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Apple is building a mega battery for Tesla-style solar power storage

Apple has revealed plans to build a huge energy storage battery in California, near to the vast solar farm which it counts on to provide renewable power for its operations. The strategy takes a leaf out of Tesla’s book, among others, and will store excess energy generated by the 130 megawatt solar panel installation for use later on.

Apple inked a deal with the solar farm, California Flats, back in 2024, for 25 years of electricity supply. The installation – which covers 2,900 acres in total – also supplies local utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) with up to 150 megawatts of power.

In all, it’s sufficient to provide Apple with all of the energy it needs for its operations in California. However, as with any solar installation, the panels are limited in their output by the amount of sun on offer. Now, Apple plans to construct what it says will be one of the largest battery projects in the country to soak up that power and then release it for use overnight or during periods of peak demand.

The battery system will be more than just a few Tesla Powerwall units daisy-chained together. In total, Apple plans to have storage for 240 megawatt-hours of energy: enough, the company says, to power over 7,000 homes for a whole day.

“Wind and solar power provide the most cost-effective new source of electricity to many parts of the world, but the intermittent nature of these technologies has presented an obstacle to widespread adoption,” Apple said today of the system. “One solution to intermittency is energy storage, which can retain generated energy until it is needed. Apple is investing in utility-scale storage in California and research into new energy storage technologies, even as it builds upon distributed storage capabilities in Santa Clara Valley and through Apple Park’s microgrid.”

The approach is one which is gaining traction around the US, particularly as part of disaster preparedness. The unexpected ice storms and cold weather in Texas earlier this year highlighted just how fragile traditional power grids can be, not to mention how reliant we are on mains power and its generation.

Apple’s battery won’t be the only sizable storage facility, therefore. Tesla is readying a huge mega-battery in Texas, it was revealed in early March 2023, with more than 100 megawatts of storage on-site. That’ll be sufficient, it was claimed, to meet the demands of around 20,000 average homes on a summer day.

Replacing and renewing the electric grid was a high-profile part of President Biden’s $2 trillion Infrastructure Plan, revealed today. In it, the President called for $100 billion to be spent on more resilient high-voltage power lines, among other things.

“As the recent Texas power outages demonstrated, our aging electric grid needs urgent modernization,” the White House said in a statement on the plan. “A Department of Energy study found that power outages cost the U.S. economy up to $70 billion annually. The President’s plan will create a more resilient grid, lower energy bills for middle class Americans, improve air quality and public health outcomes, and create good jobs, with a choice to join a union, on the path to achieving 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035.”

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Apple Almost Released A Portable, Battery

Apple has allegedly prototyped (but never turned into a final product) a portable version of its HomePod speaker for outdoor use that ran on battery power.

Apple apparently prototyped a battery-powered HomePod

A portable HomePod speaker was ultimately scrapped

Apple may revive the product at any point though

Outdoor parties with a battery-powered HomePod

This has happened “years ago,” according to Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman in the latest edition of his Power On newsletter. It’s unclear whether Apple has killed the project or put it on hold. Read: How to AirPlay audio to your HomePod speaker without Wi-Fi

Years ago, Apple internally discussed and prototyped a battery-powered smart speaker, but I would be surprised if one ever launches under the Apple brand. The speakers on the iPhone and iPad are pretty decent at this point, and I’m sure Apple would rather consumers buy those for mobile playback than a cheaper HomePod.

Of course, Apple designed the original, full-size HomePod, along with HomePod mini, with a built-in power cord because the product is meant to be plugged into a wall outlet. A battery-powered HomePod mini, for instance, would make a great product but Gurman doesn’t believe Apple will be launching such a device under its brand.

If Apple does get back into the battery-powered speaker game, I’d guess it returns under the Beats brand. That’s the same place Apple has tucked cheaper audio gear in the past.

The report doesn’t explain why a prototype was never turned into a final product.

Will Apple ever release a HomePod on battery power?

Of course, just because Apple has prototyped but never released a version of the product doesn’t mean it has ultimately scrapped those plans. The company may have decided, for instance, that the timing for such a product wasn’t right, putting it on the back burner.

Or, it might have chosen not to release it because early prototypes were bad and it needed more time to smooth out the rough edges. Whichever the case, only Apple knows whether it’s abandoned the idea of releasing a portable, battery-powered HomePod (eagle-eyed readers could point out that Apple’s first-ever portable speaker was iPod Hi-Fi, released in February 2024 and discontinued after just 18 months).

Is there a market for a portable HomePod?

As much as we’d like to see such a product, it may lack a sustainable market.

Look no further than the Beats Pill+ line of Bluetooth, battery-powered speakers launched in 2023 that got discontinued in January 2023. The Bluetooth speaker featured a built-in battery that could last around twelve hours on a single charge. Its small form factor made it ideal for moving around, either while in a house or out and about.

But discontinuing the speaker says a lot about how viable this market was for Apple. If enough people were buying the Pill+ speakers, Apple wouldn’t discontinue the line. And with the Pill+ now permanently removed from the Beats lineup, the Beats brand is now essentially focused on wireless headphones and earbuds.

While this is indicative of Apple’s strategy going further, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the company has abandoned the idea of a portable HomePod for good. Don’t forget that the Pill+ didn’t have any smarts or computational audio capabilities found on the HomePod line. If Apple were to continue competing in the market for portable Bluetooth speakers, then the company would definitely need a brand new portable speaker.

Is There A Place For Augmented Reality In Apple Stores?

Apple loves augmented reality. Tim Cook says we won’t be able to imagine our lives without it. New products are designed with hardware specifically tuned for AR experiences. A suite of tools unveiled this year at WWDC was built to make creating ARKit apps easier than ever.

Considering the enthusiasm, it’s surprising that Apple’s online and physical retail store environments have largely stood clear of AR to date. How might Apple augment its shopping experience? Is the current technology appropriate for a retail setting?

When discussing the Apple Store experience, it’s important to differentiate between the online store website (including the Apple Store app) and brick and mortar retail locations. Augmented reality is a natural fit for online shopping, where interactive 3D models can bring products into your home before you buy them. Apple already highlights several apps with similar functionality on its AR website.

Since the very first Apple Watch, Apple has offered a tool in the Apple Store app to demonstrate the actual size of each watch model. While the feature is far less immersive than a modern AR demo, it illustrates Apple’s long interest in creating a richer shopping experience. More recently, webpages for the new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR are the first to include full 3D product models you can place in the real world. The feature became an instant hit with enthusiasts online. Unfortunately, these models are unavailable inside the Apple Store app.

The road ahead is rockier when discussing brick and mortar retail stores. Several retailers have already experimented with bringing AR to the in-store experience with virtual showrooms and 3D wayfinding for store navigation. In public environments, the use of AR should be carefully considered to avoid becoming a cheap novelty. Augmented reality is only useful when it lives up to its name and truly augments the world around you.

At Apple Stores, every product Apple makes is available for hands-on exploration. There’s no need for a virtual Apple Watch try-on experience when you can pick up the actual watch. In a similar way, AR wayfinding is largely redundant with a skilled team staffing each store. Virtual guidance might free up busy employees, but it weakens the human element for which Apple Stores are known.

In-store augmented reality must be entirely optional for customers, at least for now. Apple can’t assume that everybody walking in will have an iPhone, let alone one capable of the latest software features. Discovering an AR experience is also a major hurdle. The Apple Store app has long offered a quick and easy way to buy accessories right from store shelves, but many customers are still unaware the feature exists.

Truly useful applications of augmented reality will need to provide customers with an experience that is simply impossible through any other means. For a great example, look no further than Apple Park Visitor Center’s Exhibition. The massive aluminum model of Apple Park acts as a canvas for visitors to peer into a space normally inaccessible to the public and learn more about its design.

This year at WWDC, Apple brought the same concept to a scale fit for retail with an AR demo of the new Mac Pro. The computer’s empty space frame became the anchor for an exploded view of the Mac’s inner workings.

This kind of demo would be perfect to roll out to stores across the world for a better look inside Apple’s most powerful Mac and an impressive introduction to ARKit. It’s not practical to disassemble the chassis of a real Mac Pro, but a space frame can sit elegantly on any Apple Store table. In the past, we took a look at how augmented reality could create a more immersive HomePod demo through the same means.

Physical Apple Stores remain relevant in an era of online shopping specifically because they offer an experience customers can’t get online. That’s why it’s so important for Apple to be cautious when evaluating the merits of in-store augmented reality. By building a rich digital store around the latest technologies and selecting in-store demos only where appropriate, Apple can create the best experience for customers online and in person.

Follow 9to5Mac’s retail guide for in-depth coverage of the latest Apple Store news.

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China’s New Drone Company Is Building A Uav With A 20

TB-001

This twin-engine, dual-tail MALE (medium altitude, long endurance) attack drone will be able to carry about a ton of payload.

China’s drone newcomer Tengoen Technology (also spelled Tengdun) has ambitious plans. The company promises to market armed drones for purchase. It also promises to build the world’s biggest cargo drone. That’s quite a slate for a company that was only founded in 2024.

SF Express Delivery

In partnership with Tengoen, SF Express Delivery uses a modified TB-001 UCAV to drop cargo pods.

The TB-001 Scorpion, Tengoen’s flagship vehicle, is a twin-engine, double-tail drone. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 2.8 tons, a range of more than 3,700 miles, and provisions to carry two 220-pound bombs or missiles. Tengoen has also partnered with Chinese delivery company SF Express to build a souped-up TB-001 for cargo delivery, increasing the drone’s size to 3.3 tons, with a 1.2-ton payload. In December 2023, the modified TB-011 showed off its capability by para-dropping supplies to a Huawei repair crew fixing a cell tower in the mountainous Yunnan Province.

Super Cargo Drone

Tengoen is already building the first of these 137-foot-wide, 4,660-mile-range cargo drones.

In the cargo and delivery space, Tengoen is already at work building an eight-engine drone with a wingspan of more than 137 feet to carry a payload of 20 tons payload up to 4,660 miles. That’s akin to a medium-sized manned cargo plane.

The carbon-fiber, double-bodied drone carries the payload module between the two fuselages (looking a bit like a robotic baby brother to the Scaled Composites Stratolaunch). It is being built at Tengoen’s facility in Chengdu, and its supposedly taking flight in 2023.

A Drone for All Seasons

The behemoth can be customized for missions like search and rescue, aerial refueling, and intelligence gathering.

Tengoen executives were quick to highlight civilian applications for the unmanned aircraft system: space launch, fire fighting, and emergency relief. The drone’s large size and modular payload capacity could also take on a variety of military missions, including intelligence gathering and electronic warfare. Its large payload could make it function as an aerial tanker, too, refueling aircraft like search-and-rescue helicopters, patrolling fighters, cargo transports, and bombers.

Mass Private Helicopters

While the Ehang 184 is quite pricey, Ehang hopes that a mass-production run of its successors would achieve economies of scale, bringing down the price.

Tengoen is just one character in a larger story about China’s booming unmanned aerospace sector. In fact, it’s one of 110 UAV manufacturers in Chengdu alone. Other private Chinese manufacturers like Ehang and DJI have products with dual-use applications, too. As China’s multibillion-dollar drone industry grows in size and sophistication, China’s private sector aims for a bigger share of both the People’s Liberation Army’s purchases, not to mention a slice of the wider global market.

Peter Warren Singer is a strategist and senior fellow at the New America Foundation. He has been named by Defense News as one of the 100 most influential people in defense issues. He was also dubbed an official “Mad Scientist” for the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. Jeffrey is a national security professional in the greater D.C. area.

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Building A Blockchain In Python

This article was published as a part of the Data Science Blogathon.

Introduction on Blockchain

Each block in a blockchain is unique and contains a hash value, which can be used for differentiating each block. Fingerprinting is the concept used for linking blocks on a blockchain. As new blocks keep getting added to the end of the blockchain, the hash of the penultimate block is used for building the hash for a new block, which makes the blocks in a blockchain tamper-proof.

In this article, we will be building a simple blockchain in python that will store some text information from users. The blockchain technology used in the industry is far more complex than the blockchain that we will be building in this article, but this is enough to understand blockchain technology from an implementation perspective.

Each block on our blockchain will have the following properties:

Index – This is an auto-incremented number used to recognize a block in the blockchain.

Sender – The user who created the block on the blockchain.

Timestamp – The time at which the block was created.

Previous hash – The hash value of the preceding block in the chain. This is useful in verifying the integrity of a blockchain by fingerprinting and linking the blocks in the blockchain.

Hash – This is a hash generated using all the above-mentioned properties present in a block. This property uniquely identifies a block in a blockchain.

Nonce – This is a number that helps in creating the hash as per the difficulty requirement set for the blockchain.

The first block of a blockchain is called the genesis block. From the above explanation, it can be derived that the preceding hash cannot be extracted from the blockchain as the blockchain is empty. In such a case, the preceding hash is generated using some secret specified by the creator of that blockchain. This ensures that all the blocks in a blockchain have a similar structural schema. Each blockchain has a difficulty level associated with it. It specifies the number of digits that need to be 0 in the hash. To satisfy this condition, we have the nonce property, which is a whole number that helps in generating the hash with the specified number of preceding zeros. Since the hashing algorithm used in most blockchain technology is SHA256, it is almost impossible to find the nonce by pre-calculating the hash value. Trial-and-error is the only way to calculate the nonce, which makes it computationally expensive and time-consuming. We need to run a for loop to calculate the nonce value. The process of guessing the nonce that generates the hash as per the requirements is called blockchain mining and is computationally expensive and time-consuming but is necessary to add a block to the blockchain. We will set the difficulty level to 4 for our blockchain and so the first 4 letters of each hash should have ‘0000’. For mining bitcoin, the difficulty level is set to 30, and mining each block in bitcoin roughly takes 10 minutes.

Now that we have a basic understanding of the blockchain that we will be building in this article, let’s get our hands dirty and start building.

Importing Modules

There is nothing fancy here; all the modules used in building the blockchain are native python modules and can be directly imported without having to install them using pip. We will be using the hashlib module for performing SHA256 hashing while the time module will be useful to fetch the block generation time.

import hashlib from time import time from pprint import pprint Building the Blockchain

We will define a class called blockchain with two properties, namely blocks and secret. The blocks property will store all the blocks on the blockchain while the secret variable will be used for building the previous hash for the genesis block. We will define three functions, namely create_block, validate_blockchain, and show_blockchain. The create_block function will be used to create a new block and append it to the block’s property in the blockchain. The properties of each block explained earlier will be implemented here. The nonce that satisfies the blockchain requirement of having four zeros preceding each hash will be calculated. The validate_blockchain function will be used to validate the integrity of the blockchain. This means that it will check the fingerprinting on each block on the blockchain and tell us if the blockchain is stable or not. Each block should contain the correct hash of the previous block. If there are any discrepancies, it is safe to assume that someone has meddled with the blocks on the blockchain. This property makes blockchains immutable and tamper-proof. Finally, the show_blockchain function will be used to display all the blocks on the blockchain.

class blockchain(): def __init__(self): self.blocks = [] self.__secret = '' self.__difficulty = 4 # guessing the nonce i = 0 secret_string = '/*SECRET*/' while True: _hash = hashlib.sha256(str(secret_string+str(i)).encode('utf-8')).hexdigest() if(_hash[:self.__difficulty] == '0'*self.__difficulty): self.__secret = _hash break i+=1 def create_block(self, sender:str, information:str): block = { 'index': len(self.blocks), 'sender': sender, 'timestamp': time(), 'info': information } if(block['index'] == 0): block['previous_hash'] = self.__secret # for genesis block else: block['previous_hash'] = self.blocks[-1]['hash'] # guessing the nonce i = 0 while True: block['nonce'] = i _hash = hashlib.sha256(str(block).encode('utf-8')).hexdigest() if(_hash[:self.__difficulty] == '0'*self.__difficulty): block['hash'] = _hash break i+=1 self.blocks.append(block) def validate_blockchain(self): valid = True n = len(self.blocks)-1 i = 0 while(i<n): if(self.blocks[i]['hash'] != self.blocks[i+1]['previous_hash']): valid = False break i+=1 if valid: print('The blockchain is valid...') else: print('The blockchain is not valid...') def show_blockchain(self): for block in self.blocks: pprint(block) print()

Now that we have built the blockchain class, let’s use it to create our blockchain and add some blocks to it. I will add 3 blocks to the blockchain and will validate the blockchain and finally print the blocks and look at the output.

Python Code:



We can see the blocks present on the blockchain and that the validate_blockchain function returns true. Now let’s meddle with our blockchain and add a new block somewhere in-between the blocks of the blockchain and run the validate_blockchain function to see what it returns.

block = { 'index': 2, 'sender': 'Arjun', 'timestamp': time(), 'info': 'I am trying to tamper with the blockchain...' } block['previous_hash'] = b.blocks[1]['hash'] i = 0 while True: block['nonce'] = i _hash = hashlib.sha256(str(block).encode('utf-8')).hexdigest() if(_hash[:4] == '0'*4): block['hash'] = _hash break i+=1 b.blocks.insert(2, block) b.show_blockchain() b.validate_blockchain()

This is the output we get.

{'hash': '0000bfffcda53dc1c98a1fbaeab9b8da4e410bbcc24690fbe648027e3dadbee4', 'index': 0, 'info': 'Python is the best programming language!!', 'nonce': 91976, 'previous_hash': '000023ae8bc9821a09c780aaec9ac20714cbc4a829506ff765f4c82a302ef439', 'sender': 'Ram', 'timestamp': 1654930841.4248617} {'hash': '00006929e45271c2ac38fb99780388709fa0ef9822c7f84568c22fa90683c15f', 'index': 1, 'info': 'I love cybersecurity', 'nonce': 171415, 'previous_hash': '0000bfffcda53dc1c98a1fbaeab9b8da4e410bbcc24690fbe648027e3dadbee4', 'sender': 'Vishnu', 'timestamp': 1654930842.8172457} {'hash': '000078a974ba08d2351ec103a5ddb2d66499a639f90f9ae98462b9644d140ca9', 'index': 2, 'info': 'I am trying to tamper with the blockchain...', 'nonce': 24231, 'previous_hash': '00006929e45271c2ac38fb99780388709fa0ef9822c7f84568c22fa90683c15f', 'sender': 'Arjun', 'timestamp': 1654930848.2898204} {'hash': '0000fe124dad744f17dd9095d61887881b2cbef6809ffd97f9fca1d0db055f2a', 'index': 2, 'info': 'AI is the future', 'nonce': 173881, 'previous_hash': '00006929e45271c2ac38fb99780388709fa0ef9822c7f84568c22fa90683c15f', 'sender': 'Sanjay', 'timestamp': 1654930845.594902} The blockchain is not valid...

We can see that the validate_blockchain function returns false because there is some mismatch in the fingerprinting and hence the integrity of our blockchain has been compromised.

In this article, we discussed the following:

What is blockchain and how to build a blockchain using Python?

Properties of blockchain

Fingerprinting in blockchain

Difficulty level and nonce in blockchain

Building our own blockchain

Tampering with the blocks

Checking for the integrity of the tampered blockchain

To continue this project further, the blockchain can be hosted and deployed as a REST API server on the cloud that can be used by the users to store information on the blockchain. Obviously, our blockchain is not distributed for the sake of simplicity. If you are really interested in using blockchain technology for your database, feel free to look at BigchainDB, which is a decentralized blockchain database. It provides support for both python and nodejs. Alternatively, GunDB is a popular graph-based decentralized database engine being used in web3 applications in recent times.

That’s it for this article (building blockchain using Python). Hope you enjoyed reading this article and learned something new. Thanks for reading and happy learning!

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Related

Elon Musk’s Plan For 1 Million Robo Tesla Taxis

Always fancied a Tesla but can’t quite get the money together to buy one? Then good news: Elon Musk is looking to implement a Tesla taxi service by 2023, meaning that you’ll be able to ride in one for the price of cab fare.

Even more impressive, the fleet will be totally autonomous, and handled with an Uber-style app that will allow passengers to summon driverless cars to them at whim.

Musk announced his plan at a recent event where the company unveiled its own AI chip, designed to help automate the Tesla range.

What are Musk’s Plans?

At its ‘Autonomous Day’ this week, which falls just a few days before its first quarter earnings disclosure, Musk revealed his plans for revolutionising the ride-hailing industry, just a few short years after the likes of Uber and Lyft arguably disrupted it within an inch of its life.

Musk’s dream takes the shape of an army of autonomous Tesla vehicles that are at the beck and call of anyone who plugs their details into a dedicated app, in much the way that Uber or Lyft work now. The major difference of course is that the car will drive itself to you, rather than having to rely on an actual human. People who despise small talk rejoice, your awkward driver interactions could soon be a thing of the past. However, it’s yet another warning shot for those working in the already challenging gig economy, with the push to automate roles growing fast.

If you think that Musk plans to start small and build from there, you don’t know Elon. At the event, Musk said “next year, we will have 1 million robo-taxis on the road.”

Own a Tesla? Give it a Part Time Job

If you’re wondering just where this fleet of a million Tesla cars will be coming from, then you might not need look any further than your own driveway. While Musk has stated that rural locations will need cars to be provided by Tesla, his vision is that in more populated areas, the pool of cars will be bolstered by the hundreds of thousands of Teslas already on the road.

In practice this means that anyone who owns one can make some cash on the side by signing up for the service and allowing their car to become available.

This could mean your car picks up fares while you sleep at night, then returns home in time for your work commute. We’d want to see some real progress in automated vomit cleaning tech before we felt 100% comfortable about the idea. However, with Musk claiming that the average Tesla Taxi could rake in $30,000 a year on average, you’d have ready funds for carpet shampoo.

Crucially, your car will only be available to people you know, or connected with on social media. So, hopefully, that should mitigate the risk of anything unfortunate happening to your beloved Tesla. Although, if Musk really wants to take on the established companies, cars will need to be made more widely available.

Will this Put Uber and Lyft Drivers Out of Business?

Potentially, Musk’s vision could be devastating for Uber and Lyft, and the drivers making a living through them. Both of these companies are also investing in automated tech. Chances are that being an Uber or Lyft driver is not a lifelong career, and that, like most driving jobs, these roles could soon be replaced by AI.

The biggest issue, as far as the other companies are concerned, is that it looks like Tesla will get there first, with a readymade army of vehicles at its disposal.

Then there’s the matter of price. Just as Uber and Lyft took on traditional cab companies by offering lower fares, Tesla looks to be doing exactly the same. According to Musk, the average fare today is around $2 – $3 dollars per mile. He claims that with Tesla, it will be just 18 cents. This would put it cheaper than not just the other ride-hailing services, but also many public transport systems.

Of course, skeptics are noting that Musk’s visions don’t always line up with reality, and automated cars still have some way to go. However, while his 2023 target may seem somewhat optimistic, it’s a worrying shot across the bow for competition.

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