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Screen time can make you sick; here are some tips for dealing with cybersickness.

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People can experience symptoms of cybersickness through everyday devices like computers, phones and TV | Aspioneer

Do you ever feel like the light of your computer screen is burrowing into your eyes and making your head pulse? Or feel dizzy or nauseous after looking at your phone? While you might think these sensations are just eye strain or fatigue from looking at your screen for too long, they’re actually symptoms of a condition called cybersickness.

These issues may seem like a necessary evil with the rise of work from home, remote learning and days spent endlessly scrolling online. But I can assure you as a researcher in human computer interaction specializing in cybersickness that there are ways to anticipate and avoid feeling sick from your screens.

What is cybersickness?

Cybersickness refers to a cluster of symptoms that occur in the absence of physical motion, similar to motion sickness. These symptoms fall into three categories: nausea, oculomotor issues and general disorientation. Oculomotor symptoms, like eye strain, fatigue and headaches, involve overworking the nerve that controls eye movement. Disorientation can manifest as dizziness and vertigo. And several cybersickness symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating and blurred vision, overlap categories. These issues can persist for hours and affect sleep quality.

People can experience symptoms of cybersickness through everyday devices like computers, phones and TV. For instance, Apple released a parallax effect on iPhone lock screens in 2013 that made the background image seem like it floated or shifted when a user moved their phone around, which many people found extremely uncomfortable. As it turns out, this was because it triggered cybersickness symptomsParallax scrolling on websites, where a background image remains static while foreground content moves as you scroll, can also elicit these symptoms.

There isn’t total agreement among researchers about why people experience cybersickness. One prevailing idea, sensory conflict theory, hypothesizes that it’s from a mismatch of information perceived by the parts of the body that regulate vision and balance. Your eyes receive information that tells them you’re moving even though your body isn’t. Everyday technology design can trigger this conflict between visual perception and physical experience.

Cybersickness in virtual and augmented reality

Cybersickness symptoms tend to be more intense with virtual reality and augmented reality.

VR refers to technology that entirely blocks your view of the real world and replaces it with an immersive, artificial environment. It’s widely commercially available through popular gaming platforms like Facebook’s Oculus devices and Sony PlayStation VR. VR can result in severe levels of nausea that increase with duration of use. This can make certain applications and games unusable for many individuals.

AR, on the other hand, overlays a simulated environment onto the real world. These could include head-mounted devices that still allow you to see what’s in front of you or something like Pokémon Go on your phone or tablet. AR tends toward more severe oculomotor strain.

Even if you haven’t used VR or AR devices before, chances are you will within the next 10 years. A rise in the popularity of AR and VR use will likely trigger a rise in cybersickness symptoms. Market research firm Research and Markets estimates that adoption of these technologies for work, education and entertainment may grow over 60% and reach over US$900 billion by 2027.

Cybersickness symptoms could be dangerous

While cybersickness symptoms may initially appear benign, they can have enduring effects lasting up to 24 hours after device use. This may not seem like a big deal at first. But these lingering symptoms could affect your ability to function in ways that could prove dangerous.

For instance, symptoms like severe headache, eye strain or dizziness could affect your coordination and attention. If these side effects persist while you’re operating a vehicle, it could lead to a car accident. It’s unclear whether the user, software company or some other party would be responsible for injuries potentially caused by device use and cybersickness symptoms.

Not much is currently known about how chronic cybersickness affects daily life. Just as there is extreme variability on who is more prone to motion sickness, with some up to 10,000 times more at risk, some people may be more prone to cybersickness than others. Evidence suggests that women, those who don’t play video games often and people with poor balance may experience more severe cybersickness.

Dealing with cybersickness symptoms

If you are struggling with cybersickness symptoms because you’re using your computer or phone for longer periods, there are ways to help relieve the discomfort. Blue light glasses are designed to block out some of the blue light waves emitted by your device screen that can lead to eye strain and sleep irregularities. Zooming in on a screen or using larger font sizes may also help reduce eye strain and make daily work more sustainable.

If you’re interested in trying VR and AR applications but are prone to motion sickness, warning indicators, like Oculus Comfort Ratings, can help you know what to expect. Always make sure to visually calibrate devices so your eyes are as comfortable as possible, and use devices only in open spaces to minimize the risk of injury if you get dizzy and lose your balance. Take breaks if you start to feel any discomfort.

Using new technology safely

The work-from-home movement has grown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people have replaced 9-to-5’s and commutes with sweatpants, bedhead and Zoom meetings. Though the convenience is undeniable, it has also come with an increasing awareness of how difficult it can be to stare at a screen for 40-plus hours a week.

But don’t let cybersickness get you down. As researchers continue to find ways to mitigate and prevent cybersickness across all devices, people may one day be able to enjoy advancements in innovative technologies without feeling dizzy.

This article is republished from The Conversation. Read the original article.

How does the Pegasus spyware work?

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Most media reports on Pegasus relate to the compromise of Apple devices | Aspioneer

A major journalistic investigation has found evidence of malicious software being used by governments around the world, including allegations of spying on prominent individuals.

From a list of more 50,000 phone numbers, journalists identified more than 1,000 people in 50 countries reportedly under surveillance using the Pegasus spyware. The software was developed by the Israeli company NSO Group and sold to government clients.

Among the reported targets of the spyware are journalists, politicians, government officials, chief executives and human rights activists.

Reports thus far allude to a surveillance effort reminiscent of an Orwellian nightmare, in which the spyware can capture keystrokes, intercept communications, track the device and use the camera and microphone to spy on the user.

How did they do it?

The Pegasus spyware can infect the phones of victims through a variety of mechanisms. Some approaches may involve an SMS or iMessage that provides a link to a website. If clicked, this link delivers malicious software that compromises the device.

Others use the more concerning “zero-click” attack where vulnerabilities in the iMessage service in iPhones allows for infection by simply receiving a message, and no user interaction is required.

The aim is to seize full control of the mobile device’s operating system, either by rooting (on Android devices) or jailbreaking (on Apple iOS devices).

Usually, rooting on an Android device is done by the user to install applications and games from non-supported app stores, or re-enable a functionality that was disabled by the manufacturer.

Similarly, a jailbreak can be deployed on Apple devices to allow the installation of apps not available on the Apple App Store, or to unlock the phone for use on alternative cellular networks. Many jailbreak approaches require the phone to be connected to a computer each time it’s turned on (referred to as a “tethered jailbreak”).

Rooting and jailbreaking both remove the security controls embedded in Android or iOS operating systems. They are typically a combination of configuration changes and a “hack” of core elements of the operating system to run modified code.

In the case of spyware, once a device is unlocked, the perpetrator can deploy further software to secure remote access to the device’s data and functions. This user is likely to remain completely unaware.

Most media reports on Pegasus relate to the compromise of Apple devices. The spyware infects Android devices too, but isn’t as effective as it relies on a rooting technique that isn’t 100% reliable. When the initial infection attempt fails, the spyware supposedly prompts the user to grant relevant permissions so it can be deployed effectively.

But aren’t Apple devices more secure?

Apple devices are generally considered more secure than their Android equivalents, but neither type of device is 100% secure.

Apple applies a high level of control to the code of its operating system, as well as apps offered through its app store. This creates a closed-system often referred to as “security by obscurity”. Apple also exercises complete control over when updates are rolled out, which are then quickly adopted by users.

Apple devices are frequently updated to the latest iOS version via automatic patch installation. This helps improve security and also increases the value of finding a workable compromise to the latest iOS version, as the new one will be used on a large proportion of devices globally.

On the other hand, Android devices are based on open-source concepts, so hardware manufacturers can adapt the operating system to add additional features or optimise performance. We typically see a large number of Android devices running a variety of versions — inevitably resulting in some unpatched and insecure devices (which is advantageous for cybercriminals).

Ultimately, both platforms are vulnerable to compromise. The key factors are convenience and motivation. While developing an iOS malware tool requires greater investment in time, effort and money, having many devices running an identical environment means there is a greater chance of success at a significant scale.

While many Android devices will likely be vulnerable to compromise, the diversity of hardware and software makes it more difficult to deploy a single malicious tool to a wide user base.

How can I tell if I’m being monitored?

While the leak of more than 50,000 allegedly monitored phone numbers seems like a lot, it’s unlikely the Pegasus spyware has been used to monitor anyone who isn’t publicly prominent or politically active.

It is in the very nature of spyware to remain covert and undetected on a device. That said, there are mechanisms in place to show whether your device has been compromised.

The (relatively) easy way to determine this is to use the Amnesty International Mobile Verification Toolkit (MVT). This tool can run under either Linux or MacOS and can examine the files and configuration of your mobile device by analysing a backup taken from the phone.

While the analysis won’t confirm or disprove whether a device is compromised, it detects “indicators of compromise” which can provide evidence of infection.

In particular, the tool can detect the presence of specific software (processes) running on the device, as well as a range of domains used as part of the global infrastructure supporting a spyware network.

What can I do to be better protected?

Unfortunately there is no current solution for the zero-click attack. There are, however, simple steps you can take to minimise your potential exposure — not only to Pegasus but to other malicious attacks too.

1) Only open links from known and trusted contacts and sources when using your device. Pegasus is deployed to Apple devices through an iMessage link. And this is the same technique used by many cybercriminals for both malware distribution and less technical scams. The same advice applies to links sent via email or other messaging applications.

2) Make sure your device is updated with any relevant patches and upgrades. While having a standardised version of an operating system creates a stable base for attackers to target, it’s still your best defence.

If you use Android, don’t rely on notifications for new versions of the operating system. Check for the latest version yourself, as your device’s manufacturer may not be providing updates.

3) Although it may sound obvious, you should limit physical access to your phone. Do this by enabling pin, finger or face-locking on the device. The eSafety Commissioner’s website has a range of videos explaining how to configure your device securely.

4) Avoid public and free WiFi services (including hotels), especially when accessing sensitive information. The use of a VPN is a good solution when you need to use such networks.

5) Encrypt your device data and enable remote-wipe features where available. If your device is lost or stolen, you will have some reassurance your data can remain safe.

This article is republished from The Conversation. Read the original article.

Fueling the Future with Continental Energy Solutions

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Fueling the Future with Continental Energy Solutions

The Sun emits enough power onto Earth each second to satisfy the entire human energy demand for over two hours. Given that it is readily available and renewable, solar power is an attractive source of energy. Historically, solar energy harvesting has been expensive and relatively inefficient. New technological advances over the last twenty years have driven this increased reliance on solar by decreasing costs, and new technological developments promise to augment this solar usage by further decreasing costs and increasing solar panel efficiency.

More and more corporations across the United States are switching to renewable energy—such as wind and solar—to cleanly and cost-effectively power their companies. By adding renewable energy to their facilities or entering into contracts to buy or invest in off site renewable energy, businesses are helping to usher in a clean energy future.

That’s good news for business and even better news for the planet, because now more than ever, it’s vital we embrace and promote renewable energy. Pollution from fossil fuels directly contributes to a warming planet, causing ocean levels to rise and weather to hit extremes. So if we continue on this fossil fuel trajectory, we face a fundamental threat to animals, habitats, and ourselves.

The great thing is, a growing list of organisations have recognized this, and are setting aggressive renewable energy goals. Some even have 100% renewable energy objectives. But they face challenges in reaching these goals. To achieve them, companies will need more than 70% of energy to be delivered through the power grid.

In order to understand the challenges and opportunities ahead, we spoke to Tim Montague, President of Continental Energy Solutions, the leading solar installer and EPC in Illinois to understand the solar power market and how we can capitalize upon it.

Tim
Tim Montague

Our project portfolio includes both rooftop and ground mount systems for big-box retail, warehouse, and campus solutions. With our experienced team and extensive project portfolio, we can build a solar solution for every customer to meet any challenge.

Aspioneer (A): What do you think is the outlook for Solar Energy in the US Market?

Tim (T): Currently, the US solar industry employs about 250,000 people and generates tens of billions of dollars of economic value. By the end of September 2019, the US had deployed over 2 million solar PV systems, totaling about 71,300 MW of solar capacity, and generating over 100 TWh of electricity. A further capacity of 5 GW was added in 2020, despite the pandemic. Of all renewable energy generation, solar PV is expected to grow the fastest from now to 2050.

Total installed U.S. PV capacity is expected to more than double over the next five years as grid interconnection queues from California to Texas to the Mid Atlantic are full of solar projects. Thus, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that solar PV installer will be the fastest growing job between 2018 and 2028, with a median annual wage of over $42,000.

California and Texas themselves would account for almost one-third of new capacity. This shows the enthusiasm for the technology.

A: It seems there is great enthusiasm for solar energy in the market. So what is holding solar energy back? What are the biggest challenges faced by solar in the current market?

T: Today solar energy has reached the point where its growth is no longer constrained by technological capability. The biggest challenge hampering the adoption of solar technology on a massive scale are the soft costs. The availability of skilled workers, the laborious regulations, quality control, these are some of the biggest issues the industry is currently facing. The good thing is that these are solvable problems. It is a low hanging fruit which can be resolved by having clear and consistent engagement between the industry and the regulators.

A: The solar energy industry seems to be constantly changing. How is solar energy evolving from a technological perspective?

T: Technology shift in the solar industry has been taking place rapidly across the globe. Higher efficiency products are gaining market share, and costs are dropping quickly. The newer products are not only more efficient, but their benefits include longevity and the ability to reduce BoS (balance of system) costs.

Polycrystalline cells have peaked in terms of their achievable theoretical efficiency. Mono PERC cells have a much higher theoretical efficiency threshold, and there is still a long way to go before it is maxed out.

The next step up for solar cells would be n-type heterojunction technology (HJT) silicon solar cells. Heterojunction cell technology combines the advantages of crystalline silicon cells and thin-film technology within a single cell structure. This means efficiency levels of over 25% are now within reach. Where a conventional crystalline solar cell uses a single material, silicon, in an HJT cell, the junction is formed between two different materials: crystalline and amorphous silicon, with the junction, therefore referred to as a heterojunction. This creates numerous performance benefits compared to conventional cells.

A: In a rapidly evolving market, transparency is always a major issue. How is Continental Energy Solutions positioned to dispel such concerns?

T: Our Energy Solutions division offers an unbeatable team of engineers, project managers, and field supervisors, including a NABCEP Certified installation Professional, the gold standard in the solar industry. Together, our team works to provide our customers with clearly outlined costs, energy savings, and overall project ROI. We have built over 50 solar PV projects, many solar plus battery storage solutions, and installed over 350 electric vehicle (EV) chargers. Our project portfolio includes both rooftop and ground mount systems for big-box retail, warehouse, and campus solutions. With our experienced team and extensive project portfolio, we can build a solar solution for every customer to meet any challenge.

A: What were some of the major projects your team has worked on and what was their impact? 

T: Our projects span the spectrum, residential and commercial. Our 1.99 MW rooftop solar project with IKEA produces about 2,334,081 kWh of clean electricity annually, the equivalent of 1,915 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. IKEA owns and operates

each of its solar PV energy systems as opposed to a solar lease or PPA (power purchase agreement).

ABT Electronics added a 100,000 sq. ft. warehouse in 2015 and seized the opportunity to install a large solar array plus battery storage system (ESS). Solar energy augments their other green initiatives which include LED and natural lighting with skylights. The battery system installed provides a source of revenue via grid services called ‘frequency regulation’ and provides backup power in the case of grid outage.

North Central College’s 563 kW solar array provides 22 percent of the electricity for Res/Rec, the largest building on campus. The LEED Silver building houses a 265-bed dormitory wrapped around an indoor running track, multipurpose athletic courts, training room, and fitness center. Its impact is equivalent to 12,021 Trees cleansing the air. The 250 kW battery storage system also provides passive income from grid services and backup power.

Thanks to extensive renovations including the addition of an 81 kW solar array, Kresge Hall is the Northwestern University’s first LEED platinum building and the 11th to earn LEED certification between the Evanston and Chicago campuses. The storied building has been transformed from a rite of passage to a modern, comfortable and healthy environment for the campus community.

A: What are the current myths about Solar Energy that annoy you the most?

 T: As the saying goes, “the wind is always blowing somewhere.” Renewable energy sources have suffered from being mislabeled “intermittent,” which makes them sound unreliable. However, while it’s true that the sun doesn’t always shine, thanks to the regional grid, clean energy may be powering your home, even if the wind turbine near your home isn’t spinning.

It’s also true that renewables aren’t vulnerable to fluctuating fuel prices and other cost uncertainties inherent in fossil fuel and nuclear plants. You could say that the unfavorable economics of coal, for example, has made those power plants “intermittent resources.” When the price of fracked gas goes up again, those plants will also run more intermittently.

When you add the benefits of battery storage to renewable energy sources, their reliability and efficiency only increases. For instance, nighttime is a time when wind is more steady, yet electricity use is low. When you add battery storage, you can generate electricity and store it for times when electricity demand is higher, meaning that you can take advantage of the wind or sun when it’s available, regardless of the current demand.

A: How should people be thinking about the solar energy industry as a whole? 

T: It’s time for us to jump into the 21st century and recognize that renewables are mature, affordable, and reliable technologies. Energy storage is proliferating and does a better job of integrating renewables into the grid than any gas plant would; that’s because it has greater flexibility and can be added wherever it is needed on the system far more efficiently than huge power plants. That’s how we will save this planet, the only planet we have.

A: Thanks Tim, for sharing your thoughts with us.

*This interview has been edited and paraphrased for brevity and clarity

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World’s Who’s Who, Tech Innovation Global Inc. announces a $200 million funding round July 7, 2021 technology

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Tech Innovation Global Inc. founder Alicia Carroll, an engineer, who performed COVID-19 data analysis to be honored among the World’s Who’s Who, July 21, 2021, an edition once every five years, she will be honored for her work in COVID SARS CoV 2 emergency.  It will feature her success stories, life challenges, emotional upheavals, leadership qualities and represent global collaboration, despite many odds, in most grandeur form, coming out triumphant from the world crises while highlighting its pillars of who have helped the world stand in 2020.  Alicia Carroll performed COVID-19 analysis, supply capabilities, training in communicating technical issues, processes to improve implementation of guidelines including face mask mandates and alliances. Tech Innovation Global Incorporated will also feature companies, GenConnect recruiting to global workforce solutions, travel, health to vital living and products. Honors include Global Leaders LLC, CIO Magazine, feature in the British Chamber of Commerce, and Alicia Carroll is also nominated to advisor of a foreign chamber.

Tech Innovation Global Inc. announces a $200 million funding round on July 7, 2021 in collaboration with SCORE and companies for technology initiatives during 2021 to 2031 (10 years), you can also pay and go to https://www.techinnovationglobalinc.com to sponsor community programs and pay for services.  For more information go to Tech Innovation Global Incorporated, 600 Boulevard Ste 104, Huntsville Alabama 35802. ©2019 – 2021. All Rights Reserved.  Thank You

Mail To:

Tech Innovation Global Incorporated

3408 Wall Triana Highway Post Office Box 21133

Huntsville, AL 35813

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Tech Innovation Global Incorporated®
Alicia S. Carroll, WOSB, PM,
3408 Wall Triana HWY Post Office Box 21133 · Huntsville, AL 35813
Main Number: (888) 214-1033
Fax Number: (888) 243-1930
Community Liaison of the Tennessee Valley
TRIDENT
The Anderson Williams Farrow Law FIrm

What MPs’ music streaming plans mean for artists and audiences

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Committee’s main recommendations is a more equitable division of royalties and rights payments from the streaming economy | Aspioneer

Musicians, including session players and instrumentalists, would receive a fairer share of revenues from streaming platforms under reforms being considered in the UK.

If implemented, new recommendations from a select committee of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport would involve a “complete reset” of the industry with wide-ranging implications not just for artists, but for record labels, streaming platforms and listeners.

One of the committee’s main recommendations is a more equitable division of royalties and rights payments from the streaming economy, which has earned £3.5 billion since 2009. Presently only 8% of UK musicians derive 5% or more of their income from streaming.

Under the current system, musicians and songwriters receive revenue every time their music is played by broadcasters – namely on radio stations and in TV programmes and films. This type of play is regarded as “communication to the public”, fixing the distribution of revenue from the relevant copyright collecting society at 50/50 per song for record labels and performers.

Conversely, a stream through services such as Spotify or Apple Music is considered a means of “making available” a song, a status which does not provide a fixed rate of revenue. This makes most musicians’ payments dependent on negotiations between the streaming platforms and the major record labels.

In the case of the major streaming platforms, this generally results in a percentage breakdown of around 55/30/15 for record labels, streaming platforms, and performers and publishers, respectively. Under this arrangement, session musicians (who are not part of the band but contribute to a song) usually do not receive royalties. Their loss of revenue has been exacerbated due to lack of live performances during the pandemic.

To remedy these inequities, the select committee propose adding something akin to a “communication to the public” right alongside the existing “making available” one. The World Intellectual Property Organization proposed something similar earlier this year.

This could be similar to the current model in Spain. In 2006, the Spanish government introduced a scheme where, each time a song is performed in public (which includes streaming), all the musicians and songwriters involved in its performance and composition will receive a small payment. These payments are collected and distributed to artists, including those outside Spain.

Copyright, licensing, and the Big Three

Another committee proposal – to tighten regulations on copyright protection – has the potential to generate additional money for all sectors.

Focusing on platforms such as YouTube, which host user-uploaded content, the committee agrees that streaming services should be compelled to obtain licenses for the music they allow on their platform.

One proposed way to encourage this would be for the UK to adopt a version of an EU directive on copyright that would weaken the “safe harbour” justification used by online platforms. This is the notion that online services should not be held responsible for copyright infringement in content uploaded by third parties.

The committee suggested that this makes it harder for artists and record labels to strike favourable deals with platforms. If unlicensed music continues to appear on platforms such as YouTube, those platforms will have less incentive to make a deal with the artist or label to host official content.

In turn, the popularity of various “freemium” options – where users can access some content for free, with additional content accessible by subscription – means there is no incentive for the main streaming platforms to raise their subscriptions above the £9.99 per month ceiling that has existed for more than a decade.

The committee also wants the Intellectual Property Office to take on the task of improving industry metadata – information attached to music files that identifies all people who have rights to a song.

Currently, streaming services and record labels can claim that they cannot identify rights-holders, resulting in a “black box” of unclaimed revenues (amounting to US$2.5 billion in 2019 alone. These are often misallocated or ploughed back into the industry, disproportionately benefiting the wealthiest record companies and performers.

The committee is also calling on the government to use its authority to investigate the impact of the oligopoly formed by the three biggest record labels – Warner, Universal and Sony. There is also evidence of not insignificant cross-ownership, with Sony and Universal having financial stakes in Spotify, and the Big Three owning the three biggest music publishers.

Listen closely

This raises tough questions for everyone who listens to music. Paying a low monthly subscription to major streaming platforms for access to virtually all songs that have ever been recorded is an attractive option, but only the most popular musicians benefit from the existing model.

There are smaller, specialist platforms, including Sonstream and Bandcamp, which provide a more intimate connection between artists and listeners. These services pay the artists more, but have higher fees for listeners.

East Asian schemes to monetise the relationship between fans and their favourite bands could be adopted in the UK. The nascent market in livestreaming also has great potential to pay money directly to artists.

Consumer behaviour is the missing link in all these discussions. After all, piracy and low-fee subscriptions exist, ultimately, because consumers expect not to pay so much for music. Any reform of the streaming industry must take this into account, even if current discussions leave this out.

As the chair of the DCMS committee, and many of its members, are Conservative MPs, it is likely the government will respond positively to the report. Future legislation will hopefully raise the pay of the average musician in the UK, even if that means that we will all pay a little more for music.

This article is republished from The Conversation. Read the original article.

Damien Hirst’s ‘The Currency’: what we’ll find out when this NFT art project is over

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Hirst has essentially created a variety of money, on the rationale that money is primarily a social phenomenon built around faith and trust | Aspioneer

English artist Damien Hirst’s latest project, “The Currency”, is an artwork in two forms. Its physical form is 10,000 unique hand-painted A4 sheets covered in colourful dots. In the same way as paper money, each sheet includes a holographic image of Hirst, a signature, a microdot and – in place of a serial number – a small individual message.

The second part of the artwork is that each of these hand-painted sheets has a corresponding NFT (non-fungible token). NFTs are digital certificates of ownership which exist on the secure online ledgers that are known as blockchains.

The way that “The Currency” works is that collectors will not be buying the physical artwork immediately. Instead, they will pay US$2,000 (£1,458) for the NFT and then have a year to decide whether they want the digital or the physical version. Once the collector selects one, the other will be destroyed.

So what is going on here, and what does it tell us about art and money?

What is money?

Hirst has essentially created a variety of money, on the rationale that money is primarily a social phenomenon built around faith and trust. In doing so, he touches on an interesting paradox. “Non-fungible” means that a token is a once-off. This is to contrast it with fungible items like dollars, which are all the same and can be traded like-for-like – the same way as many cryptocurrencies such as ether or dogecoin. Fungibility is one of the essential properties of any currency according to traditional economics.

But is it what it seems? By creating 10,000 individual units that mimic real currencies, Hirst is highlighting with the unique markings of each work that even fungible currencies have some non-fungible properties – for example, most currencies will have different serial numbers and issue dates on each note. This helps to underline that money is a concept that becomes ever harder to pin down when you look at it more closely.

The work further contests our sense of what money is by raising questions about another of its essential properties – that of a medium of exchange. A work by a famous artist would rarely be thought of as a medium of exchange. Instead, it would normally be treated as a scarce store of value, like gold.

Hirst is asking if it really has to be this way. By producing 10,000 works in the style of a currency, he is clearly having fun by showing how money is malleable and can shapeshift depending on the context.

What is art?

What matters most, physical or digital art? Hirst is not the first to ask this question in the context of NFTs. A few months ago, a company called Injective Protocol bought a 2006 work by Banksy called Morons, which satirises an art auction, for US$95,000. It then burned the piece live on Twitter so that only a digital version survived on an NFT. It then sold the NFT for US$380,000.

I have previously discussed how the people at Injective had cleverly decided to play on our preference for the physical over the digital. By destroying the physical version and then claiming the NFT signature would stand in for the artwork, it drew attention to the benefit that an NFT cannot be destroyed by vandals such as themselves.

At a time when there had been an explosion in demand for NFT art and other collectibles, with some trading hands for millions of pounds, this was a comment on the persistent question concerning whether NFTs really imply ownership. For many, the puzzle is why someone would feel that owning a digital version rather than an “actual” artwork constitutes ownership at all.

Clearly, Hirst gets it. He is approaching the question of ownership by distilling it down to its purest economic and commercial form – literally the artwork as money. When people express puzzlement at NFTs, really what they mean is how can you spend money on something so valueless? The idea that digital ownership is equivalent to physical ownership is still unacceptable to the majority of people.

What Hirst is highlighting is how the “puzzle” is easily solved by recognising that there are two communities interested in his artwork: those who value his traditional physical pieces and those who value his NFT pieces. He does this, I think, to show how value never makes sense when it is removed from the cultural community that has ascribed that value to it. Each community is a mystery to the other. Zoom out, however, and they are closer than they imagine, ultimately bonding as fans of Hirst.

For most people, the puzzle is still the NFT community. This culture is populated by passionate blockchain enthusiasts and crypto-natives, young people who grew up with cryptocurrencies. For them, a blockchain wallet stores their value. This can mean fungible currencies like bitcoin or ether, but also, more and more, their art collection. These collections represent their tastes and interests and tell us a little about who they are, and what they value.

A particularly clear-cut example of this would be someone who, after the year has passed, decides to claim the NFT of Hirst’s work and reject the physical version. What better move to signal commitment to a blockchain future? When the year is up and we see how many people chose to keep the NFT, it might even give an interesting indication of to what extent this new digital generation is becoming the dominant one.

This article is republished from The Conversation. Read the original article.

Vaccine passports: what businesses need to know

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The vaccine pass is designed to show the user’s vaccination status or test results and is obtained through the NHS app or via the website | Aspioneer

Imogen, a night club owner from London, hopes that COVID-19 “passports” could help with the return of customers to her venue. But the 42-year-old told us she is not happy about subjecting her customers to additional checks, and has concerns over a lack of clear guidance on their use.

Imogen is just one of many business owners in the UK anxiously waiting for extensive lifting of social restrictions. The UK government’s plan is that businesses and large events should use the NHS COVID Pass in “high-risk settings” such as venues with limited ventilation where people spend time in close proximity.

They will not be mandatory. But the hope is that use of the pass might convince more people to complete their course of vaccinations and create a safer environment for indoor events.

The pass is designed to show the user’s vaccination status or test results and is obtained through the NHS app or via the website. Customers would need to install the app on their phones and generate an individual barcode. They also have the option to download and print a hard copy certificate or order a paper version.

For their part, businesses need to download the NHS COVID Pass Verifier to scan a customer’s pass and check that they have been fully vaccinated, had a negative test, or have recovered from COVID-19. Here are some key points both customers and businesses should be aware of:

1. Data privacy

All data related to immunity status – including results of negative tests – is stored in NHS computers that are encrypted and secure and have been storing private health data for decades. When the business uses its verifier there is no sharing of personal information or data taking place. The verifier only checks the validity of the barcode.

2. Staff training and support

Businesses will need to have staff available to check customers’ immunity status. Training, technical support and updated processes could also be needed but there has been no official guidance about whether businesses would receive financial support to cover implementation costs.

3. Queues

Expect longer queues than usual as the additional checks will take time. Technical issues and glitches could further test the patience of customers.

4. Before the visit

It is important for businesses to communicate clearly whether they are open only to people who have been fully vaccinated or to anyone who can provide proof of a negative test. Customers need to check the requirements with the venue in advance to avoid confusion.

5. After the visit.

Because full vaccination or prior infection does not stop anyone from contracting and spreading the virus, it will be good practice for people (especially the socially active) to keep their COVID-19 health profile updated by taking tests at least twice per week.

In its review of “COVID-status certification” the government explained that the NHS COVID Pass was not made mandatory partly because of the public’s concerns over vaccine passports and the need to protect the right of the businesses to choose how to turn their premises into safe environments.

In fact, some nightclub owners have expressed their concerns about the legality of asking their customers to prove their status, while others are worried they could lead to problems with crowd control. Similar concerns were reported by studies which attempted to understand the use of immunity passports in the UK and across different sectors.

Our work on the design of immunity passports for COVID-19 suggests that a careful consideration of several other areas of interest is needed to guarantee their long-term effective use.

When we asked our study participants about their concerns with COVID-19 passports, almost all mentioned worries about data security and possible discrimination against those who did not have “vaccinated” status.

Their responses highlight the need for the government to work with businesses and customers to build greater trust in the certification process. Officials also need to be mindful of managing (and supporting) change into existing business operations.

Involving businesses and their customers in the design process – not as passive consultants but as active creative partners – is key. A more integrated approach will help untangle the complexity of certification, and make sure the final output is as safe and acceptable for as many businesses and their customers as possible.

This article is republished from The Conversation. Read the original article.

Mirasol Solar: Better present. Secure future.

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Mirasol Solar: Better present. Secure future.

Solar Energy

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Increased consumption of energy is a problem the world has been facing for decades. Having drawn attention globally, it has been worrying every nation what their energy future is going to be like and how it can be controlled. 

Having sensed the ever-increasing energy needs of the future world, Founders John Lambie and Scott Egglefield launched Mirasol Solar in collaboration to Southern Insulation Co. in 1977. A visionary decision in itself, it was a revolutionary move as the impact exploding population was going to have on the existing energy resources was beyond human understanding and had to be curbed. As the ’80s were near, preparing for the future was more than crucial. 

Since the launch of Mirasol, they have been working on creating solar products that would fulfill the energy needs of the future and also protect the ecological structure of the planet. For the last 44 years, Mirasol has been relentlessly working towards its goal of protecting nature by empowering people to harness the real unrealized potential of solar energy. Having taken the oath to preserve the beautiful world for coming generations Mirasol through its products, has been lighting up homes and enlightening people. “With an experience of 4 decades, Mirasol Solar is a leader in solar energy solutions for residential and commercial customers,” affirms Vice President and owner Scott Egglefield.

How did the solar revolution begin?

It all started when George W. Egglefield in 1959 created The Southern Insulation Co. It provided energy-saving alternatives for Sarasota, Charlotte, and Manatee Counties for 35 years. Having established itself as a leader in the energy conservation domain in 1977 Southern Insulation launched, with Mirasol, its first Solar Water Heating division. In 1987, FAFCO Solar, a leading manufacturer of solar pool heating panels approached Mirasol to collaborate with them as their exclusive distributor for a five-county area. In 2008 Mirasol was introduced to the number one solar electric provider in America, SunPower,  and became an Authorized Dealer and after a few years attained the status of Elite Dealer.  Mirasol is the only Elite SunPower Dealer on Florida’s West Coast and one of three in the state.  The company was known as Mirasol FAFCO Solar until 2021 when it was repositioned as Mirasol Solar. Today with 16,000 customers Mirasol offers additional products such as pool & spa automation, natural purifiers for pools, solar water heaters, pool cleaners, heat pump pool heaters, and gas pool heaters. It is located in Sarasota, FL.

“The wide array of products we sell, install and the level of customer service sets us apart. We develop innovative solutions for our customers’ energy needs”

Changing lives one product at a time

Known for the applicability and user-friendly nature of their products, Mirasol has always emphasized making their products more applicable. To make their products relevant to every generation, Mirasol has been innovating and adding a difference in its products for over 44 years now. Having a clear understanding of the DNA of solar products, Mirasol has developed the ability to gauge future needs.

Mirasol has always diversified its product range, with every product being an example of craftsmanship and visionary thinking. Aiming to dominate the market, Mirasol designs every product keeping in mind the current need and sensing the coming ones. “The wide array of products we sell, install and the level of customer service sets us apart. We develop innovative solutions for our customers’ energy needs,” adds Scott

Adapting to changing times

Being in the market for 62 years gives Mirasol the upper edge. However, Mirasol relies on product quality and innovation and not its tenure for maintaining its edge over its competitors. By offering only top-notch products which have been an example of class and efficacy, Mirasol has been trying to create an impact that would last for generations to come. Having been in the market for more than four decades, Mirasol has very closely seen the market and customer’s mindset change. Having evolved along with the changing times, Mirasol has adapted to every change, every era, its requirements and has successfully survived every phase of change other couldn’t. Packed with best-in-class features, every Mirasol product is developed to save customers money, stabilize their energy costs and enable the customer to live free from the worry of increasing power bills. “Our products are carefully selected to improve our customers’ quality of life while lowering their impact on the planet,” emphasizes Scott.

IMG_4571 (1)
Residential solar installation in Discovery Bay, CA

Customizing Solutions. Exceeding expectations

Having seen generations change, Mirasol has closely been in touch with their changing priorities too. As every generation demands something different, Mirasol has kept itself flexible to understand and cater to the needs of the current generation while preparing for the future ones. Guided by their experience, Mirasol has invested a lot of monetary and human efforts in understanding how the future energy needs are going to be and coming up with products that would be a perfect fit for it. A strong believer in preparing for the future, Mirasol very well knows that one size does not fit all and hence keeps their products customizable. With a versatile product range, Mirasol intends to penetrate deeper not only in the market but into the future too. “We strive to achieve excellence through superior workmanship and unmatched products. The desire to always exceed our customer’s expectations keeps us going,” says Damon Egglefield, President..

Creating Value

Having led many seemingly impossible projects to success, Mirasol has been paving its way to success and has been setting industry benchmarks. Known for its innovative and risk-taking work style, Mirasol considers every project as a learning experience with every complex and impossible-looking project that scares others only truly excites Mirasol. With every project having its own significance, Mirasol focuses not on the money but on the environmental gain the project would reap. 

In one example of a project a Nokomis, FL Home was looking for Residential Solar PV installations. Mirasol Solar took on the challenge and installed 19- SunPower 360-watt PV Electric Panels having an Annual Output of 12,233 kWh AC that gives 25-year Savings of $52,376. The project also turned out to be a boon to the environment: 5,311 trees planted, 482 barrels of oil not consumed, 43 vehicles taken off the road.

Testimonial: “Welcome to “Our Charming Solar Home.” We love the Florida lifestyle, close to the beach and lots of sunny days. When “Solar Dave,” told us that we could zero out our electric bill…we jumped at the chance. Mirasol Solar made it easy, no hassle, and very professional.”

In another example of a project in South East Venice, FL required Residential Solar PV Electric and Solar Pool Heating installation. Mirasol Solar installed 30-SunPower 360-watt PV Electric Panels and 7-Fafco 4 x 12 Sunsaver Panels for the pool. The total annual output of this project is 21,265 kWh AC and gives 25-year Savings of $84,280. Along with several benefits for the Earth: 9,418 trees planted, 861 barrels of oil not consumed, 79 vehicles taken off the road.

Testimonial: “We Are Enjoying The Best of Both Worlds. We wanted to eliminate our electric bill and enjoy the Florida Lifestyle. The pool area is always the most expensive room in the house, and we wanted to use it as much as possible. Mirasol Solar installed the “Total Package” for us. It included a Solar PV Electric System and an Automatic Solar Pool Heating System. The electric bill is zero, and the pool is amazing now, so much more enjoyable than before!”

The growing energy load on the planet is beyond what we can measure. From innovating products to customer education programs to planting hundreds and thousands of trees, Mirasol has done and is doing everything it can to help preserve the environment while meeting energy needs. Looking towards a beautiful future, Mirasol aims to be a market leader that enriches lives and contributes to the world. “We see ourselves growing in both residential and commercial markets in Florida. We are ready to take on an even larger role in providing solar here and beyond,” says Damon.

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The 10 Best Performing Managed IT Service Providers, 2021

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The 10
Best Performing
Managed IT Service Providers, 2021

COVER STORY

Co-Founders_Conf Room 2

Mytech Partners

Kenny Kinley

"We believe we must comprehend the needs of the client's whole business if we are to provide true technology excellence, and we are dedicated to walking side-by-side with them every step of the journey."

Go Digital with
IT Authorities!

“In order to provide digital transformation and innovation, we need the right talent. Culture is driven by all members of our team, encouraging transparency and integrity at all levels of the organization.”

Robert Farina

“We lead with an unwavering commitment to innovation while embracing agility in a rapidly transforming world,” says Robert.

Robert Farina

Intelligent Security Solutions for the Industry

“Seamless integration, scalability, and customization are critical in our approach to protecting each client’s unique business assets,” Sean adds. “One-size-fits-all solutions are not in our vocabulary.”

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Climate-friendly carbon farming needs clear rules.

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Carbon Farming
Carbon Farming

Climate-friendly carbon farming needs clear rules.

IT Services

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As the effects of climate change intensify and paths for limiting global warming narrow, politicians, media and environmental advocates have rallied behind “carbon farming” as a mutually beneficial strategy for society, the environment and farmers.

Agriculture covers more than half of Earth’s terrestrial surface and contributes roughly one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Paying farmers to restore carbon-depleted soils offers a tantalizing opportunity for a natural climate solution that could help nations to meet their commitments under the international Paris climate agreement to stabilize global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

An international initiative called “4 per 1000,” launched at the 2015 Paris climate conference, showed that increasing soil carbon worldwide by just 0.4% yearly could offset that year’s new growth in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel emissions.

Research shows that farmers and ranchers can also make their operations more resilient to increasingly variable weather by adopting practices that promote soil carbon sequestration. This prospect led us to establish a center at Colorado State University that develops and implements soil-based solutions to climate change.

While many policy options exist to reduce emissions from agricuture, carbon farming has sparked bipartisan U.S. legislation and attracted investors’ attention. Critics question its true potential, however. Some environment and justice advocacy groups argue that paying farmers won’t do much to increase soil carbon, and could allow polluting industries such as manufacturing to avoid necessary emission reductions by buying soil carbon credits from farmers instead.

Given the momentum behind carbon farming as a climate change mitigation strategy, we believe now is the time to establish clear standards that ensure that only real net changes in carbon receive financial rewards.

Policymakers want to pay farmers for storing carbon in soil, but there are no uniform rules yet for measuring, reporting or verifying the results. Four scholars offer some ground rules.

Carbon farming basics

As plants grow, they pull carbon from the atmosphere, and soil soaks it up and stores it. The amount of carbon stored varies significantly across soil type and climate.

Traditional farming methods that sequester carbon have existed for millennia. For example, minimizing soil disturbance through no-till farming reduces carbon loss to the atmosphere. Diversifying crops and planting legumesperennials and cover crops returns more carbon to the soil, and sustains soil microbes that play key roles in carbon storage.

Another climate-friendly strategy is raising livestock and crops together. Rotating cows among pastures allows grasses to recover from grazing, and the animals’ manure and the impacts of their grazing regenerate carbon in soils.

Some farmers use these practices, which often are called “regenerative agriculture,” particularly in Black and Indigenous communities that have been excluded from access to capital and government subsidies.

Soil: A low-cost solution

Increasing soil carbon through techniques like no-till is relatively inexpensive. Studies estimate that carbon farming costs US$10-$100 per ton of CO2 removed, compared with $100-$1,000 per ton for technologies that mechanically remove carbon from the air.

Carbon farming is also a potential revenue stream for farmers and ranchers, who can sell the credits they earn in carbon markets. Large-scale greenhouse gas emitters, such as manufacturers, purchase these credits to offset their own emissions.

Companies such as IndigoAg and Nori are already facilitating payments to farmers for carbon credits. And on June 24, 2021, the U.S. Senate passed the Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2021 by a vote of 92-8. The bill would authorize the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners participate in carbon markets.

So far, however, there are no universal standards for measuring, reporting or verifying agricultural carbon credits. Here are the questions we see as top priorities.

Assessing carbon storage

One major challenge is that soils absorb varying amounts of carbon depending on depth, texture and mineral content. While certain practices increase carbon storage, quantifying how much is stored and for how long is critical for assigning dollar values to them. The markets and practices that work in different locations also vary widely.

Some scientific models offer estimates of carbon sequestration for various climates and soil types based on averages over large areas. We believe that regulators need rigorous models verified by measurements to avoid crediting carbon that never ends up in soil or doesn’t remain there for long.

But verification isn’t easy. Scientists are still searching for quick, accurate, cost-effective ways to sample and analyze soils.

Possible approaches include infrared spectroscopy – which identifies materials in soil by analyzing how they absorb or reflect infrared light – or machine learning, which can find patterns in large data sets quickly. Studies conducted in the U.S. Great Plainsthe United Kingdom and the European Union suggest these are promising, low-cost methods.

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