I often travel to different countries chasing stories. It’s hard for me, let alone my credit card issuers, to predict where I’ll be at any given time. This summer, for example, I moved from Madrid, Spain, to Oaxaca, Mexico, and in November I made quick trips to both California and Nicaragua. Confused by my unpredictable spending patterns, my credit card companies often block my legitimate transactions. Continue reading
Worldwide photovoltaic (PV) solar panel production rose 10 percent in 2012 despite a 9 percent drop in investment, reports the European Commission (pdf). The numbers are imprecise, because solar panel makers use different types of production and sales figures, but the Commission authors estimate that producers added between 35 GW and 42 GW of PV capacity in 2012. The growth follows several years in which European governments have trimmed subsidies to solar power, prompting many private investors to shy away from the sector and driving some companies to bankruptcy.
Something about solar is special, though: investment in PV capacity still made up over half (57.7 percent) of new renewable energy investments, for a total of $137.7 billion, and analysts predict further growth through 2015.
Heads Up Displays (HUDs), once the domain of fighter pilots and luxury car drivers, now come in a clip-on variety affordable to a much wider market. The systems project information on to a see-through screen to help keep their users’ attention outside the vehicle. But until now, such clarity of mind never came cheap: BMW charges over US $1000 for its built-in HUD system.
At this week’s Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany, several cheaper alternatives were on offer. Car accessory maker Pioneer showed off its NavGate HUD, which it will sell in Europe starting in October. The HUD uses Texas Instruments’ DLP projector instead of the more expensive laser found in a Japanese-market predecessor. That move shaves a few hundred dollars off its cost, but it still comes through at €699, or $927. Navigation system maker Garmin last month announced a dashboard-mounted HUD display for $150.
Unlike built-in HUDs systems, these after-market versions require drivers to provide a smartphone and to download separate applications (an additional $50 in Garmin’s case). But the ubiquity of smartphones is helping accessory makers to nip at the heels of car manufacturers in yet another product range. And for the DIYers, there’s always Lifehacker.
WANT to get some cash at automated teller machines in Nairobi? Don’t be surprised by the guards with machine guns. ATMs attract plenty of muggers and pickpockets.
Unsurprisingly, cashless transactions have been catching on fast in Nairobi and elsewhere in Africa. Microfinance organisations were among the pioneers. In Kenya, for instance, they started using M-PESA, the popular mobile money service, to hand out loans to small-time businesspeople in 2008, soon after its launch.
Musoni, a Kenyan microfinance firm with more than 10,000 customers and over $6.3m in loans since its launch in May 2010, is now taking the idea even further: in an effort to bypass banks and make microfinance more efficient, it has gone completely cashless—a worldwide first, claims Cameron Goldie-Scot, the firm’s chief operating officer.