extracting more energy over a larger area.” Elsewhere, FloDesign was telling the media it could do all this for 30% less cost than conventional turbines. Since then, FloDesign erected at least one prototype on Deer Island in Boston Harbor. Donald Trump’s top energy policy adviser is trying to downplay the GOP presidential nominee's support for local bans on hydraulic fracking. Oil tycoon Harold Hamm on Tuesday told The Wall Street Journal that Trump’s recent comment endorsing “local control” of fracking policy stemmed from a misunderstanding of the issue. “Donald Trump did not understand that concept at the time in my opinion,” Hamm, head of Continental Resources Inc., said at a conference in Denver. “He does now." Quartz: The Netherlands Is Considering a Ban on Gas-Powered Cars Gasoline-powered cars may soon be a thing of the past. But the Netherlands wants to get there quicker. The Dutch government is debating the possibility of banning new gas and diesel cars from 2025. The initial proposal, which was brought forward by the Labor Party, called for an outright ban of all petrol and diesel cars, but was eventually modified so the ban only affected the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. Traditional cars already in use will still run on the streets. The proposal has since passed in the lower house of the Netherlands’ parliament. It now needs to pass through the Dutch senate.
"Despite over three years of effort and billions spent on acquisitions, the management team that was hired to turn around the Core Business has failed to produce acceptable results, in turn, causing massive declines in profitability and cash flow," Starboard Value LP wrote in a letter released Wednesday. "It appears that investors have lost all confidence in management and the Board." If changes are not forthcoming in leadership, Starboard said, an election may be needed to replace some members of the board. Starboard did not include any specific names in its letter. Mayer became CEO of Yahoo Inc. in 2012 and Webb became chairman in 2013. Starboard did not respond to a request from The Associated Press for comment. In a statement, Yahoo reiterated Mayer's previously stated intentions to unveil details of a reorganization later this month when the Sunnyvale, California, company announces its fourth-quarter results. Mayer has promised to close Yahoo's least profitable services in a purge that analysts believe could result in hundreds of employee layoffs. "Our board and management team engage in and maintain regular, open dialogue with all our shareholders, and consistently strive to deliver and to maximize shareholder value," Yahoo said. With shares down 35 percent over the past year, Yahoo is facing mounting pressure from unhappy shareholders. Last month, New York hedge fund SpringOwl Asset Management and Los Angeles investment firm Canyon Capital Advisors outlined steps they believe Yahoo should take. SpringOwl wants Yahoo to lay off 9,000 of its 10,700 workers and eliminate free food for employees to help save $2 billion annually. Canyon Capital recommended Yahoo sell its Internet business. Starboard had also threatened an attempt to overthrow Yahoo's board if the company continued with plans to break off its $31 billion stake in China's Alibaba Group. Yahoo eventually scrapped that plan and instead announced the spinoff of its Internet operations. Starboard said Wednesday that it thinks Yahoo can improve the performance of the core business and separate its assets. "We are confident that both of these objectives are achievable, but will require a change in leadership and strategy," Starboard said in its letter. Yahoo has been working on a cost-cutting reorganization plan, with details expected to be announced this month. Its stock dipped four cents to close at $32.16.