A lot can happen in a week when it comes to tech. The constant onslaught of news makes it nigh impossible for mere mortals with real lives to keep track of everything. That’s why we’ve compiled a quick and dirty list of this week’s top tech stories, from the surprisingly affordable price of a solar roof to a vending machine that sells clothes — it’s all here.
Anyone who has had to replace a roof can attest that it is no small expense. Well, homeowners may have a better solution on the horizon that not only costs less upfront but also saves them money over time, according to Bloomberg. In 2016, Tesla acquired SolarCity, with about 85 percent of shareholders voting to go through with the deal that made them the undisputed kings of sun-to-vehicle energy.
Shortly after the deal was finalized, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the company’s new solar roofing would cost less to create and install than traditional roofing materials. He claimed all these savings would come before the savings on your electric bill. According to Musk, “Electricity is just a bonus.”
What is a smart city? Not even the people building them seem to know yet.
“Get 10 people in a room and ask what a smart city is, you’ll get 11 answers,” Bob Bennett, Kansas City, Missouri’s chief innovation officer, told Digital Trends. That might be true, but most involved in smart city projects agree on one thing: no one’s really there yet.
“I think it’s the Wild West at this point, and smart cities mean something different to everybody,” said Jarrett Wendt, executive vice president of strategic innovations at Panasonic.
When asked for examples of smart cities (these are our four favorites), Bennett instead gave examples of smart silos — areas where certain cities are particularly thriving, though they may not tie into a bigger picture. Washington D.C. has great water analytics. Seattle is doing a lot right when it comes to environmental initiatives. San Diego has thousands of smart streetlights.
Songdo, in South Korea, had the benefit of being built from the ground up as a smart city. Many of its lessons can’t necessarily be applied to cities trying to work with existing infrastructure, though.
“How fast can it go?”
There are many ways to measure automotive excellence, but top speed is the one most everybody secretly cares about the most. Aldous Huxley was right about speed being the only truly modern sensation. He left out the part about how much fun it is. These 25 cars are more than just fun, though — they’re the fastest production cars on the planet. The emphasis here is on “production;” racers and one-off custom jobs need not apply. We also tried to limit the selections to cars with claimed top speeds that have been generally recognized as legitimate by the automotive media and sanctioning groups.
There are also some cars on the horizon that appear ready to knock some names off this list. SSC still hopes to reclaim the title of world’s fastest car with its 1,350-horsepower Tuatara, and Koenigsegg claims a top speed of more than 273 miles per hour for its One:1. For now though, these are the fastest cars that can legally sport a license plate.
In what could be a world first, Uniqlo plans to launch 10 of its six-foot-high vending machines at locations across the U.S., including airports and shopping malls, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
Anyone who has been to Japan knows all too well how vending machines live on virtually every street corner, so you shouldn’t be too surprised to learn that one of the nation’s biggest companies has decided to launch its own dispenser in the U.S.
But this is Uniqlo we’re talking about, so its vending machine will be offering things to wear rather than drink. That’s right, it’s a vending machine that sells clothes.
In the ongoing battle among the major carriers to offer the best unlimited data plans, Verizon and AT&T’s attempts may have backfired. In the latest State of Mobile Networks: USA OpenSignal report, both carriers experienced a decline in 4G speeds after reintroducing unlimited plans.
Verizon’s LTE download connection, in particular, dropped 12 percent — from 16.9 Mbps to 14.9 Mbps — since the last OpenSignal report back in February. AT&T’s decline was less extreme at 12.9 Mbps from February’s 13.9 Mbps. Decreases in 4G speed have been ongoing each month for both carriers since releasing the unlimited plans.
The first hard-fork in Bitcoin’s history has taken place, creating a secondary cryptocurrency with larger block sizes, potentially making it easier to use for everyday people. Bitcoin Cash, as its called, has a value that is currently far lower than its older brother, but it has strong support from a core of cryptocurrency users and could well become a force for change in the industry.
If you’ve traded Bitcoin recently, you’ll be well aware of the problem that has been gradually looming its head over the past couple of years. No, we’re not just talking about graphics card prices — it’s getting expensive to send Bitcoin in a timely manner. This has been the result of the “blocks” that make up the Bitcoin “blockchain” reaching capacity and when that happens, transactions take longer, or you need to pay more to be bumped up the queue.
The world of streaming music may still have issues with profitability, but as Spotify reaches 60 million paid subscribers, it remains the fastest growing market participant in this space.
The Swedish company announced its new subscriber milestone, along with other performance metrics for the month of July, and stated that it currently has over 60 million paid monthly users. As of June, the company had over 140 million monthly users overall, though the majority of its listeners are streaming music via the company’s free tier, which includes advertisements, and which lacks mobile on-demand playback.
The streaming music service had 50 million paid subscribers in March, meaning that it gained 10 million subscribers in just four months. That means Spotify is outpacing the growth of its competitors, including Apple Music, which boasted 27 million paid subscribers as of June — a gain of about 7 million since Apple Music reached the 20 million subscriber milestone last December. Spotify operates in over 60 markets around the globe.
In 1936, an inventor named Irving Naxon applied for a patent for a cooking device that would promote more consistent and even cooking. This device held a crock inside of a heating element. Then, in the early 1950s, an appliance company called West Bend started selling an electric bean pot to make cooking chili and a variety of other foods easier. Since then, slow cookers have made their way into kitchens across the world; some have smart capabilities or do more than just slow cook food.
When most people think of slow cooker recipes, they think of easy instructions that allow you to toss ingredients in a pot and walk away for up to eight hours. While this is partially true — cooking in a slow cooker is nothing shy of convenient — your food may not come out right if you don’t follow best practices. If you use your slow cooker incorrectly, your meal may turn out unappetizing, you could start a fire in your home, or you could make someone sick.
The Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest may attract thousands of annual entries, but the 2017 event brought in several shots judges had never seen in the event’s nine-year history. The Royal Observatory Greenwich recently announced the shortlist for the competition, including the first images of asteroids and Uranus ever submitted. The final winner will be announced on September 14.
Along with selecting the photographer of the year, the contest also awards prizes in nine different categories, as well as two special prizes. The 2017 categories include skyscapes, aurorae, people and space, our sun, our moon, planets, comets and asteroids, stars and nebulae, galaxies, and the Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year for participants under 16.
The Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer will award a photographer that only started shooting astrophotography within the past year. A separate prize will also offer awards for shots taken with computer-controlled telescopes.
In bestselling author Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball (which was also adapted into a critically acclaimed film in 2011), the general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team used a data-driven approach to put together a competitive baseball team, despite limited funds.
A new computer science project from Michigan’s Lawrence Technological University uses machine learning and data science to take a similar approach for 6,082 European soccer players. This is done through a computational model that calculates the world’s most over and underpaid players, based on skill (the latter group is the one Billy Beane-style managers should presumably be most interested in!).
“It is common in sports to compare individual measurements,” Lior Shamir, one of the paper‘s co-authors, told Digital Trends. “However, soccer players have a combination of skills, so just comparing the number of goals gives a very partial representation of the player’s true value. What we did here is develop a computational model that combines 55 measured attributes that reflect the players’ abilities. When comparing that model to the salaries of the players, we can estimate the salary of each player based on their performance on the field, and in comparison to all other players.”