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November 14th, 2019 at 12:12 pm

Renewables meet 50% of electricity demand on Australia’s power grid for first time

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For a brief moment solar, wind and hydro combined to deliver more than half the power into the National Electricity Market

Australia’s main electricity grid was briefly powered by 50% renewable energy this week in a new milestone that experts say will become increasingly normal.

Data on the sources of power in the National Electricity Market showed that at 11.50am on Wednesday, renewables were providing 50.2% of the power to Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia – the five states served by the market.

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November 14th, 2019 at 12:09 pm

The internet is getting less free

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A protester holds an Amazon box made into a sad face as part of a protest against the company’s cloud services contracts with Palantir, which supports ICE.

Election interference and government surveillance on social media are hurting internet freedoms.

 

Amazon has been under fire from protesters lately for assisting surveillance technology company Palantir — and, by extension, ICE — as well as for its own surveillance products like Ring.

Free speech and privacy on the internet declined globally for the ninth consecutive year according to the Freedom on the Net 2019 report by bipartisan watchdog and think tank Freedom House.

 

The report’s authors cite two main reasons for the decline: increased online election interference — by government and civilian actors alike — and increased government surveillance, both of which are spreading on social media platforms. These are topics that continue to dominate the news cycle, whether it’s Facebook’s ad policy that allows politicians to spread lies or Amazon’s growing relationships with police departments that use its Ring smart doorbells and associated social media products to surveil communities. Freedom House recommends increased transparency and oversight of these platforms in order to stop the situation from getting worse.

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November 14th, 2019 at 11:39 am

The pharmacy of the future will see robots come to the rescue of humans

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High technology is changing the way pharmacies operate – and how customers get served

It looks like a normal pharmacy in a normal Johannesburg shopping mall. But behind the scenes at the Morningside Dispensary, a revolution is underway

It may not be getting the attention that politicians get when they talk of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but it is a real and practical example of what emerging technologies make possible in everyday life.

For the customers of this pharmacy are being served by a robot. Even when they don’t realise it, and are talking to a human pharmacist, the efficiency with which they are being served is made possible by a robot.

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November 13th, 2019 at 1:33 pm

Inside the high-stakes race to build the world’s first flying taxi

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The Lilium prototype in a hangar in Wessling, Germany.Credit…Felix Schmitt for The New York Times

Lilium, a German start-up, illustrates the potential and the risks of creating a new generation of electric aircraft for urban transportation.

MUNICH — Inside an airplane hangar about 20 miles from central Munich, Daniel Wiegand lifted the door of a prototype that he said would become one of the world’s first flying taxis. He’s coy about how much it cost to build — “several million,” he says — but promises that within five years a fleet of them could provide a 10-minute trip from Manhattan to Kennedy International Airport for $70.

A lot is riding on his plane. Mr. Wiegand, 34, is the chief executive and a founder of Lilium, one of the most promising and secretive start-ups in the global race to build an all-electric aircraft that will — regulators and public opinion willing — move passengers above cities.

“This is the perfect means of transportation, something that can take off and land everywhere,” Mr. Wiegand (pronounced VEE-gand) said. “It’s very fast, very efficient and low noise.”

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November 13th, 2019 at 1:26 pm

Researchers used a laser to hack Alexa and other voice assistants

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San Francisco (CNN Business)Usually you have to talk to voice assistants to get them to do what you want. But a group of researchers determined they can also command them by shining a laser at smart speakers and other gadgets that house virtual helpers such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant.

Researchers at the University of Michigan and Japan’s University of Electro-Communications figured out they could do this silently and from hundreds of feet away, as long as they had a line of sight to the smart gadget. The finding could enable anyone (with motivation and a few hundred dollars’ worth of electronics) to attack a smart speaker from outside your house, making it do anything from playing music to opening a smart garage door to buying you stuff on Amazon.

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