Floatovoltaics are a cool way to super-charge your solar panels with water

Last summer, I worked with IBM and the Weather Channel on some climate- and energy-related content for their Forecast Change campaign. I just learned that the project apparently won a Digiday Content Marketing Award for the best branded content site of the year, which is pretty cool (or at least, my mom might think so).

But I wanted to share one of the pieces I wrote, because the concept was new to me before working on it, and it's now stuck with me ever since; I even found a way to work in as a plot point for playwriting commission I did on climate change. It has to do with floatovoltaic energy — essentially, floating solar panels on (or submerging them in!) bodies of water, to make them more efficient and save water. As I wrote then for Weather.com:

“It’s like putting a plastic sheet over the whole lake, or the whole tailings pond,” explains Joshua Pearce, a Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan Tech. Pearce has worked extensively in the emerging field of floatovoltaic technology (FVT), or the overlap of solar energy systems and water use. He says that the presence of solar panels over a body of water can provide enough shade to consistently reduce evaporation by 70-80%.

[…]

A solar module can easily increase its energy output by five percent just by floating on top of a body of water, even if the panels themselves don’t actually touch the surface. The panels at Las Tórtolas are positioned several inches above the water itself resting on floating pontoons, but even that close proximity still results in an additional 3,000 kWh of electricity annually; a fully submerged solar panel can be even more efficient.

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IBM to exit facial recognition business, opposes use of AI technology for mass surveillance

In a letter to members of Congress, IBM says it will abandon the general-purpose facial recognition business, and that the company opposes the use of facial recognition for mass surveillance. Read the rest

Watch the Cookie Monster's first appearance, in a 1967 IBM training film

Jim Henson's "The Coffee Break Machine" (1967), a skit in an IBM training film, was the first appearance of a proto-Cookie Monster, then green, who evolved from a puppet named the Wheel-Stealer. (A slightly different version of the clip appeared on the Ed Sullivan show that same year.) From the Muppet Wiki:

A proto-Cookie Monster wanders upon a talking coffee machine that has been set in "Auto-Descriptive" Mode. As the machine describes its parts, the monster eats them. Once the machine is finished, the voice of the machine from inside the monster tells him that he has activated the anti-vandalism program, which harbors the most powerful explosives known to man. The monster instantly combusts. The version on the Ed Sullivan Show is slightly different; in this version, the machine itself is an explosive device.

(r/ObscureMedia) Read the rest

Warshipping: attack a target network by shipping a cellular-enabled wifi cracker to a company's mail-room

IBM's ridiculously named X-Force Red have documented a new attack vector they've dubbed "Warshipping": they mailed a sub-$100 custom, wifi-enabled low-power PC with a cellular radio to their target's offices. Read the rest

LAWSUIT: Los Angeles accuses Weather Channel app of secretly mining user data

The city attorney for Los Angeles is suing the company behind The Weather Channel and its mobile app, and says the app covertly mined user data. Read the rest

Surveillance libraries in common smartphone apps have amassed dossiers on the minute-to-minute movements of 200 million+ Americans

An investigation by the New York Times into the shadowy world of location-data brokerages found a whole menagerie of companies from IBM, Foursquare and the Weather Channel to obscure players like Groundtruth, Fysical and Safegraph, who pay app vendors to include their tracking code in common apps. Read the rest

The man who created Ctrl+Alt+Del

Meet David Bradley, chief engineer of the IBM PC, who created Ctrl+Alt+Del.

"I may have invented it, but Bill made it famous," Bradley once said.

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IBM developed NYPD surveillance tools that let cops pick targets based on skin color

The NYPD's secretive Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center uses software from IBM in its video analytics system, which allows cops to automatically scan surveillance footage for machine-generated labels that identify clothing and other identifying classifiers. Read the rest

Vintage IBM lab coveralls on eBay

One of my eBay alerts finally pinged! A Boing Boing reader will surely become the lucky owner of these splendid IBM lab coveralls, dated to the late 1980s or thereabouts, which have a buy-it-now price of $170 and ship out of California. Read the rest

IBM bans USB, SD cards, flash drives and all other portable devices from every office, worldwide

At IBM, portable storage devices like a USB, SD card, or flash drive are no longer welcome. As in banned, for security reasons. In the next few weeks IBM will be barring these items from the workplace worldwide.

According to PC Mag:

Instead of portable storage, IBM wants everyone using the cloud and more specifically, IBM's own File Sync and Share service, which it also offers to enterprise customers. That may work for IBM employees on campus, but what about those out in the field carrying out repairs and upgrades? Rather than having a patch on a USB stick, secure cloud access will need to be established instead.

"The possible financial and reputational damage from misplaced, lost or misused removable portable storage devices must be minimized," said Shamla Naidoo, IBM's global chief information security officer.

It's hard to argue against that. USB sticks and SD cards are very easy to forget or lose, and whoever finds them will usually check what they contain. Removing them from the equation completely solves that problem, but the cloud access replacing it needs to be rock solid. It looks likely USB storage sticks will quickly be replaced with USB 4G LTE sticks.

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IBM Security survey finds users value "security" over "convenience"

IBM Security's 2018 survey of 4,000 adults worldwide found that for the first time in the history of their research, the majority of users say that they'd take extra steps in the name of "security" even if it meant that their usage would be less "convenient." Read the rest

Interesting look at how IBM designed its new bespoke typeface

IBM Plex is the company's first bespoke typeface. They put together a behind-the-scenes look at how and why the creative team developed this as an open-source type. Read the rest

Watson for Oncology isn't an AI that fights cancer, it's an unproven mechanical turk that represents the guesses of a small group of doctors

There are 50 hospitals on 5 continents that use Watson for Oncology, an IBM product that charges doctors to ingest their cancer patients' records and then make treatment recommendations and suggest journal articles for further reading. Read the rest

The US Patent Office just (in 2017!) awarded IBM a patent over out-of-office email

On January 17, 2017 -- yes, 2017 -- the USPTO granted Patent 9,547,842 to IBM: "Out-of-office electronic mail messaging system." Read the rest

U.S. charges ex-IBM software developer from China with espionage over stolen code

The U.S. Justice Department is charging a Chinese national with economic espionage charges, saying he stole source code from an American company with the intent of transferring it to the Chinese government. He is reported to have been an employee of IBM at the time of the alleged crime. Read the rest

The TSA spent $1.4M on an app to tell it who gets a random search

"TSA Randomizer" is an Ipad app that tells TSA official swhich search-lane to send fliers down, randomly directing some of them to secondary screening. Read the rest

IBM's lost, glorious fabric design

It's a pity that IBM hasn't made this fabric since 1950 or so, because I would rock a pair of pajamas in this pattern (or hell, a big suit!).

Textile, IBM, ca. 1950 [Angelo Testa/Cooper Hewitt] Read the rest

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