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Will The Smart Wheel Propel Bicycle Commuting Forward?

January 30, 2014 Leave a comment

TechnologistWill The Smart Wheel Propel Bicycle Commuting Forward?

October 16th, 2013 | by Rachel Nuwer 

Traveling by bike has clear advantages. It’s cheaper than driving, produces no greenhouse gas emissions and gives peddlers a convenient workout on the go. There’s also at least one obvious disadvantage: running into a morning meeting with armpit stains and sweat streaks down the back of your shirt after hustling through a bike commute.

“I bike a lot, and I always go to meetings sweaty,” says Niko Klansek, an entrepreneur who first tried to solve his problem by tinkering with electric bikes for several years. But the sole purpose of those contraptions is to provide an effortless ride, and Klansek soon realized he “wanted to do something more with bicycles.” So he founded FlyKly, a Brooklyn-based startup dedicated to “bringing bicycles to the 21st century.”

This week, FlyKly is introducing the Smart Wheel, a product two years in the making. The 12-person team responsible for creating the Smart Wheel calls it the world’s first intelligent wheel for bikes. The nine-pound device fits onto nearly any bike by replacing the rear wheel. They say the installation process takes just a minute or two to complete. It contains a slender electric motor that can be adjusted to carry riders up to 20 mph for 30 miles. “Now, you can dress for the destination, not the ride,” Klansek says.

At the end of the day, commuters looking for a bit more exercise can turn the wheel off and pedal home without the added boost.

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The company’s patented motor includes a layer of thin magnets surrounded by batteries and several protective casings that form a disc. The motor fits over the Smart Wheel’s spokes, and owners lock it into place on their bike frame with a special key. It charges itself on downhill descents and when a user pedals, or it can be plugged into the wall to recharge.

A wheel with its own app 

Once installed, owners control the Smart Wheel with a FlyKly app downloaded onto their iOS, Android or Pebble device. A contraption called the Smart Light—which simultaneously acts as smart phone holder, charger and bike light—is situated on the bike’s handle bar and uses powerful Van der Waals forces (also known as gecko adhesion) to hold the phone in place. It also comes with two external straps for extra security. “We are 100 percent certain your phone won’t fall off,” Klansek says.

In addition to setting the wheel’s speed, the app helps riders map their route according to convenience, safety or best scenery and tracks statistics like distance pedaled, average speed and ride duration. The FlyKly team built an open-source platform so developers can design apps for other wearable technologies like the Nike FuelBand. “People can build their own software or hardware on top of it,” Klansek says.

When riders reach their destination, they can lock their Smart Wheel with the app to deter theft. If someone does run off with the bike or the wheel, the built-in GPS will alert owners via Bluetooth that their machine is on the move and allow them to track its whereabouts.

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Users can opt to share favorite routes or stats with friends, or even share their data anonymously with city planners. Klansek imagines Smart Wheel users’ compiled data assisting with designing safer and more efficient bicycle lanes in cities, for example.

FlyKly’s first functional prototypes were developed earlier this year, and the company plans to deliver preordered Smart Wheels in April 2014. To reach that goal, FlyKly launched a Kickstarter campaign on Wednesday to help with production costs. Preordered Smart Wheels cost $590.

All images: Courtesy FlyKly.

Rachel Nuwer is a freelance science journalist who writes for venues including the New York Times, ScienceNOW and Audubon Magazine. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. She tweets @RachelNuwer.

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How My Art Brought The Cambodian Worker Struggle to Times Square

January 30, 2014 Leave a comment

GOOD,isJanuary 27, 2014 at 1:20 PM

On Friday Jan 17, in the shadow of giant retailer H&M’s Times Square store, I wore a bloodstained shirt and surgical mask and began working behind a manual sewing machine for eight hours. It may have been easy to miss among the bright New York City lights and the blaring cab horns, but those who stopped to watch throughout the day saw that it was not cloth running through the machine, but US dollar bills.

In this performance “Less Than Three,” I chose to sew for the entire cold January day. As a Khmer-American artist, I did so in solidarity with striking garment workers in Cambodia who were forced back to their stations in fear of their lives by a brutal military police crackdown earlier this month.

By working in front of the dazzling high-tech store front, I wanted to remind consumers that weplay a role in this violence. We too have blood on our hands. With numb fingers, I fed the bills back and forth through the machine, elaborately stitching together two and two-thirds dollars—the daily salary of the average garment worker in Cambodia. Fast fashion seduces consumer culture and disguises the fact that behind every stitch, is a hand, a face, a person.

The textile industry is by far Cambodia’s biggest export earner, bringing in over $5 billion in 2013 from corporations such as H&M, Gap and Walmart. This figure shows a 22 percent increase from 2012. The market is incredibly profitable and steadily on the rise, but most of the industry’s over 500,000 factory workers continue to live in poverty. When the workers began organizing against the imbalance last December, they were violently silenced.

Labor unrest intensified following the highly-disputed 2013 re-election of Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose opponent Sam Rainsy ran on a platform of widespread reform including a promise to double garment workers’ salary to $160 a month—considered a reasonable living wage by supporters.

Over 400 factories were forced to halt operations earlier this month when hundreds of thousands of workers joined a strike to demand the promised wage increase as well as better working conditions and protection of workers’ rights. On January 3, military police opened fire on demonstrators in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, killing at least four people and injuring dozens.

Locals report the continued presence of armed soldiers patrolling the streets and breaking up gatherings, and many workers are choosing to forfeit their last paychecks and flee the cities where they work.

Global corporations are gaining huge profits by providing consumers with cheap clothing, at the expense of workers’ lives. Simultaneously, the Cambodian government does not hesitate to kill protesters, enforcing silence on the issue in order to maintain the status quo.

It is time for us to examine our priorities as American consumers. We know our clothes are made in sweatshops on the other side of the world. So is there anything we can do about it? Despite international protests, demonstrations, petitions, and boycotts, the industrial machine grinds on. The scale of the problem can seem overwhelming.

There are no easy solutions, but the first step is to engage with the grim reality: our constant demand for new cheap clothes has an unaffordable human cost.

In the age of two-click transactions and armchair charity, I choose to take direct action and engage in creative forms of dissent. I want to call for everyone, and especially other Khmer-Americans, to join in making our voices heard. Here, in America, we have the privilege to express our critical opinions without fear of persecution. I want to collaborate on street theater and art, DIY writing and publishing, and to open space for unpacking the Khmer-American experience.

A step in this direction is the upcoming Up Srei project, people-powered media focused on Khmer women, workers, and activists through a feminist and anti-capitalist lens. Will you join me in this important cause?

We’re growing the community of people sharing creative solutions for living well and doing good, and want you to be a part of it. If you have an insight, experience, idea, or project you want to share with the GOOD Community and need more space to tell your story than posting a link ongood.is allows, email us at community@goodinc.com.

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The Case for Marketing Apps

January 30, 2014 Leave a comment

The Case for Marketing Apps

 

More content. More messages. More clutter. Content overload is everywhere. And it’s diluting content marketing to the point that many of us are questioning its worth.

Marketing apps cut through the clutter with useful digital experiences. Reduce bounce rates, improve engagement and increase conversions.

The Case for Marketing Apps answers these important questions:

  • What are marketing apps?
  • How can they impact results?
  • And what are industry leaders saying?
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Examining the Timing of J.C. Penney’s Poison Pill Change

January 30, 2014 Leave a comment

DealBook - A Financial News Service of The New York Times

 By STEVEN M. DAVIDOFF     1/30/2014
Customers at a J.C. Penney store in New York.
J.C. Penney’s announcement on Tuesday that it had set a new, lower threshold for its poison pill raises the question: Why now?

The struggling retailer reduced the limit to 4.9 percent, from 10 percent, preventing any single shareholder from holding more than a 4.9 percent stake without board approval.

J.C. Penney is subject to the occasional takeover rumor, but more important, it has lately been a hedge fund hotel. William A. Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management came and noisily left. So did David Tepper’s Appaloosa Management, though less noisily. But others like George Soros’s fund and Richard Perry’s Perry Corporation have arrived and stayed. Still, Perry has reduced its stake, and hedge funds’ interest in the company has waned. The immediate conclusion of many in the media was that J.C. Penney’s move was intended to prevent any more activist investors from accumulating a large position.

But this may not be the case, and the reason lies in the tax reasons behind its action.

J.C. Penney can justify the low trigger because of tax rules that are even more complex than normal. When a company accumulates losses, called net operating losses or NOLs, these have value. If the company returns to profitability, it can use them for up to 20 years to offset future gains and avoid paying tax. In some cases, the NOLs can actually be transferred to other parties.

The tax code also sets forth a limit on the NOLs being transferred, a so-called ownership change.

Unfortunately, the way the tax code defines a change of control is quite broad. An ownership change occurs when the percentage of a company’s stock owned by shareholders with a stake of 5 percent or more increases by more than 50 percent over a three-year period. If, for example, a shareholder with a 5 percent stake acquired enough stock to go over the 7.5 percent level, this would constitute an ownership change. The company would be at risk of losing its NOLs unless an exception could be found.

The rules, of course, have lots of intricate exemptions that keep tax lawyers busy, but the 5 percent threshold is the sticking point.

The risk is that a shareholder goes over the 5 percent level and then again increases its shareholdings enough to kill the NOLs. The risk is real, and companies have used this risk to justify adopting poison pills that deter shareholders from acquiring as much as a 5 percent stake. According to FactSet SharkRepellent, 162 public companies have such poison pills, which are sometimes known as NOL poison pills, including Citigroup and Krispy Kreme.

But pills with these limits are controversial. They are a blunt hammer. A poison pill meant to preserve a company’s tax advantages could have exceptions and allowances for share increases less than 50 percent as well as initial positions above the 5 percent level. None do, though.

That is probably because a poison pill that limits a shareholder’s stake to less than 5 percent has a convenient side effect of deterring activist activity. A hedge fund may now be unwilling to undertake an activist campaign because it cannot buy enough stock to justify this activism.

And even though questions have been raised about the tactic, it has been blessed by the Delaware courts.

J.C. Penney stated on Tuesday that had $2 billion in NOLs. So it has some justification in adopting the new limit for its poison pill. The retailer is even taking steps to deal with any shareholder objections. It is putting the issue to a shareholder vote. If shareholders approve the pill, it will be in place until 2017, a relatively long period but not unusual.

In addition, J.C. Penney is going to ask shareholders to put similar provisions in its charter, making it more permanent. This seems a bit like overkill, though we haven’t seen the text.

If J.C. Penney’s shareholders approve the pill, it will make it make it difficult for anyone new to acquire a significant stake. Right now, according to Capital IQ, J.C. Penney has only two 5 percent shareholders — Soros Fund Management, with 6.6 percent, and the Vanguard Group, with 6.2 percent. They would be prevented from acquiring more shares. Other shareholders would be limited to a 4.9 percent stake.

But J.C. Penney could have adopted this poison pill at any time. Why is it doing so now, especially when it appears that the threat from hedge funds is receding?

I asked J.C. Penney for comment. Daphne Avila, an employee and representative of J.C. Penney responded that the “tax benefits represent a significant corporate asset that the company believes may deliver substantial benefits to stockholders.” She said that the J.C. Penney board had considered a number of factors, including “the potential for diminution upon an ownership change, and the risk of an ownership change occurring.”

It’s hard to even read tea leaves from this statement. But perhaps now that things have settled down — Mr. Ackman has left and J.C. Penney’s former chief executive has rejoined the company — the board felt that it was safe to just deal with this issue. Or maybe the board felt that it wanted to protect management for a while to make sure it had time to turn around the company’s fortunes.

Both seem to ring true, but it’s hard to know. And of course, there is the question of why it even bothered to lower the threshold for the poison pill at this time, since the company never acted while Mr. Ackman and others were acquiring shares.

We are left with a mystery, while shareholders may also be wondering what the true effect will be. The hedge funds, though, seem to have already come and gone.


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Here’s the first carbon fiber 3D printer

January 30, 2014 Leave a comment
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Just days after Stratasys unveiled a 3D printer that can print multiple materials in various colors, a new product once again pushes the boundaries of what’s possible for commercial 3D printers.

The “Mark One” printer, from Boston-based startup MarkForged, is the first 3D printer to use carbon fiber. It can also print with fiberglass, nylon, and plastic filament used in most desktop 3D printers.

At a cost of $5,000, the price is reasonable considering that the price point for some 3D printers that only print with plastic aren’t far off, though prices for plastic-only printers are dropping. The company is taking pre-orders next month and plans to ship later this year.

The main benefit of carbon fiber is that you can print stronger items. The company says that the carbon fiber used in the printer is 20-times stiffer than the ABS plastic used in other 3D printers, and five-times stronger.

3D printers have already been used to print items like prosthetic limbs. But this could mean strong, lighter, and more practical limbs could be printed. Considering the price of prosthetics, the idea of one day purchasing a $5,000 3D printer to print off prosthetic that generally need to be replaced every few yearssounds like a smart investment.

Of course, prosthetics aren’t the only items you could print with a carbon fiber printer. Gregory Mark, the founder of MarkForged, developed the carbon fiber printer because he was looking for a way to take advantage of 3D printing to make parts for race cars. As Mark told Popular Mechanics:

“It’s a material that everybody knows, but probably most people haven’t used. So we made the price low and you can start using it. We wanted to make it really easy for people to start printing with it, so they can explore prosthetics, custom bones, tools, and fixtures.”

This is could be a giant step for 3D printers that could help move them forward from prototype makers to useful tools for making practical items.

Check out the Mark One in action:

 

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How to Deliver Immersive Content Experiences Using Webinars

January 30, 2014 Leave a comment

How to Deliver Immersive Content Experiences Using Webinars

How to Deliver Immersive Content Experiences Using Webinars

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

1:00 PM EST/10:00 AM PST

Content Marketing is a hot technique to attract and retain customers by creating and curating valuable content. How do you do it well during a webinar? During this session, Dr. Carmen Simon shares the latest neuroscience findings on how to deliver an immersive content experience online.

Specifically, you will learn about:

  • Interactivity. Unlike other forms of marketing, webinar participation renders itself to constant interactivity from customers through chat, polls, or downloads. You can use such interactive tools well when you decide to teach your own participants how to do something instead of promoting more of your capabilities.
  • Design. This is critical because good design (a combination of art, imagination, and science) is engaging, and creates an emotional bond with an audience. High quality images, copy, and composition lead to full immersion in your content.
  • Person vs. persona. Successful content marketing is personalized, not generalized. Learn how to do this even when you’re not seeing your audience.
  • Metrics. Once you’ve included the mandatory variables for optimal content, wouldn’t it be great if you could replicate that experience consistently, across many webinars? Let’s learn what metrics to use to maximize your content marketing efforts and precision.

Speakers:

Joe Pulizzi, Founder, Content Marketing Institute, @JoePulizzi

Dr. Carmen Simon, Co-Founder, Rexi Media, @areyoumemorable

Categories: Uncategorized

Made in China: Chinese air pollution now causes smog in Los Angeles

January 30, 2014 Leave a comment
24 Jan. — written by Stephen Kennett , 2degrees
2 degrees
Chinese air pollution blowing across the Pacific Ocean is caused by the manufacturing of goods that are exported to the US and Europe, according to new research.

A study by UC Irvine is the first to quantify how much of the pollution reaching the West coast of the US is from the production in China of consumer goods.
A study by UC Irvine is the first to quantify how much of the pollution reaching the West coast of the US is from the production in China of consumer goods.

A study by UC Irvine is the first to quantify how much of the pollution reaching the West coast of the US is from the production in China of consumer goods that end up being imported there.

Los Angeles experiences at least one extra day a year of smog that exceeds federal ozone limits because of nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide emitted by Chinese factories making goods for export, according to the analysis found. On other days, as much as a quarter of the sulfate pollution on the US West Coast is tied to Chinese exports.

“We’ve outsourced our manufacturing and much of our pollution, but some of it is blowing back across the Pacific to haunt us,” said UC Irvine Earth system scientist Steve Davis. “Given the complaints about how Chinese pollution is corrupting other countries’ air, this paper shows that there may be plenty of blame to go around.”

However, China is not responsible for the majority of pollution in the US. But powerful global winds, known as ‘westerlies’, are pushing airborne chemicals across the ocean, causing dangerous spikes in contaminants, with dust, ozone and carbon accumulating in valleys and basins in California and other Western states.

“When you buy a product at Wal-Mart, it has to be manufactured somewhere,” added Davis. “The product doesn’t contain the pollution, but creating it caused the pollution.”

He and his fellow researchers conclude: “International cooperation to reduce transboundary transport of air pollution must confront the question of who is responsible for emissions in one country during production of goods to support consumption in another.”

Also of interest
China’s carbon emissions: A global dilemma
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