Friday, February 13, 2015

Apple's Strikes Biggest Solar Power Deal

Apple In Partnership with Arizona Based – First Solar Inc. 

Apple – the Computer giant has recently signed a 25 year power purchase agreement for 130 MW in partnership with Arizona based, First Solar’s 280MW California flats solar project. As part of the deal, Apple would be getting electricity from the farm at a fixed rate for twenty five years. It is said that the green energy will be purchased from First Solar Inc. through an $848 million deal which seems to be the largest agreement in the industry to provide clean energy to commercial end user, till date.

Apple’s landmark solar power deal seems to be a long term sustainable energy solution which would be generating enough power that will be necessary for all of the company’s California operation which includes the upcoming `spaceship’ Campus 2, by the end of 2016, as announced by CEO Tim Cook recently.California flats of 2900 acre will cover 3% of property owned by Hearst Corporation in Cholame, Monterey County and the construction of the same is expected to begin mid-year, to be completed by 2016 end. The rest of the 150MW of the project would be sold to Pacific Gas & electric with a separate long term PPA and the project is subscribed fully between Apple and PG&E PPAs.

Apple Leading the Way …

Joe Kishkill, First Solar chief commercial officer informed that `Apple is leading the way in addressing climate change by showing how large companies can serve their operations with 100% clean, renewable energy’. He added further saying that `Apple’s commitment was instrumental in making this project possible and will significantly increase the supply of solar power in California. Over a period of time, the renewable energy from California flats will provide cost savings over alternative sources of energy as well as substantially lower environmental impact’.

The California Flats were unanimously approved by the Monterey County Planning Commission in January who sent the project to the Monterey County Board of supervisors who will consider the final approval shortly. At the time of the announcement it was mistakenly stated by Cook that Apple would be building the facility but he quickly corrected it and called it a partnership and that it is First Solar and not Apple that will build the new plant. The solar plant in total will output 280MW of electricity, 130MW of which will be bought by Apple.

Financially Sound – Significant Savings

Cook had stated that Apple would be buying sufficient electricity to power almost 60,000 California homes which would be enough to offset the electricity used by Apple’s forthcoming Campus 2 together with all fifty two Apple retail stores in the Golden State with its data centre in Newark.He has also been transparent that the climate change was a serious issue for him and the company which is the reason for taking the lead on renewable as well as sustainable energy. He also brought it to the notice of the investor that the agreement will be financially sound since the $848 million deal would be the outcome of `very significant savings’ on the cost of energy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Corning Unveils 'Project Phire' Super Scratch-Resistant Glass

Project Phire
Project Phire – Ultra-Scratch Resistance 

According to recent CNET report, Corning has unveiled a new material that it had been working on, which combines the strength of its prevailing Gorilla glass with ultra-scratch resistance and the material named `Project Phire’, was shown during an investor meeting by James Clappin, President of Corning Glass.

Corning, whose Gorilla Glass display covers the front of Apple’s iPhone as well as Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones, has been creating new material which would combine the toughness of Gorilla with a scratch-resistance like that of sapphire.Clappin states that company intends to begin selling the material later this year but provided few other details.

He informed the gathering that `they had told them last year that sapphire was great for scratch performance but did not fare well when dropped. Hence they created a product which offers the same superior damage resistance and drop performance of Gorilla Glass 4 with scratch resistance which is like sapphire’.

Corning gets its revenue from glass TV displays and fibre-optics, though Gorilla Glass is an important growth for the company. The material is the main item presently in hardened glass for mobile devices for about three billion electronics, which includes Apple’s new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus and Samsung’s Galaxy Note Edge and Galaxy Note 4.

Gorilla Glass Superior to Sapphire 

Sapphire was used for some time in high-end watches due to its scratch resistance and luxurious quality and Apple intends using sapphire covers for some versions of Apple Watch which would be coming out this April. The existing Gorilla Glass of Corning is being used in various smartphones and tablet displays, from Samsung’s Galaxy line to Apple’s iOS line-up.

Apple had intentions of moving out from Corning’s Gorilla Glass with its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus turning to sapphire produced by GT Advanced though was unable to use the material due to some issues on production which later on, dissolved the partnership between the two companies. As per Corning, Gorilla Glass seems to be superiorto sapphire since sapphire is brittle and has the tendency to shatter when dropped. On several occasions, Corning has pitted Gorilla Glass against sapphire, highlighting its benefits of lighter weight, greater strength with lower prices.

Affordable, Easier to Obtain Replacement for Sapphire

Corning’s most recent product, Gorilla Glass 4, is more resistant to shatter when dropped on hard or rough surfaces than the previous version of Gorilla Glass though it is not capable to match the scratch resistant properties of sapphire crystal. Sapphire is next to diamond with regards to hardness and Apple has been using this material already in order to protect the iPhone’s rear camera as well as Touch ID fingerprint sensor, from scratches.

Apple’s plan to produce iPhone display with higher scratch resistance, could make Corning’s `Project Phire’ material very appealing to the company for the next generation devices since it could serve as a more affordable, easier to obtain replacement for sapphire. At the investor presentation recently, Corning executives also discussed the company’s Iris glass first unveiled at the Consumer’s Electronics Show, last month. He claims that Iris could help the manufacturers in building new TVs which will be thin as smartphones and would need minimal edges round the sides.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Apple is finally killing iPhoto

Apple‘s Discontinuation of iPhoto

Apple had announced last year that it would be ending development on its consumer photo library iPhoto, its professional photo editing suite – Aperture and in its place, the company is said to develop an all-new product closely connected to the cloud.

Apple’s discontinuation of the software along with Aperture which is aimed at pro photographers is bringing about the tools; most people have on their iPhones and iPad to the Mac and have built it having Apple’s iCloud in mind.

 The product would be an improvement for most users of iPhoto but users of Aperture’s powerful editing as well as organizational features would find it most essential. Photos for OS X, which is the modern photo library that Apple had built from the ground level up for Mac computers, is on its way in making its debut.

The company has informed that the developer seed version of the same is being distributed to developers which will be followed by a public Photo beta with the final Photos product delivered to users of Mac as a part of a free software update this spring. Expectations from Photos are a clean reasonably intuitive library for pictures combined with an easy cloud backup solution together with useful editing tools.

Photos to iCloud Photo Library 

Photos are tied to iCloud Photo Library – Apple’s photo backup product, that is in beta stage. iCloud Photo Library tends to store the first 5GB of pictures for free and thereafter the user needs to pay for the same while My Photo Stream – Apple’s confusing free service for storing and synchronizing the last 1,000 photos would continue to remain independently of Photos.

Moreover the app has the same flat look of the photos app from iOS which would be simple to navigate for those who are acquainted with an iPhone. Migrating the photo libraries to the new app would be easy as opening photos and one can keep both iPhoto as well as Aperture on the system if one desires the same.

The app is said to contain four main tabs and photos contain all pictures in a chronological order. Shared is said to contain pictures received from shared photo streams together with activity feed for likes as well as comments in those streams while albums contain those which the user could have created. With regards to storing slideshows, projects are essentially a storefront for Apple’s printed photo products, books, calendars, cards and much more.

Awareness – Using Photos for OS X

Users using Photos for OS X should be aware that:

  • One should use the iCloud Photo Library feature that syncs with all photos across all the devices though one would need to buy more iCloud Drive storage to benefit from the same. 
  • Whatever is shot from the iPhone or imported in the new Photos app, is backed up to the iCloud Drive and seamlessly shared across the device. 
  • If the users have no desire to use iCloud Photo Library, they could keep using the new Photos app as an iPhoto replacement though they could get stuck with the old My Photo Stream feature for syncing photos across the device.
Photos for OS X are fast and tightly integrated with other devices and are a big step forward taken by Apple.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Apple Testing Mysterious Camera-Equipped Vehicles in the Bay Area

Apple’s New Project – Update Map Application

It has been recently reported by Mike Beasley for 9to5Mac, that Apple is preparing a big update to its Maps application for iOS and OS X. San Francisco’s KPIX reported earlier that a Dodge Caravan with an impressive array of cameras has been observed in the area. Beasley reports that the `California DMV confirmed that the vehicle was leased to Apple and that the company is planning to take on Google’s Street View with the same offering in its own Maps software.

Several minivans with camera equipment with a LiDar sensor mounted to the roof seems to be around California which could be part of Apple’s new project since at least one of the vehicles is registered to the iPhone maker. Beasley reports that `if Apple is preparing a Street View feature for Maps, then there is a possibility of seeing an upgrade in the iOS 9 which would debut later this year, should the company maintain its annual upgrade cycle.

 The feature would only support few major cities at launch for instance New York and San Francisco, the locations where the vans were spotted. He adds that the feature may not be included until a later version of iOS, based on the time taken by Apple in collecting data prior to the launch.

LiDar Sensor – Laser Based Technology

Beasley further adds that the Maps application was buggy at the time of launch and Apple has not been at the top of its software game of late and hence is taking a little more time in polishing this new feature. It was observed that the minivans had an X shaped frame which was mounted to the luggage racks having dark recesses which probably housed cameras at each corner.

It was confirmed to San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX by the California Department of Motor Vehicles that a blue Dodge Caravan was spotted with the equipment that was leased to Apple and together with the cameras, a pair of spinning cylindrical devices was fitted to the front and rear that seemed to be LiDar sensors which is a laser based technology used in making high resolution maps.

 This forms an integral part of the sensing systems on self-driving vehicles which includes those that have been developed by Google. According to analyst Rob Enderle, he informed KPIX that he is of the opinion that the vehicles are self-driving cars though it is an unlikely possibility that Apple has not been issued a testing permit for the same and is probably preparing to start a mapping program in line with Google’s Street View data collection initiative.

Technology Similar to Street View Car

Moreover, two small disc shaped antennas have also been fitted to the roof, together with a sensor which hangs over the rear wheel that could be used to measure accurately the movement indicated by the rotation of the wheel.

A similar white van with California license plates were also spotted in Brooklyn last September. It was observed by Enderle that the cameras on the minivan appeared to be around 12 which he considers to be a high number for a mapping vehicle though Google’s latest Street View cars used a ring of 15 5-megapixel CMOS sensors. The equipment on Apple registered van, besides the physical configuration, seems to be somewhat similar to the technology which has been fitted to a Street View car.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Apple's Stylus Receiver Concept Would Improve the Precision

Apple Stylus to Improve Larger iPad Model 

Recent reports reveal that Apple would be offering a simple stylus to improve a larger iPad model wherein the latest patent applications indicate a kind of improved pen based input technology which the company had been working on for some time.

In a recent filing published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, discovered by AppleInsider, disclosure of Apple’s investigation into stylus support for touchscreen devices was revealed. Entitled, `Superheterodyne Pen Stimulus Signal Receiver’, this proposed invention, indicates a device which could have unique frequency for stylus based input, which would be less than a traditional fingertip touch signal. Apple has noted in the filing, that several conventional styluses tend to have bulky tip which are made of material with a potential of interacting with touch sensitive devices where these devices are meant to match a user’s finger for compatibility with the modern touch screen.

 These are meant to be controlled with fingertips. However, Apple states that these conventional styluses, lack the precision as well as control of traditional writing instruments like a pen and paper, based on their nature. The method of Apple’s `superheterodyne receiver’ could be used which is capable of taking an input signal and converting it into another frequency.

Convert Stylus Touch Input Signals – Intermediate Frequency Signals

The technology in reality dates back to the origins of radio transmission which was developed during World War I by a U.S. soldier. All modern radio receivers, virtually utilise `superhet’ technology for the purpose of superior selectivity as well as sensitivity though in Apple’s more modern use, hardware demodulator in the device such as an iPad could convert stylus touch input signals in an intermediate frequency signal, which would be less than a traditional fingertip touch signal.

Apple would be featuring a touch sensor with potential of detecting the difference between a fingertip touch and a stylus touch thus offering more precise input. The latest patent application following a recent rumour, indicate that Apple would be launching a simple stylus together with an anticipated 12.9 inch `iPad Pro’, later this year. According to Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, he indicates that a stylus could be more precise than a person’s fingertip0s wherein it could be a more convenient method of input than a keyboard as well as a mouse in some cases.

Featuring Basic Technology 

He further states that Apple would probably launch the stylus accessory as an optional add-on instead of including it along with the larger iPad and believes that the stylus would feature basic technology in its first execution, wherein future models could contribute more advanced features such as 3D handwriting. Apple though had publicly panned pen based input for some time, the company’s interest in stylus based input, is nothing new and the filing is just the latest of stylus concepts which the company has been manipulating behind the scenes.

The superhet stylus signal receiver concept of Apple which was published recently was first filed in October 2013, with USPTO by Apple and the credits of the proposed invention goes to Shahrooz Shahparnia who is a touch ASIC as well as a sensor architect at Apple.