Originally posted on Gigaom:
In the lab of seven-year-old startup Solexel, just south of San Francisco, researchers have been busy re-inventing solar panels made with silicon, the material that already dominates the solar market. The startup is a rare breed these days, and among a dwindling group of venture capital-backed solar materials startups.
Many of these types of startups fell on hard times years back as a glut of cheap solar panels hit the market. Solexel has raised about $200 million in total from investors including Kleiner Perkins, Technology Partners, Intel and DAG Ventures.
But Solexel’s design is novel and it’s developing panels made of ultra-thin silicon solar cells, paired with diodes that can shut down poor-performing ones to prevent them from affecting the output of the neighboring cells. The back of the cells are layered with materials that improve their durability and the efficiency that sunlight is converted into electricity.
We’ll have to…
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Originally posted on Gigaom:
When Apple launched the iPad Air 2 with its new programmable SIM card on Thursday, I suggested Apple had all the tools necessary to become a global virtual operator, selling data (and eventually voice) services directly to its customers. It’s a move industry observers like Gigaom contributor Rudolf van der Berg have been anticipating for some time, but I still feel the likelihood of Apple becoming a flow-blown carrier is slim.
When signals go down, networks get congested and unexpected charges appear on your bill, people vent their displeasure at their carriers. That’s grief I’m sure [company]Apple[/company] doesn’t want to deal with. But Apple has plenty of other options beyond becoming a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) if it wanted to exert more control over the mobile industry.
Apple, just like any other phone maker, has always acted as a gatekeeper to mobile networks through its hardware choices…
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Originally posted on Gigaom:
At its iPad launch event Thursday, Apple made a big deal about the 20 LTE bands and super-fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi available in the new Air 2. But there was one detail that didn’t make the spotlight, but could have a huge impact on how we buy 4G-connected tablets in the future: The iPad Air 2 contains the first Apple SIM card, a kind of carrier-neutral identity module.
What that means is you don’t have to pick your carrier before you buy a 4G iPad in the U.S. or the U.K. (unless that carrier is [company]Verizon[/company], but I’ll get to that later). The new slate has support for all of the global LTE bands as well as GSM and CDMA networks, so when you first turn on your iPad and try to connect it to a distant tower, Apple will give you a choice of [company]AT&T[/company], [company]T-Mobile US[/company] or [company]Sprint[/company]…
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Scientists have successfully teleported the quantum state of a photon to acrystal over 25 kilometres of optical fibre, showing that information can be teleported from light into matter.
The breakthrough was made by a team at the University of Geneva, and according to their press release, the results prove “that the quantum state of a photon can be maintained whilst transporting it into a crystal without the two coming directly into contact“.
Quantum teleportation involves moving tiny bits of data from one place to another instantly, through a phenomenon know as quantum entanglement. Entanglement is when two linked particles act like twins, even when they’re separated, and means that information can instantly be passed from one to the other without them touching.
Researchers are fascinated by quantum teleportation because it could revolutionise the way we carry and transmit data. But they’ve struggled until now to find ways in which quantum information stored in light can be used in existing communication systems, which are matter-based, and transferred further than a few kilometres.
In this new experiment, the physicists took two entangled photons and sent one along 25 kilometres of optical fibre, while the other was sent to a crystal, which stored its information.
A third photon was then sent like a billiard ball into the optical fibre to hit the first photon, obliterating them both.
But the scientists discovered that the information from that third photon wasn’t actually destroyed, but had in fact been transferred into the crystal containing the second entangled photon. Their results are published in Nature Photonics.
This shows “the quantum state of the two entangled photons which are like two Siamese twins, is a channel that empowers the teleportation from light into matter,” co-lead researcher Félix Bussieres said in the press release.
“One needs to imagine the crystal as a memory bank for storing the photon’s information; the latter is transferred over these distances using the teleportation effect,” the press release explains.
There is still a long way to go before we’re using quantum teleportation in communication systems, but this is an important step that suggests the “vehicle” of the information doesn’t matter so much. As the authors write in Nature Photonics, the experiment demonstrates “quantum teleportation of the polarisation state of a telecom-wavelength photon onto the state of a solid-state quantum memory.”
And that opens up a lot of possibilities for future quantum teleportation research.
42Floors, a San Francisco-based real estate startup, is taking it up a notch with a job offer that includes a pre-vacation period: You have to take a two-week paid vacation before your first day.
42Floors’ CEO Jason Freedman calls this a “pre-cation.”
According to Slate’s Will Oremus, Freedman came up with this concept while talking to a job candidate he wanted to hire. The guy was looking for a new job because he was totally burned out from his previous job. Yet, when he talked to other companies, all he was asked was, “How soon can you start?”
Freedman ended up convincing that guy to join his startup with a “pre-cation” clause, and now it’s something offered to all new hires, he says.
“The day they get their offer letter, it’s kind of like Christmas morning, in that they have a new job and they have already thought through the vacation they’re about to go on,” Freedman told Oremus.
Even with such perks, however, Freedman says the “pre-cation” hasn’t cost his company anything because the total vacation time of his employees hasn’t increased at all. In fact, he says, the “pre-cation” program is helping boost his company’s profit because his employees are happy at work.
Can Google’s winning ways be applied to all kinds of businesses? The authors of “How Google Works,” Eric Schmidt, Google’s former chief executive, and Jonathan Rosenberg, a former senior product manager at Google, firmly believe that they can.
The critical ingredient, they argue in their new book, is to build teams, companies and corporate cultures around people they call “smart creatives.” These are digital-age descendants of yesterday’s “knowledge workers,” a term coined in 1959 by Peter Drucker, the famed management theorist.
But the new breed is a far cry from the staid, organization men of the past. Smart creatives, the authors write, are impatient, outspoken risk-takers who are easily bored and change jobs frequently. They are intellectually versatile, typically “combining technical depth with business savvy and creative flair,” the authors note.
“They are a new kind of animal,” Schmidt and Rosenberg write. “And they are the key to achieving success in the Internet Century.”
Their book, written with Alan Eagle, a speechwriter and communications employee at Google, is filled with instructive anecdotes of Google lore. One early story, from 2002, is presented as a distillation of Google’s distinctive culture. Larry Page, the co-founder, was chagrined at how terrible the ads were that were being served up alongside many searches – random and irrelevant. He printed out the searches with the offending ads, marked them, and wrote on top, “THESE ADS” STINK. He pinned the pages to a bulletin board in the company kitchen, and left for the weekend.
Five engineers worked on the ad programme over the weekend, without any direct prompting, and solved the problem. That became the essence of Google’s “ad relevance score,” which presented search-related ads based on their relevance rather than how much the advertiser was willing to pay or how many clicks the ads received. The five “problem-solving ninjas,” the authors write, were not even on the Google ads team.
It’s a neat and telling story. But it’s also true that similar stories of smart, creative entrepreneurial teams solving thorny problems are nothing new.
In a joint interview, Schmidt and Rosenberg conceded that point, but what has changed, they argued, is the context of an economy that is increasingly digitized and throwing off data. In the past, bursts of innovation by small teams — from IBM’s development of Fortran, the first higher-level programming language, in 1957, to the Apple Macintosh in 1984 — were exceptional episodes within more bureaucratic corporate structures.
READ ALSO: Google is testing delivery drone system Yet today, the authors insist, fast decision-making and flat organizational models have to become a corporate way of life. Cars, jet engines and medical equipment, for example, are all animated by software and often generate vast quantities of sensor data. So it is not just the Internet companies like Google, they say, that need to operate like Google, innovating and experimenting more rapidly to stay ahead in manufacturing, transportation, retailing, media, banking and other industries.
“The world is becoming increasingly digital,” Schmidt said. “Every major corporation needs a software strategy, needs a data strategy. If not, then you have no real strategy.”
And smart creatives, the authors write, are the key to digital-age speed, strategy and product success. People with their characteristics, they say, have always been around. But in the digital environment, Rosenberg said, “the degree to which people with that set of characteristics can have an impact is very different than years ago.”
“The defining characteristic of today’s successful companies,” the authors write, “is the ability to continually deliver great products. And the only way to do that is attract smart creatives and create an environment where they can succeed at scale.”
What about becoming a smart creative? Can it be taught and nurtured? How does one train to become one? Here Rosenberg, now an adviser to Page, the chief executive of Google, and Schmidt, the company’s executive chairman, offered somewhat different takes. Rosenberg, who has an undergraduate economics degree and an MBA, said it really helped to start with some quantitative or technical expertise, like computer science or data science, and broaden out from there.
Schmidt, who is a computer scientist and a former researcher at Bell Labs, said the important thing was not so much education in a specific discipline but to “think analytically” and to adopt that mindset and mode of thought.
“I don’t think you necessarily have to do a lot more,” Schmidt said.