Energy 2020; Renewables Outcompete Carbon

The challenge of the century for renewable energy sources is quite simply storage, also known as batteries. Solar and wind can generate power at a reasonable cost, but that energy can’t be stored. Unfortunately, the sun doesn’t shine all the time, nor does the wind blow perpetually. Without cheap reliable batteries or systems to store that energy, renewables require on-demand backups, and those are almost always carbon-based.

Berlin, Germany released plans to install a 120 megawatt underground battery storage unit which will store power from wind and solar farms.

Energy is about economics. People use the energy type they can afford. By 2020, the reason coal will no longer be in demand is because it costs more to produce than the market will pay. It is also the reason why the promise of cheap renewable energy has made solar energy and wind turbines very attractive propositions. The upfront cost for these technologies is relatively high, but the long run costs may be much lower than fossil fuels.

And those low operating costs can be amortized over the life of the power generator, be it a wind turbine, solar panel, or hydroelectric dam. With practically zero operating expenses, save for maintenance costs, solar energy and wind farms are cheaper than oil based electric production.

For solar and wind energy, there is a need for more batteries at a lower cost. With low-cost batteries, a solar energy farm can store the excess production in batteries, and use these during night time. The same is true for wind farms, as well as some oil powered plants in high-demand areas. Batteries allow plants to store excess production and draw on the reserves during peak use times. The problem has been, industrial-sized batteries didn’t really exist in a cost-effective form.

Researchers have made great strides in all aspects of renewable energies. The cost of producing a unit of power with solar has decreased exponentially over the past few years, making solar truly competitive for homes and small businesses with more traditional sources. New batteries which can store large quantities of energy through the night and sunless days, are set to make solar truly cost effective and viable.

Many countries, including France and Germany, are experimenting with storing energy in a variety of ways. One innovative solution is to use pipes, such as those used for natural gas, compressing the gas during peak production and letting the pressure escape to generate energy at other times. Many areas are also using renewable energy to pump water uphill into reservoirs during peak production, in order to let it flow down and generate energy during low production or peak demand.

Battery Innovations Make Renewable Energy Competitive

Of course, batteries are regarded as the ideal choice of energy storage, because they can be standardized and placed in almost any environment. Battery development has had a fantastic run for the past 20 years, increasing in efficiency and longevity at the same time they became smaller and more powerful. If present trends continue, the world is on track to enjoy energy from renewables, including battery storage, roughly comparable in price to energy from oil, gas, and coal by the year 2020. In a few short years, renewables can be truly competitive.

Unfortunately, the research into battery technology has slowed down. U.S. federal spending for research and development costs of items like battery technology decreased from 1.2% of US GDP in 1976, to 0.8% in 2015. In 2016, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) under the Department of Energy funded 75 projects for battery systems. The department said that these had the potential to enable renewable energy battery storage within five to ten years. Unfortunately, the House passed a bill which effectively ends the ARPA-E project funding. At the same time President Trump also expressed the idea that ARPA-E should be eliminated altogether next year by not including it in his proposed 2018 budget.

According to expert, Daniel Kammen, the director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also a professor, the limited funding will cause a short-term downturn. It will lead to limited competition between diverse technologies. The funding money will be spread out only to those which have the biggest potential in the immediate future.

In the meantime, battery installation and power storage needs are growing. Recently, Berlin, Germany released plans to install a 120 megawatt underground battery storage unit which will store power from wind and solar farms. In addition, Tesla recently accepted the challenge to install a battery utility in Australia. Elon Musk, head of Tesla also added in the contract that it has to be installed within 100 days or it’s free. The 100 megawatt power utility will be three times bigger than any other utility in existence.

With lower cost of production, and 24/7 access to energy due to battery storage, the future of renewable energy seems to be finally at hand. The question is, will the world continue to be chained to the past, or pursue the new and bold technologies of the future?

Originally Published at: http://www.boldbusiness.com/energy/energy-2020-renewables-outcompete-carbon/

Economic Opportunity, Senior Healthcare

The population of the United States and most of the developed world is aging. It is estimated that by 2030, more than one-fifth of the population of the United States will be composed of senior citizens. To care for this aging population, the healthcare industry is exploring new technology in order to provide needed services and assistance to the elderly.

In 2016, the funding for companies and startups making healthcare tech products increased to $2 billion, up from $425 billion in 2010.

Very little healthcare tech has been developed specifically for seniors. However, it seems that they are ready for it. In a recent study, it was shown that more than half of seniors go online on a regular basis. Additionally, almost half of seniors have broadband access.

The number of seniors who use cell phones is also rising. In 2012, about 69% of seniors used smartphones, this has increased to 77% in the last year. As expected, the younger seniors use the internet more, while the older seniors rarely do. What is significant is the buying power of those in the 50 year old and above category. They are estimated to have almost half the economic power of the whole country.

This means that the current senior population is a viable market for technology, especially for healthcare, as this is a prime concern for the elderly. A number of new apps have been developed for the elderly, or for the care of seniors. These include monitors, and vital sign readers, with the ability to share feeds or data with different family members or healthcare providers and professionals.

Seniors Have Spending Power for Health Tech

For many people, their image of seniors is someone living in a nursing home with little physical activity and often with a have disability. They may be close to the truth when it comes to disability, as of 2010, 40% of those aged 65 and above have disabilities. However, only 3.1% of those aged 65 and older are in nursing homes, and of the 75 to 84 year olds, only 3.2% are in nursing homes. This means that the majority of seniors are living alone or with a family member. About 39% of adults are also caregivers. And 70% of caregivers also hold full-time jobs.

To relieve the stress and problems with home care, as well as communicating with seniors in nursing homes, there are apps which help. These apps can be used to order medicines that are then delivered to the home. Other apps help with communications between the senior, their family, and healthcare providers at the same time. Information like blood pressure, blood sugar levels, pulse rate, etc. can be sent and shared simultaneously to family members and healthcare providers. In 2016, the funding for companies and startups making healthcare tech products increased to $2 billion, up from $425 billion in 2010.

One part of the equation which is sure to be addressed early is that of data collection. At present, there is already a large amount of data about seniors. However, in order to better understand the market, specific apps for the elderly have to collect and maintain their own big data repositories. This approach can be helpful in analysing the health records and trends as the population gets older. The information itself, as raw data, can be very helpful for healthcare providers in offering better care and reducing costs.

Originally Published at: http://www.boldbusiness.com/health-longevity/senior-healthcare-technology-wanted/

Whole Foods; Cashier-Less Terminals

Recently, Amazon bought Whole Foods, and even before the ink dried they have been receiving suggestions on how to run the wholly-owned subsidiary. Whole Food customers are used to innovation. Survey results released by ChargeItSpot show that Whole Foods customers are looking forward to the positive changes Amazon can bring. Before long those changes might include cashier-less checkouts.

[Whole Foods] has also been known to adjust to local market conditions in order to provide their customer base with the freshest and certified organic ingredients.

In late 2016, Amazon launched their first Amazon Go store. Although this is just a prototype used to test the concept, customers are already excited for the buzz. The main selling point, or value add, of Amazon Go is that it does not have any cashiers. You only need to be an Amazon member, logging in to the store via a smartphone app.

The items you pick up and add to your cart are noted so that you can easily indulge in the stores’ advancements. For one, Amazon Go does not have cashiers, nor take out counters. The customer’s app takes care of everything; including tallying up the purchases and processing payment by the credit card company. Customers can enter, find products, and leave just as quickly with what they desired. Any purchases will be credited on the fly, even if the customer has not yet left the store. This cashier-less experience is responsible for the popularity of Amazon Go.

Amazon Go was supposed to be a test bed for the latest in grocery innovations. The store has been very promising, and is definitely leading the industry in modernization. Amazon has made a statement that Amazon Go will expand further south from Oregon in the following years.

Amazon Go; Innovation and Convenience

The novelty of Amazon Go is not lost on the Whole Foods customer base. They understand that Amazon can pay $13.7 billion to buy Whole Foods because Amazon has the technical savvy to revolutionize the supermarket industry. With Amazon Go, the user is scanned during the whole time he or she is in the store. Since there is no cashier, sensors and cameras have taken the process of payment and transformed it to an activity integrated with the sensors. When the customer leaves the store, he already knows how much he has spent, as he receives an electronic copy of the bill.

When polled, Whole Foods customers want to experience “cashier-free checkouts.” Whole Foods has been introducing improvement in various ways to the supermarket/retail industry for many years. Most notably, they follow different rules in compensation. The company has also been known to adjust to local market conditions in order to provide their customer base with the freshest and certified organic ingredients.

The survey was conducted on 900 customers, and the results point to a need for a different customer experience. The main reason why consumers want the stores to be without any cashiers is to save time at the checkout counter. The innovation in today’s technology adds immense value for loyal Whole Foods customers.

One of the most radical steps Whole Foods has instituted is to have its stores run as independent corporations. There are 17 regional offices, and each of these locations have enabled them to outsource their products to local producers. This is one tenet of sustainability and allows the stores to develop eco-friendly techniques. Buying local means that the produce is made at a short distance from where it will be bought, which leads to fresher ingredients for the customer at home.

Originally Published at: http://www.boldbusiness.com/food-nutrition/whole-foods-cashier-less-terminals/

Smart Car Test on I95

The state of Virginia is attempting to wrestle the title, Capital of Driverless Cars, from California. Governor Terry McAuliffe has promised to spend the rest of his term making Virginia the capital of automated vehicles.

The tests will emphasize speed harmonization, a concept that provides a smooth flow of the traffic stream, reducing bottlenecks while increasing reliability.

Citing the more than 280 wineries, within the state, McAuliffe asserted that Virginia is already closing in on California regarding the crucial industry of winemaking. His focus is now on grabbing the world’s attention with the development of automated cars in Virginia. Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Massachusetts and Arizona are also vying for the title.

An agreement among four agencies involved in the supervision and operation of Virginia’s Interstate 95 has paved the way to begin testing smart cars over a three-year period, which is still subject to an extension. This agreement allows for testing to be conducted when the express lanes are closed to the public. An exact schedule is being prepared by the Federal Highway Administration. Later on, testing will be conducted under light traffic conditions.

As California holds the distinction for having the most comprehensive regulations on the subject, Virginia makes their pitch anchored on the lack of legislation and rules pertaining to self-driving vehicles. Virginia Transportation Secretary, Aubrey Layne, has stated that the absence of rules pertaining to autonomous vehicles is intentional on their part.

Virginia Bids to Be the Capital of Smart Cars

Express lanes in Virginia will become the testing grounds of smart cars which are believed to be the future of transportation. The emerging technology will be tested on the lanes of Interstates 95 and 495. The smart vehicles will communicate wirelessly with one another as well as with the road’s infrastructure. Virginia’s express lanes are deemed ideal for testing purposes because of their separation from the primary lanes.

Virginia’s Assistant Secretary of Transportation, Ronique Day, hopes there will be no significant impact on the regular flow of traffic during the testing process. He believes the tests will potentially show how automated technology, as well as the proposed connected vehicle technology, can improve the state’s transportation system. They also hope the testing of smart cars on the interstate will start a new era for the department.

The three-year tests aim to significantly improve traffic flow and safety. Testing will include the Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control, which involves a group of vehicles forming a platoon (a train of cars that travel closely together). It will also include tractor-trailer platoons traveling in groups of three.

The tests will emphasize speed harmonization, a concept that provides a smooth flow of the traffic stream, reducing bottlenecks while increasing reliability. Backers also hope the tests will reveal that driverless cars reduce the environmental impact of vehicles on the road and improve road safety, comfort and convenience.

The tests also aim to determine the viability of automated and connected vehicle technologies when it comes to improving lane changes, and merging off and on to roadways. These issues are something American motorists are very familiar with.

The integration of emerging transportation technologies into the infrastructure of US transportation began more than ten years ago, but has accelerating in recent years. The US Department of Transportation started a pilot program for automated and connected vehicle technology in 2015. The aforementioned pilot programs are currently being undertaken in New York City, Tampa, Wyoming, and Michigan.

As different states employ diverse approaches concerning the development of emerging technologies, the common goal remains to utilize these bold developments to innovate transportation. However, progressing the transportation industry will only be realized after a thorough series of testing is done within a real world environment.

Originally Published at: http://www.boldbusiness.com/transportation/smart-car-test-on-i95/

IT May Reduce Healthcare Costs

A severe disconnect has emerged in the way technology is utilized for healthcare in the U.S. Yet, in terms of technology investment, the US healthcare system is ahead of many other countries. Currently, the US is the leader in health care technology development in terms of spending. This issue can be traced to outdated delivery systems and restrictive regulations. The bold challenge for IT to save the healthcare system is complex and involves creating a program which can be used by everyone at an affordable price.

There is no source or menu of prices available that shows the cost of a doctor’s consultation, hospital stay, treatment costs, and medicines.

One major point of contention is that the US spends $9,000 per capita on healthcare. In comparison, other advanced countries like Japan, spend less than half that amount per capita. Unfortunately, this does not translate to a healthier population with a higher life expectancy.

In 2016, 7.6% of Americans reported that they were uninsured for more than a year with 17.1% being uninsured for part of the year. Furthermore, among those who consider themselves as “poor”, the uninsured rate was 26%, while for those who were “near-poor” the uninsured rate was 23%.

The model for the American Health Care Act uses a mix of private and public funding. It also makes use of private doctors and healthcare providers who are reimbursed for their costs. Those who do not have insurance, or are not qualified under their insurance, must pay the full price out of pocket. Due to certain restrictions, including those imposed by drug regulations and pre-existing conditions, the health care system does not cover every person, nor every disease. The central challenge for Americans seeking healthcare is the ability to pay. In contrast, European countries, as well as Japan and Canada base their healthcare system on a government insurance program leading to lower hospital bills for citizens and residents.

IT Makes Healthcare More Efficient

Some perceive that one place where money can be saved in the US health care system is in information technology. Healthcare, as an industry, has not yet harnessed automation and information technology where you can ask questions, as well as see comparable costs from other hospitals and healthcare providers. There is no source or menu of prices available that shows the cost of a doctor’s consultation, hospital stay, treatment costs, and medicines. Without improvements that lead to cost transparency being executed efficiently, estimates of these total costs prior to a consultation or operation are still years away.

The initiative for the Electronic Health Records (EHR), included in the Affordable Care Act, is an important step in creating an integrated database. However, the process has not been standardized, and no system has been developed for sharing this information. The offshoot of this includes a possibility for duplication of needed tests and other services.

Although tech companies are at the forefront of new developments, the delivery system still lacks communication capabilities between agencies, hospitals, and health care providers. Additionally, there is still an issue regarding the lack of transparency when it comes to cost estimates. Among other things, an integrated EHR with access to pricing information can help lower the cost of services for everyone across the US.

Originally Published at: http://www.boldbusiness.com/health-longevity/it-may-reduce-healthcare-costs/

Impossible Burger, Plant-Based Food Revolution

The plant-based food revolution is firing away on all cylinders. The research has gone from the lab to the kitchen, and is now available in specialty stores and some high end restaurants. The goal is simple, and it is based on economics of food production, it is less expensive to raise plants than livestock. It is also being pushed by big name venture capitalists.

Judging by the long line trying to get in to taste the new burger, it can be said that it was an unqualified success.

Impossible Foods has stepped into the gap, the company has received funding from Singapore-based Temasek, Open Philanthropy, as well as earlier investments from Bill Gates, Vinod Khosla and Horizon Ventures. The latest round of funding raised $75 million bringing total funding to $300 million.

Competition for plant-based meat is heating up with Beyond Meat also in the running. Beyond Meat is already selling its products in Whole Foods and Safeway branches. It is not surprising that Beyond Meat is also supported by almost the same investors as Impossible Foods. The aim remains the same: to provide a viable alternative to real meat, but with the same taste and texture.

Impossible Foods first released its unconventional burgers in 2016. Reviews have noted that the burgers are improving over time, in terms of both taste and texture. One of the first restaurants to offer the Impossible Burger was Momofuku Nishi in New York City. Owned and operated by David Chang, Momofuku Nishi is famous for its Asian fusion menu, and it is definitely not a burger joint. Judging by the long line trying to get in to taste the new burger, it can be said that it was an unqualified success.

Our colleague, William Linthicum enjoyed an Impossible Burger in New York City, said this, “I honestly really enjoyed the Impossible Burger. It looked like and tasted just like an actual beef hamburger and if you hadn’t told me that it was a plant based vegan burger I wouldn’t have known the difference. Just to make sure that my taste buds weren’t lying to me I stopped by my favorite burger place on 48th the next day for lunch and it confirmed my suspicions that they were so similar I probably couldn’t tell the difference if given a blind taste test.”

Plant-Based Food Commercial Success

The first Impossible Burgers had a rubbery texture, and a taste of mushroom with a seared patty which was crisp and well caramelized, and filled with familiar juices. Since then, it has evolved into something which tastes like real meat, and mopping the juices is a pleasure for diners.

The push for more research and development lies in the economics of the food industry. It is expected that by 2050 there will be 9 billion people on the planet, with limited resources for growing beef, pigs and poultry. Replacing the meat on the table is a race which is already reaping benefits.

The secret to making plant-based meat is a soy-based product called heme or leghemogoblin. This produces the beef taste and smell, especially when it is put on grill. Heme is the molecule that brings oxygen through the bloodstream. It is also present in plants in the production of energy.

Impossible Foods created heme in the lab with the use of soybeans and yeast. The yeast serves as the factory, and the heme is filtered from the yeast afterwards. Other ingredients include textured vegetable protein, potatoes, coconut oil, fats, salt, sugar and other additives.

Unlike Beyond Meat, which is distributed by stores, the Impossible Burger is available in 43 premium restaurants. The initial success of the company was earlier noticed by Google Ventures which wanted to purchase it for $200 million. With high-end patrons embracing plant-based food, the next step would be to ramp up production. Impossible Foods recently opened a factory in Oakland, CA, which aims to produce 1 million pounds of plant-based meat every month.

This is a bold new entry into the food industry. A burger with the taste and texture of quality sirloin would have a huge impact in the marketplace, both because of potential cost savings as well as the impact on health and the environment. Stay tuned, this is an industry sector which is going to see a lot of activity and growth in coming years.

Originally Published at: http://www.boldbusiness.com/food-nutrition/impossible-burger-plant-based-food-revolution/

Whole Foods; Cashier-Less Terminals

Recently, Amazon bought Whole Foods, and even before the ink dried they have been receiving suggestions on how to run the wholly-owned subsidiary. Whole Food customers are used to innovation. Survey results released by ChargeItSpot show that Whole Foods customers are looking forward to the positive changes Amazon can bring. Before long those changes might include cashier-less checkouts.

[Whole Foods] has also been known to adjust to local market conditions in order to provide their customer base with the freshest and certified organic ingredients.

In late 2016, Amazon launched their first Amazon Go store. Although this is just a prototype used to test the concept, customers are already excited for the buzz. The main selling point, or value add, of Amazon Go is that it does not have any cashiers. You only need to be an Amazon member, logging in to the store via a smartphone app.

The items you pick up and add to your cart are noted so that you can easily indulge in the stores’ advancements. For one, Amazon Go does not have cashiers, nor take out counters. The customer’s app takes care of everything; including tallying up the purchases and processing payment by the credit card company. Customers can enter, find products, and leave just as quickly with what they desired. Any purchases will be credited on the fly, even if the customer has not yet left the store. This cashier-less experience is responsible for the popularity of Amazon Go.

Amazon Go was supposed to be a test bed for the latest in grocery innovations. The store has been very promising, and is definitely leading the industry in modernization. Amazon has made a statement that Amazon Go will expand further south from Oregon in the following years.

Amazon Go; Innovation and Convenience

The novelty of Amazon Go is not lost on the Whole Foods customer base. They understand that Amazon can pay $13.7 billion to buy Whole Foods because Amazon has the technical savvy to revolutionize the supermarket industry. With Amazon Go, the user is scanned during the whole time he or she is in the store. Since there is no cashier, sensors and cameras have taken the process of payment and transformed it to an activity integrated with the sensors. When the customer leaves the store, he already knows how much he has spent, as he receives an electronic copy of the bill.

When polled, Whole Foods customers want to experience “cashier-free checkouts.” Whole Foods has been introducing improvement in various ways to the supermarket/retail industry for many years. Most notably, they follow different rules in compensation. The company has also been known to adjust to local market conditions in order to provide their customer base with the freshest and certified organic ingredients.

The survey was conducted on 900 customers, and the results point to a need for a different customer experience. The main reason why consumers want the stores to be without any cashiers is to save time at the checkout counter. The innovation in today’s technology adds immense value for loyal Whole Foods customers.

One of the most radical steps Whole Foods has instituted is to have its stores run as independent corporations. There are 17 regional offices, and each of these locations have enabled them to outsource their products to local producers. This is one tenet of sustainability and allows the stores to develop eco-friendly techniques. Buying local means that the produce is made at a short distance from where it will be bought, which leads to fresher ingredients for the customer at home.

Originally Published at: http://www.boldbusiness.com/food-nutrition/whole-foods-cashier-less-terminals/