Apple is buying cobalt for iPhone batteries before Tesla takes it all

Apple iPhone batteries

According to a report from Bloomberg, Apple is in talks with mining companies to secure long-term supplies of cobalt, a key element in the lithium-ion batteries that power virtually every gadget the company makes.

Apple doesn’t make its own batteries (yet), so buying up the raw materials is an unusual step for the company. But it’s a necessary evil, and it’s all thanks to Tesla and the explosion in popularity of electric cars.

Although the electric car market is still relatively small right now, auto manufacturers are preparing for a steep increase in demand for electric vehicles in the next few years. That will stress the world’s supply of cobalt, and that reality is reflected in the current price. Bloomberg notes that Cobalt prices have soared from a little over $ 20,000 per metric ton back in September 2016 to $ 80,000 per metric ton right now.

That’s caused the companies that rely on cobalt the most to go directly to the miners and sign contracts to ensure future supplies, while also locking in a price to hedge against future price increases. Two-thirds of the world’s cobalt production comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a region not exactly known for its stability.

So on the surface, the Bloomberg report looks like Apple doing the responsible thing and ensuring it has a consistent supply of an important manufacturing product at a reasonable price. But given Apple’s recent interest in designing all its own modems and processors for use inside its gadgets, it also raises the possibility that the company could start involving itself more in the battery manufacturing process.

Currently, Apple contracts out the battery manufacturing for the iPhone, just like it does with the bulk of components. But as battery science continues to improve and battery quality control becomes ever more important, it’s easy to believe Apple could want to exert more and more control over the manufacturing process — and locking down the necessary resources to do so would be a good first step.

Apple – BGR

Sony takes on ride-hailing in Japan as Uber looks for partners

eSony says it’s partnering with Daiwa Motor Transportation and five other local taxi companies in Japan to build a new taxi hailing system to match drivers with riders via a mobile app, similar to how Uber and countless others manage their ride-sharing services. Sony, however, plans to use AI to better predict demand to dispatch taxis more efficiently, says Nikkei, by factoring in traffic, ride histories, weather, and local events. Sony has previously implemented its AI technology in products like its Aibo robot dog.

Sony aims to launch the new venture in spring alongside a new payment service. The six taxi companies (Green Cab, International Motor, Kusumi Transportation, Checker Cab Radio Cooperative Association, Hinomaruku…

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Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Takes One Step Closer to First US Track

Hyperloop Transport Technologies (HTT) has brokered agreements with the North Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency and the Illinois Department of Transportation for feasibility studies pertaining to its mass transit technology. This work will determine whether or not it’s practical to construct a route linking Cleveland with Chicago.

HTT CEO Dirk Ahlhorn described the collaboration as the “first real public-private partnership to bring Hyperloop travel to the US,” according to a report from Tech Crunch. If it comes to pass, the Hyperloop would allow passengers to travel between the two cities in just 28 minutes.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in January 2018, Ahlhorn said that HTT’s first track would be officially announced in 2018, and could be operational within three years. However, there’s no indication that the Chicago-Cleveland line would be the company’s top priority.

In September 2017, HTT came to an agreement with the Andhra Pradesh Economic Development Board which will bring a Hyperloop system to India. And although the timeline for construction is still not clear, Ahlhorn indicated during last month’s address that Asia or the Middle East could be a smart place to start, economically speaking.

Of course, the company’s various international projects are expected to develop alongside one another. HTT has already submitted a letter, supported by a number of congressional representatives, that requests federal funding for the construction of necessary infrastructure.

Between HTT and Virgin Hyperloop One, projects inspired by Hyperloop technology, and Elon Musk’s plans for a high-speed railway system, there’s certainly a lot going on in the sphere of public transportation. However, most of it is still in the planning stages – it will be interesting to see which initiatives break ground first.

The post Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Takes One Step Closer to First US Track appeared first on Futurism.

Futurism

Mining Crypto Takes So Much Bandwidth, It’s Inhibiting the Search for Alien Life

Thanks to the cryptocurrency craze, we might miss out on a call from E.T. Astronomers are reporting that they can’t as easily access the graphics processing units (GPUs) needed to run their powerful telescopes and radio arrays, as they’re being bought up by those looking to mine cryptocurrency.

Daniel Werthimer, chief scientist for the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project at the University of California-Berkeley, told the BBC that he’s found GPUs in short supply only over the past few months. Aaron Parsons, another Berkeley astronomer who works on the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionisation Array (Hera) radio telescope, had a similar story: he told the BBC that the price of GPUs his team needed had doubled.

Though designed specifically to render visual tasks, GPUs have been recruited for cryptocurrency mining thanks to their speed and efficiency at performing the repetitive computations needed. But they’re also essential for scientists that need to process large quantities of data, like those scanning radio waves from huge swaths of the universe in hopes of catching an extraterrestrial message.

“At SETI we want to look at as many frequency channels as we possibly can because we don’t know what frequency ET will be broadcasting on,” Werthimer told the BBC. “And we want to look for lots of different signal types – is it AM or FM, what communication are they using?” As a result, SETI has as many as 100 GPUs at some telescopes.

Radio astronomy isn’t the only victim of the cryptocurrency craze; a 2017 report highlighted the high carbon emissions produced by crypto mining, which requires large quantities of energy. Yet that cost could be remedied if the electricity needed were generated from renewable resources, rather than fossil fuels.

Parsons expressed concern that radio astronomy work, meanwhile, could be halted entirely if the GPU shortage continues. In that time, we could potentially miss a call from our galactic neighbors — and Earth doesn’t currently have an answering machine.

 

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

The post Mining Crypto Takes So Much Bandwidth, It’s Inhibiting the Search for Alien Life appeared first on Futurism.

Futurism

Google takes AMP beyond basic posts with its new story format

 For the most part, Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages project was about what its name implies: accelerating mobile pages. Unsurprisingly, that mostly meant quickly loading and rendering existing articles on news sites, recipes and other relatively text-heavy content. With that part of AMP being quite successful, Google is looking to take AMP beyond these basic stories. Read More
Mobile – TechCrunch