November 2010

Google buying Groupon: unconfirmed rumor with green potential

Google buying Groupon: unconfirmed rumor with green potential Printed paper takes energy and materials to produce and transport, and although electronic devices have similar costs, it’s a good bet that their total footprint is lower over the long run. Even if Google is thinking about buying Groupon its green credentials would be at best an incidental gain to the search giant. Regardless of that though, Google’s potential to increase electronic coupon adoption could have farther reaching green effects than just connecting consumers with sweet deals.

Companies and consumers are perpetually in an economic dance where companies want to charge the highest plausible price while still conveying real or perceived value, and consumers look for high quality at low prices. Coupons (and to a greater extent rebates) have always played the role of temptation because they offer excellent deals with a catch: the buyer must traditionally remember a paper voucher or a set of mail-in rules.

Attacked by iPad and Kindle, Sony makes new e-reader move

Attacked by iPad and Kindle, Sony makes new e-reader move Sony has been a monster in the electronics market with their sales of flat screen TVs as well as the introduction of innovative products like the Walkman. They've had disappointments alongside their successes, though. Betamax is only a memory and the MiniDisc format didn't live up to the hype. Sony's taking a more aggressive stance with their Reader line in hopes of cementing themselves as the e-reader leader in Japan.

Breakthrough may make Kindle go the way of the 8-track

Breakthrough may make Kindle go the way of the 8-trackIt’s hard to believe now, but listening to music on 8-tracks once was the state of the art. The speed of technology often outstrips the capabilities of the latest gadgets and makes them obsolete. A recent innovation may make the Kindle the next victim. While Kindle vies against the Nook for supremacy, a new electrowetting technique may cast the current e-readers into the trash bin of technological has-beens.

The displays on most e-paper devices are based on electrophoretic technology. Millions of tiny particles are treated to have an electric charge and suspended in a solution between two parallel plates. The unit manipulates electric charge at precise points, making the particles migrate between the plates and resulting in words appearing on the screen. The most widely used e-paper devices, including the Kindle and the Nook, employ electrophoretic technology developed by E Ink.

Chevy Volt leapfrogs Toyota's Prius to become mpg king

Chevy Volt leapfrogs Toyota's Prius to become mpg king Toyota has long held the top spot when it comes to hybrid gas mileage. Hybrid cars from the likes of Honda and BMW may sport cool lines, but they couldn't beat the mileage that the Prius offered. According to the EPA, the Chevy Volt has now eclipsed the hybrid king with an estimated 60 mpg rating.

Look out Chevy Volt: Nissan LEAF gets range anxiety relief

Look out Chevy Volt: Nissan LEAF gets range anxiety reliefAs automakers develop more innovative electric cars – such as the Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi i-MiEV – two issues still need to be resolved before EV’s can challenge hybrids such as the Chevy Volt. These issues are range anxiety and the speed of recharge. NRG, a power generating company based in New Jersey, is piloting the eVgo network in Houston to both solve these problems and expand its energy market.

The advantage electric cars have over other transportation alternatives such as hydrogen or natural gas is that the infrastructure to deliver electric charge already exists. Ideally, an EV would charge overnight in the garage, so it would be ready to go for the daily commute. But what if the commute exceeds the range of the car? And if drivers can stop somewhere to recharge, will it take hours?

Nissan LEAF rated 99 mpg by EPA, even though it’s all electric!

Nissan LEAF rated 99 mpg by EPA, even though it’s all electric! The Nissan LEAF is running at the front of a new set of cars powered completely by electricity. After generations of using combustion engine cars powered by gasoline, drivers in the U.S. are understandably programmed to evaluate the efficiency of vehicles based on their miles per gallon rating. But electric-only cars create a hiccup in that measurement because the main ingredient, gasoline, is missing.

To address that confusion, the EPA has announced a calculation that estimates how much electricity is necessary to power a vehicle for 100 miles. It determined that each 100 miles requires 33.7 kilowatt-hours of electricity and the Nissan LEAF stores 24 kilowatt-hours in its lithium-ion batteries.

Oprah and Black Friday may turn the tide for Sony 3D TVs, not Samsung

Oprah and Black Friday may turn the tide for Sony 3D TVs, not Samsung Oprah, known first as a broadcasting icon, has become almost as well known in the past decade for her marketing prowess as for her on screen personality. The Oprah brand, worth over $1 billion, has spread well beyond the syndicated TV show into just about every form of media; beyond her media supremacy, her brand also amplifies just about every product’s life cycle, that is if she endorses it. It’s been coined the “Oprah Effect” and her recent endorsement for Sony 3D TVs may turn the tide in the 3D TV market.

The “Oprah Effect” has turned near bankrupt companies into flourishing businesses and unknown companies into household names.

Netflix streaming-only plan may mean lower carbon footprint

Netflix streaming-only plan may mean lower carbon footprint Consumption in most forms creates a balancing cost in the environment but the magnitude of those costs is largely governed by one thing: efficiency. Netflix is an old hand at efficiency, from its network of distribution warehouses to its DVD sleeve that’s used twice for each shipment. But consumer interest is moving away from receiving DVDs and toward content delivered through an Internet connection directly to big screen TVs. That in mind, Netflix just announced a change to its plan structure in the U.S. which allows customers to pay for streaming-only content, and that just might be a way to go green without sacrificing much.

News Corp. bets big on Apple with iPad-only newspaper

News Corp. bets big on Apple with iPad-only newspaper When it comes to media empires, you can’t get much bigger than Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. They own a wide range of properties including the Fox Network, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Post. Now Murdoch has plans to get into the digital market by creating an iPad-only publication with some help from Apple.

You may not agree with Murdoch’s politics, but you can’t argue with his success in business. From TV to print he’s amassed a media empire due to the fact he knows what sells and News Corp. is the third largest media conglomerate in the world. And now, he’s the future of print publishing tied to Apple’s tablet. Called “The Daily,” the iPad based publication will be published every day and cost ninety-nine cents a week or $4.25 a month.

Amazon tempts holiday shoppers with gift versions of e-books

Amazon tempts holiday shoppers with gift versions of e-books At some point in the holiday season, everyone finds themselves up against a person that’s the very definition of difficult when it comes to gift giving. You may end up purchasing a gift card to their favorite store or opt for an e-certificate that doesn’t even require shipping. With the popularity of e-readers like the Kindle and companion apps, it’s no wonder that Amazon has now set up a gift feature for e-books.

Home heating in a carbon neutral manner is a knotty problem

Home heating in a carbon neutral manner is a knotty problemWood burning is often considered a carbon neutral alternative to fossil fuels. Recent research from St. Francis Xavier University indicates, however, that carbon loss from the soil after lumbering is currently not taken into account. Of course, none of this matters to climate skeptics who don’t believe human activity causes global warming.

If you do believe that climate change is human-induced, you already know that releasing carbon from fossil fuels is the main culprit behind global warming. Burning coal, oil, or natural gas converts carbon locked-up for millennia into carbon dioxide. The heat-trapping ability of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is necessary for life to exist. Increasing CO2 levels, however, sets the global thermostat too high, and may result in catastrophe.

Utilities aren’t using their smarts with smart meters

Utilities aren’t using their smarts with smart meters With rising energy costs, who wouldn’t want a better handle on their electrical consumption? Having that ability is the promise of the smart electrical meter. Smart meters provide electrical usage data to both consumers and electricity providers via wireless communication. This technology allows users to be more aware of – and perhaps to adjust – their consumption habits, as well as provides real-time data to utilities who then can allocate power more efficiently when demand peaks. However, in spite of the potential of the smart meter, complaints of health effects and other problems from smart meter installations are on the rise.

Vizio offers 3D LED TVs at low-ball prices to sway shoppers

Vizio offers 3D LED TVs at low-ball prices to sway shoppers Vizio, in late June, had every intention to revolutionize the 3D market: come in late, make a splash, and offer affordable 3D TVs with affordable glasses. In the past few years, Vizio has confidently stepped into the ring to battle the biggest TV contender, Samsung, in LCD TVs, seesawing for the top spot; now, a few months later, it hopes to besiege the top spot in the 3D market with its new lineup of 3D LED TVs, without its passive 3D TV and 3D glasses.

The idea of affordable glasses is certainly admirable as it dispels many of the complaints the 3D naysayers have about an overly expensive viewing experience for multiple viewers. Buying multiple sets of active shutter glasses can add up, and quick. Vizio's recent lineup, however, has no passive 3D model with the affordable (around $10) glasses.

Barnes & Noble NookColor tries to make LCD easier on the eyes

NookColor tries to make LCD easier on the eyes Barnes & Noble is fighting hard to gain market share in the e-book reader space and the NookColor is it’s latest effort toward that end. The NookColor essentially takes most things that were good about the original Nook line and replaces an E Ink screen with a color LCD version. Barnes & Noble is well aware that LCD has a reputation for causing some eyestrain, and it’s made a couple of tweaks to address that problem.

LCD causes eyestrain because it’s backlit, and because it creates glare when other lights surrounding the screen create reflections. Barnes & Noble changed the screen bonding process to eliminate the air gap between screen and underlying touch sensors (that helps a lot with glare).  It also added a laminate that it thinks will make reading the NookColor easier for longer periods of time. While an interesting concept, the NookColor may hold little interest for those looking for a book-like reading experience.

Cher says hybrid cars are BS!

Cher says hybrid cars are BS! Cher is legendary, her following of fans is vast, and now she’s publicly expressed a disdain for hybrid vehicles. The sad thing is she has the power to create strong interest in hybrid vehicles but instead has created a black mark for many people who trust her and haven’t done their own research. Although some hybrid cars only provide an incremental benefit, as a class they’re certainly more efficient than their traditional combustion-only cousins.

Specifically, Cher was frustrated when looking at buying a diesel hybrid when she discovered that diesel fuel wasn’t readily available around her. That’s a fairly shallow reason for rejecting hybrid cars as a class and points toward a lack of research. For example, though a Toyota Prius doesn’t have the same star power as a Mercedes (which is what Cher wanted), it accepts regular gasoline and provides far better mileage than a regular car.

Prisons want to go green by giving inmates LCD TVs

jailPrisons want to go green by giving inmates LCD TVs As Black Friday gets closer many Americans will be tempted by ads offering deep discounts on LCD TVs. They are hot items due to their slim profile, HD capability, low energy use, and overall cool factor. Now imagine if that technology didn’t end up under your tree but in a convict’s prison cell? Some of Scotland’s most dangerous criminals will be getting new LCD TVs so prison administrators can meet their “green targets” and reduce their “carbon footprint.”

Martha Stewart goes high tech with iPad app & e-book deal

Martha Stewart goes high tech with iPad app & e-book deal Even if you aren’t a fan, you have to admit that Martha Stewart is a savvy businesswoman. She built her empire from a small catering company in the northeast into one of the biggest brands in American history. Her latest tech-related maneuvers have put her previous love affair with the Kindle on the back burner in favor of a new iPad app and an e-book deal with Sony.

With help from Adobe, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia created a way to translate their magazines into a more fluid form for the iPad. The idea of the app is to expand on the functional aspects of Martha Stewart Living magazine beyond recipe cards and how-to guides.

Bargain deals, TV steals on LED TVs due to 3D TV push

Bargain deals, TV steals on LED TVs due to 3D TV push True to the season, TV prices are set to fall on many LED TVs . It really should come as no shock that as Black Friday approaches, retailers are getting ready to slash prices, move products, and this year, sell all sorts of LED and regular LCD TVs to carry profits well into the new year. This year, however, TV manufactures may be putting a little more pressure on retailers than usual to make certain TVs are heading out the door to make room for the even more pricey items: 3D TVs.

The movement to 3D really began at the beginning of last year when Samsung kicked off the 3D TV arms race by beginning the mass production of 3D panels well before 3D had any sort of legitimacy as a home entertainment option. Slowly, major manufacturers including Sony, Panasonic, and Toshiba put 3D LED TVs on the market and this summer generated a fair buzz around the new TVs.

Mitsubishi delivering another electric car to U.S.: the i-MiEV

Mitsubishi delivering another electric car to U.S.: the i-MiEV Mitsubishi wants more action in the fledgling but growing electric car market in the United States, and with that goal in mind the company is developing a U.S. version of its i-MiEV model that’s a little more spacious and luxurious than its Japanese cousin. The company intends it to be a better fit for American customers, which may be consistent with a generally taller and wider population.

But other than space and standard features like tire pressure monitoring and traction control, drivers have a strong interest in being able to travel without running out of energy. That’s where the i-MiEV may run a bit short with estimates pegging it with a 60 to 70 mile range on a single battery charge.

E Ink now supports color, but no Kindle 4 with color yet

E Ink now supports color, but no Kindle 4 with color yet Chinese company Hanvon, the developer of the E Ink technology that empowers most e-book readers, announced that it will soon ship a color-capable E Ink screen. At first glance that announcement is pretty exciting. It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows though because companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble aren’t clamoring to buy color E Ink screens for the Kindle or Nook.

E Ink is ubiquitous in the e-reader space – the technology powers around 90 percent of e-readers currently on the market, displaying text and graphics in monochrome. E Ink holds one large advantage over more traditional display technologies like LCD or LED: it much more closely mimics the experience of reading and viewing a printed page. With that in mind, what could possibly be constricting enthusiasm from companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble?

BMW races to get hybrid plug-in sports car on the market by 2013

BMW races to get hybrid plug-in sports car on the market by 2013 While manufacturers like Nissan and Chevy have been pimping out their hybrid and electric cars, luxury carmaker BMW has remained pretty quiet about the subject except for a handful of hybrid SUVs. This week they announced that they will start production on a new car based on the sporty plug-in hybrid Vision EfficientDynamics Concept car.

Panasonic powers up Tesla with a $30m investment

Panasonic powers up Tesla with a $30m investment Tesla has certainly been a a hot topic in the electric car market with their innovative batteries and sleek designs. While they’ve garnered a lot of attention, they haven’t sold a heck of a lot of cars. They’ve reached out to Daimler and Toyota in order to expand into the consumer market and have recently added Panasonic as their partner when it comes to batteries.

Earlier this week Panasonic snapped up 1.42 million shares of Tesla’s stock which adds up to about $30m. The purchase makes Panasonic Tesla’s “preferred” battery supplier, but the company is free to do business with other firms. The plan is for Tesla and Panasonic to jointly develop battery packs for electric cars that would then be sold to other automakers.

Cloth diapers surface again as BEST diaper choice

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Cloth diapers surface again as BEST diaper choice In a fast-paced, overly efficient society, diapers have become as much about speed and convenience as they have about quality and fit. Check the clock, then the diaper, grab the diaper bag, clean up the baby, wrap 'em up, strap 'em up, and move on. It’s the baby pit stop, and it is an essential reality of parenthood that occurs just about bi-hourly. Thankfully, parents are beginning to slow down enough to weigh out which diaper to use for those all too common pit stops, and for those claiming to live “green,” it is all about alternative options to the wasteful disposable diaper.

Urbee makes Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius look old fashioned

Urbee makes Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius look old fashioned Moving to different places is part of everyday life for most people. They move from home, to work, to various errands, to the gym perhaps then back home. The vast majority do that moving right now with some sort of vehicle powered by fossil fuels, which is a finite worldwide resource. That opens the door for new innovation and an engineering group in Winnipeg is providing one solution in the form of a solar and ethanol (or gasoline) powered car called the Urbee.

The Urbee achieves 200mpg on the highway and 100mpg in the city when burning fuel, and every part of the vehicle is designed to complement that efficiency. Three large diameter motorcycle wheels, narrow cargo space and solar panels all are part of that system. The Urbee also will be partially manufactured via 3-D printing.

Soon: ditch the plastic and go green by paying locally with PayPal

Soon: ditch the plastic and go green by paying locally with PayPal Imagine visiting a grocery store for a few things missing for Thanksgiving dinner. Instead of pulling out a credit card to swipe for payment, a screen prompts asking for an approval to deduct from your bank account. The transaction is facilitated by wireless communications between your mobile phone, the merchant’s system, and PayPal. That scenario could be coming sooner than you think. PayPal just launched a pilot in San Francisco where customers can pay local merchants with their mobile phones, and that may mean more convenient transactions along with less plastic credit cards in our landfills.