In mid-October 2016, officials from China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection counted five illegal trash-burning sites and hundreds of thousands of vehicles exceeding emission standards in Beijing alone. For the first time since last winter’s pollution high season, city officials issued a yellow air-quality alert, which required shutting down power plants and reining in Beijing’s frenetic factories and road traffic. If this winter is anything like past winters, the city will have to pull out the yellow card again—and may even have to reach for its red card.
Galileo, a global navigation satellite system that will reach more places and work more precisely than today’s GPS services, is now available for free public use. When it is complete, expected by 2020, Galileo will have taken two decades and an estimated $10 billion to build. But the system, created by the European Union, will make your phone run better and offer new possibilities for both corporate and government users.
A few years ago almost two thousand bold households on the Danish island of Bornholm joined a surge pricing experiment run by their electricity utility. It was supposed to empower the utility and consumers with a simple, direct market (“The Smartest, Greenest Grid,” IEEE Spectrum, April 2013).
The EU-funded project, called EcoGrid, won widespread buy-in from residents, who could also earn small payoffs when they reduced demand. Yet researchers reported last year that they could reduce demand by only 1.2 percent of peak load, despite early predictions of up to 20-percent reductions for so-called virtual power plants. The market model was missing something. Continue reading
In September IBM announced deals with Teva Pharma and Sage Bionetworks to use its Watson Health Cloud platform for a range of services, from selecting molecules for drug development to planning clinical trials and advising clinicians. A couple of weeks later, Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, revealed a partnership between its Azure cloud computing platform and the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) Genomics Institute for data storage and analysis to support its work on genomics research. Information technology firms large and small are expanding their ecosystem of cloud computing facilities and services, hoping to attract players in industry and academia. Cloud systems can ferry, store and combine clinical, research, social and health data. Companies are attracted to these services because they allow them to keep up with the constantly growing pool of information without having to invest in their own information technology infrastructure.
Read the rest of this news story in the December 2015 issue of Nature Biotechnology: [html].