TIME Innovation

Could This Be Solar Energy’s Big Moment?

Solar power has been on an upswing in the U.S., with usage now standing at six times’ its 2010 rate and the cost of solar installations since 2010 down 60 %. Analysts predict a 29% rise in solar installations in the U.S. by the end of 2014 alone.

This could be solar power’s moment. What’s uncertain is how much of that market growth the U.S. will be able to capitalize on. Currently, almost half of the world’s solar panel production takes place in China, while the U.S. only counts for only 5%.

Investors like Elon Musk, whose solar power company Solar City bought the panel maker Silevo to help drive down costs, hopes to change that imbalance by ramping up manufacturing in the U.S.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 21

1. Perspective matters: To tell the stories of Ferguson, America needs black journalists.

By Sonali Kohli in Quartz

2. After James Foley, America’s policy against paying ransom to kidnappers deserves a public debate.

By David Rohde at Reuters

3. To keep American democracy alive, citizens need to use their voice and their votes.

By Robert Reich in Guernica

4. Climate change will make the coffee of the future bitter and pricey.

By Jessica Leber in FastCo.Exist

5. Business school students have much to learn from the “Market Basket” family-corporate feud.

By Judith Samuelson in Huffington Post

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 20

1. Smart labels that monitor food can reduce food-related illness and waste.

By Adrienne LeFrance in the Atlantic

2. With a “Right to Work” law that lets refugees earn a living, Uganda avoids the pitfalls of wartime migration. Other countries can too.

By Gregory Warner in National Public Radio

3. Integrate the protests: Why Ferguson needs a “Freedom Summer.”

By Jay Caspian Kang in the New Yorker

4. To deter Putin and defuse the crisis in Ukraine, policymakers must be creative, strategic and collaborative.

By David Ignatius in the Washington Post

5. Extra ISP fees for companies like Netflix only stifle Internet innovation.

By Reed Hastings in Wired

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Innovation

You Can Unlock This High-Tech Padlock With Your Phone

noke
FUZ

We’re almost to the point, technologically, where you won’t have to remember a single thing.

This newfangled padlock — called Noke — has no keys, keyhole or combination for you to remember, instead relying on your iOS or Android device to unlock it via Bluetooth. Get within 10 feet of the thing, keep your phone in your pocket and you’ll be able to unlock it. You can share access with other people as well, turn off the auto-unlock-within-10-feet feature and receive alerts whenever Noke is unlocked by someone else.

“But what if I lose my phone?!” you bellow, your face red with Internet nerd rage, your hammy fists pounding against your desk until they leave C-shaped sweat rings. You can unlock the lock by pumping the doohickies in a Morse code-like fashion you set in advance, like so:

noke code
FUZ

The padlock has a battery, which lasts a year and can only be removed when the padlock’s unlocked. If you manage to run it dry, there’s an emergency backup feature as well. It’s water resistant, and there’s a special bike cable available for $20.

This is a Kickstarter project that’s been fully funded, with the promise of the padlocks being shipped out early next year. Early backers can get a padlock for $59; the final retail price is set to be around $89.

[OhGizmo!]

 

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 19

1. To understand the conflict in Ferguson, we must acknowledge and overcome structural racism.

By Karen J. Aroesty in the St. Louis Dispatch

2. As we leave Afghanistan, we owe justice and transparency to civilians caught in the crossfire of our occupation.

By Christopher Rogers in Al-Jazeera America

3. The wisdom of crowds: The CIA is learning a lot by aggregating the guesswork of ordinary Americans.

By Alix Spiegel at National Public Radio

4. In the age of MOOCs, remote labs are making a comeback and giving STEM students affordable new ways to do research.

By Steve Zurier in EdTech

5. Delaying child bearing and getting a high school diploma could drastically alter the future for today’s teen moms.

By Emily Cuddy and Richard V. Reeves at the Brookings Institution

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Time/Real Simple Poll

Why Failure Is the Key to Success for Women

Germany, Businesswoman with file on table
Getty Images

Results from a new poll suggest that women need to take more risks

When I bodysurfed with my three brothers as a kid, I didn’t hate wiping out as much as I hated my brothers’ laughing at me when I emerged from the wash of a big wave spluttering and gasping for air, swimsuit askew. I had a choice, I could either stop bodysurfing (and thus get left behind) or get used to getting dumped. Eventually I figured out a solution: wipe yourself out so you get used to it and don’t dread it as much.

What I discovered after a few self-imposed poundings was that if you can find the sand, you can find the air; it’s in the exact opposite direction. And the wave is always happy to introduce you to the sand. Usually it was right where my face was planted. So, if you let the surf fling you about a bit, you can eventually get the sand under your feet and emerge from the water with your swimsuit and composure more or less intact. I still got dumped, but I did it with a little more dignity.

What I now realize I was learning to do, was fail.

Women need to fail. They need to fail hard and they need to fail often. It’s the only way they’re going to succeed. It seems cruel to say that. For many women, lack of success is as familiar as breakfast cereal, except they eat it three meals a day. But a new poll conducted for Time and Real Simple magazines suggests that an unwillingness to fail or a fear of doing anything that could lead to a washout might be one of the pinch-points that is impeding women’s progress to the head office. Failures happen to everyone, but these poll results suggest that women fear them more and perhaps don’t bounce out of the surf from them quite so readily.

As part of an ongoing national conversation about why women occupy leadership roles in much smaller numbers than their education, their ability and just simple math would suggest, the polling company Penn Shoen Berland asked 1000 women about success, what it meant to them and what they felt it took to be successful. They also asked 300 men some of the questions to offer a point of comparison. The women ranged in age from 20 to 69 and about 40% of them were in paid employment.

Some of the poll data confirmed what our gut tells us: for women success is less like a spearfishing trip and more like collecting shells on the beach. It’s not a linear process, with just one goal in mind. Secondly, motherhood has a huge influence on women’s outlook, both in her definition of success (it widens) and in her bandwidth (it bifurcates). Other results were more surprising: being good at their jobs was vastly more important to women than men in our survey. And almost half of them believe they are paid less than men for doing an equivalent job.

The biggest bogeyman in the discussions about what’s holding women back is a lack of confidence. Why do women not ask for higher salaries when negotiating? Confidence. Why are women the last to put up their hands for a promotion? Confidence. Why don’t more women run for office? Confidence. Plus all the guff they’d have to take about their hair.

That idea may need refining. One of the clearest finding to emerge from the Time/Real Simple poll is that women aren’t much less confident than men. About 45% of people regardless of gender regard themselves as confident. But many more women—nearly 80%—say it’s an important part of success. Only 63% of men do. That is, women and men are confident in equal measure. But more women think it’s important.

Female workers, the poll numbers show, labor just as hard, believe they are just as qualified, and have as much professional respect as their peers. That sounds a lot like confidence. Yet they just don’t seem to swim for the waves the men do. Roughly three quarters of both men and women said they would not want their boss’s job. But, if offered the position, more than half the men would take it anyway and fewer than a third of the women would. Why do the men believe they could do the job and the women don’t?

The demands of motherhood may be one of the forces at play here, but it’s not the only one. According to the poll, women’s hunger for success dwindles as they age. Almost 75% of women in their 20s regard it as very important to be successful. By their 40s and 50s—the age at which people often become senior executives—only 50% of the women feel the same way. About half the 20 year old women surveyed considered it vital to get promoted. Less than a third of women in their 40s felt the same way.

If this were all just because women wanted time and energy and bandwidth for that resource-intensive home-based start-up called parenting, then it follows that their desire to contribute to the success of their team or to work as hard would ebb too. But it doesn’t wane at all, no matter the age. Women seem to want to put in the time and effort, but not to expect the rewards. Or the status.

Perhaps there’s an answer in women’s attitude to innovation. More than 40% of women believe the ability to innovate is one of the passports to success. But only a few women think they carry that passport. What do confidence and innovation have in common? They can’t be learned without making mistakes. Acquiring them without going through failure is not an option. Failure often hurts, but as Lawrence of Arabia said (in the movie, at least) “the trick is not minding that it hurts” and swimming back through the swell to try again. Women seem less eager to do this. What is innovation, after all, but failing to solve a problem a little less badly each time?

One nugget from the poll encapsulates this quite neatly: to prepare for a big presentation women are more likely than men to do a lot of research and give themselves a pep talk. Men, on the other hand, were more likely than women to give themselves a treat, take meds or practice their power pose in the bathroom. The men are much more likely to revel in the high wire act, to enjoy the risk, than women. (Either that or their meds are amazing.)

It makes sense that women are risk averse. That tendency has protected them and their offspring for centuries. It fortified those pioneering female business leaders who were under a higher level of scrutiny even as recently as this decade. But if women hope to get to the corner office, to that mythical realm that smells like Y chromosomes and golf shoes, they have to be prepared to fall on their faces. And get back on up again.

So here’s a suggestion. Go forth, ladies and louse up. Muff it. Make a blunder. Botch it up royally. Make a complete balls of it. The guys do it all the time. Just before they get promoted.

 

Take Our Poll: What Does Success Mean to You?

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 18

1. Providing shoes to barefoot walkers may be a basic first step to containing Ebola.

By Stephen T. Fomba in Zócalo Public Square

2. Your brain isn’t built to multitask. Give it a break.

By Michael Harris in Salon

3. U.S. intervention, while a key pillar, cannot solve the identity crisis in the Middle East.

By Steven Cook in the Washington Post

4. This arrest may be monitored: The best way to protect citizens from abuse of power is videorecording everything.

By Reihan Salam in Slate

5. To connect more people to jobs, we must build a true and equitable apprenticeship system in the United States.

By Robert Giloth and Maureen Conway in the Baltimore Sun

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Big Picture

Meet Levi’s Stadium, the Most High-Tech Sports Venue Yet

Levi's Stadium
A general view during a preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos at Levi's Stadium on August 17, 2014 in Santa Clara, California Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

Most people have heard of smartphones, smart cars and smart homes. Say hello to the smart stadium.

Set in the heart of Silicon Valley, Levi’s Stadium — home to the San Francisco 49ers — is now the most high-tech stadium anywhere in the world.

It’s in the center of the tech universe, of course, so it’s only natural that 49ers management decided to devote a significant sum of money to building high-tech infrastructure. The stadium will allow all 70,000+ fans to connect to Wi-Fi and 4G networks to take advantage of personalized services, making the event experience more enjoyable.

I had the privilege of attending the inaugural event at Levi’s Stadium, where the San Jose Earthquakes took on the Seattle Sounders in an MLS league game. About 49,000 people attended that event, well below the stadium’s 70,000+ seat capacity, so the game served as a dry run to work out some of the kinks. I also attended the first NFL game to be played in the stadium: the Denver Broncos came to town to help the 49ers christen the stadium in a preseason game on Aug 17. The first regular-season NFL game will be held there on Sept 14, and will serve as the official grand opening of the stadium.

Turning Downtime Into Screen Time

What I discovered from these two experiences is that the 49ers’ stadium is indeed the most tech-advanced stadium in the world, using technology to make the fan experience much richer and more entertaining. Al Guido, the COO of the 49ers, told me that one challenge that’s been an issue in the NFL is that the amount of action that takes place in a football game only about amounts to about 15 minutes. People want access to things like stats, replays and other media when live play isn’t taking place.

During that downtime, the 49ers organization wanted to deliver all types of new ways to enjoy the game, turning to technology to deliver it through a connected experience. According to Mr. Guido, “The 49ers wanted to transform the in-stadium fan experience and make it possible to see the action live but still have the similar features that a fan has at home while watching the game on TV.”

Cables, Routers and Bandwidth Aplenty

So how did the 49ers and their tech partners achieve the goal of enhancing the fan experience by harnessing technology for this purpose?

According to Dan Williams, the VP of technology for Levi’s Stadium, they laid out 400 miles of cabling, 70 miles of which are just dedicated to connecting the 1,200 distributed antenna systems that serve the Wi-Fi routers that are placed to serve every 100 seats throughout the stadium. Levi’s Stadium features a backbone of 40 gigabits per second of available bandwidth, easily scalable to accomodate event attendance, which is 40 times more Internet bandwidth capacity than any known U.S. stadium, and four times greater than the standard for NFL stadiums that’s been mandated by the league to be in place by 2015.

Levi's Stadium Router
Access points are spread throughout the stadium every 100 seats, serving up wireless Internet service to fans during the games Ben Bajarin for TIME
Levi's Stadium Repeater
Repeaters placed throughout Levi’s Stadium pass Internet service along from section to section Ben Bajarin for TIME

The stadium also has about 1,700 high-tech beacons. Using the latest version of the Bluetooth Low Energy standard, these beacons can be used to give people pinpoint directions to their seats as well as to any other place in the stadium. They can also be used to send them alerts about specials from concession stands and other promotions from time to time.

Tech Partnerships

One of the companies that contributed to the overall strategy and execution of some the stadium’s high-tech features is Sony. Sony’s technology is at the center of the stadium’s control room, which manages all of the video for the over 2,000 Sony TVs that have been placed around the venue, as well as the 70 4K TVs found in most of the suites and the two giant LED displays in each end zone.

When I asked Mike Fasulo, the president and COO of Sony Electronics, about his company’s involvement in the new Levi’s Stadium, he told me, “Our partnership with the San Francisco 49ers and the new Levi’s Stadium goes well beyond technology and products. This is truly a one-of-a-kind fan experience, with the world’s greatest showcase of 4K technology from the best of Sony’s professional and consumer products. For every event, every fan will be immersed in the pinnacle of entertainment and technology to enhance their experience.”

Other major sponsors from the tech world include Intel, SAP, Yahoo and Brocade.

An App to Tie It All Together

There’s also a Levi’s Stadium smartphone and tablet app, which offers the following features:

  • The app can guide people to the parking lot entrance closest to their seats, and then once inside, guide them to their actual seats.
  • Fans can watch up to four replays at a time during the game, seeing the exact replays shown by the studio as if they were watching at home on their TV. A fan can actually watch the game live on this app as well. They can also get stats and other info related to the game via this app.
  • It can guide fans to the closest bathroom with the shortest lines, which I predict will become the most used feature at any game.
  • Fans can connect either by Wi-Fi or to one of the 4G networks from the major carriers. Each of the big telecom networks has expanded its antenna service to enhance its customers’ wireless connections within the stadium.
  • Fans can order food and drink from any seat in the stadium and it will be delivered directly to their seats. People also have the option of ordering food from their seats and going to an express line at the concession stands to pick up their food in person, too.

The painstaking attention to tech detail that the 49ers and its partners have integrated into Levi’s Stadium is sure to be the envy of NFL stadiums throughout the U.S. For the time being, it’s the gold standard in high-tech stadiums and one that’s sure to be copied by many sports facilities around the world.

The Valley Advantage

However, I suspect that by being in the heart of Silicon Valley, this stadium may keep the lead in high-tech wizardry for some time. Keep in mind that the tech companies partnered with the 49ers on Levi’s Stadium because it also provided them a showcase for their technology. As Sony’s Fasulo stated above, it provided the company with a major showcase for its 4K professional and consumer products. Intel loves the fact that all of the servers that are used to power the networks show off the power of Intel processors, and Brocade’s networking technology is showcased as a world- class solution.

Silicon Valley is also the center of tech innovation. As people in the industry continue to create new technologies that can be used to enhance the sports experience, where do you think they will take it first? Since the 49ers have already shown a commitment to using technology for delivering the ultimate in-stadium fan experience, the organization will most likely be open to all sorts of new technology to help it deliver an even greater experience in the future. Think of this symbiotic relationship between Silicon Valley’s tech companies and the 49ers as home field advantage for both.

It’s probably not a stretch to say that the pioneering efforts of the 49ers to make Levi’s Stadium a truly smart stadium will force other NFL stadiums to follow the team’s lead, striving to make all of their stadiums smarter. It will also serve as a potential blueprint for other sports stadiums around the world. Being in Silicon Valley does have its advantages, though: With the kinds of tech sponsors and partners that are in its back yard, I suspect that Levi’s Stadium will continue to get smarter and smarter.

Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market-intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to Big Picture, an opinion column that appears every week on TIME Tech.

TIME Gadgets

Samsung Buys Into Home Automation with SmartThings Acquisition

SmartThings

The reported $200 million deal is a puzzler at first glance, but could make sense if Samsung loops in its appliance business.

Now that nearly every tech company, retail store and hardware chain has its own home automation platform, Samsung doesn’t want to be left out.

The electronics giant has acquired SmartThings, which makes smart home products and apps to control them. Samsung hasn’t disclosed the price, but Re/code claims the company paid roughly $200 million. SmartThings says it will remain an open platform and will operate independently within Samsung’s Open Innovation Center.

Here’s how SmartThings works: First, you buy a $99 hub that allows all your devices and appliances to connect. Then, you tack on whatever other home automation gear you want, such as power outlets, light switches, motion sensors and door locks. The hub then connects to your Internet router, allowing you to control everything via smartphone or tablet whether you’re home or away.

SmartThings got its start as a Kickstarter project in 2012, but over the last couple years, many larger companies have launched similar products with hubs that control an array of other devices. Lowe’s has a smart home system called Iris, while Home Depot has backed Wink, an offshoot of New York-based design shop Quirky. Staples has its own platform, called Connect, and Best Buy is reportedly backing a new effort called Peq.

But there isn’t a huge difference between each of these platforms, and right now the landscape is a bit messy. If you’re in the market for a home automation system, it’s tough to decide which one to pick. And there’s so much expensive, proprietary hardware on each platform that you could easily lock yourself into to one system that doesn’t end up being the best fit.

Perhaps that’s why other tech giants such as Google and Apple are moving more cautiously. Earlier this year, Google acquired Nest, whose only products are a smart thermostat and smoke detector. (Nest itself has since acquired Dropcam, a maker of video-monitoring cameras.) Apple hasn’t yet entered the hardware fray, but the next version of iOS will include HomeKit, a framework for controlling third-party devices. There’s been some speculation that Apple TV could serve as Apple’s hub for home automation in the future.

With that in mind, Samsung’s purchase is a head-scratcher at first glance. SmartThings isn’t much different from all the other systems on the market, and probably won’t get much love at retail, given that every chain now has its own preferred platform.

But Samsung may be able to stand out if it can tie in products from its home appliance business, such as ovens, refrigerators and dishwashers. Although Samsung has dabbled in connected appliances before, until now, it hasn’t had a complete platform that covers things like door locks and light sensors. With SmartThings, Samsung could be buying itself those basic elements. Use cases like “make sure the oven’s off when I leave the house” could be pretty compelling to homeowners, and it’s something other platforms won’t be able to do unless they start partnering with major appliance vendors.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 15

1. 1,000 new visas is a good start, but to continue building trust, the U.S. must further expand the visa program for Afghans assisting ISAF at great risk.

By Jordan Larson in Vice

2. It’s not too late for the Internet to ditch pop-up ads and build a better web.

By Ethan Zuckerman in the Atlantic

3. A peace deal may be the only way to relieve Gaza’s “health disaster.”

By Dana Lea in Politically Inclined

4. Now ubiquitous, mobile phones can close the gap for maternal health care.

By Becky Allen and Jenna Karp at the Council on Foreign Relations

5. To save the African elephant, we must ban all ivory sales for a decade or more.

By Daniel Cressey in Nature

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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