Apple Disrupts Silicon Valley With Another Eye-Catcher: Its New Home

Apple’s new home in Cupertino — the centerpiece being a $5 billion, four-story, 2.8 million-square-foot ring that can be seen from space and that locals call the spaceship — is still getting some final touches, and employees have just started to trickle in. The full squadron, about 12,000 people, will arrive in several months.

Apple Disrupts Silicon Valley With Another Eye-Catcher: Its New Home

Things change when a spaceship comes to town.

Tourists stroll by, whipping out their iPhones to get a photo. New businesses move in. And real estate prices go up even more.

Apple’s new home in Cupertino — the centerpiece being a $5 billion, four-story, 2.8 million-square-foot ring that can be seen from space and that locals call the spaceship — is still getting some final touches, and employees have just started to trickle in. The full squadron, about 12,000 people, will arrive in several months.

But the development of the headquarters, a 175-acre area officially called Apple Park, has already helped transform the surrounding area.

In Sunnyvale, a town just across the street, 95 development projects are in the planning stages. The city manager, Deanna J. Santana, said she had never seen such action before. In Cupertino, a Main Street Cupertino living and dining complex opened in early 2016. This downtown enclave includes the Lofts, a 120-unit apartment community opening this fall; small shops; and numerous restaurants and cafes.

Other local businesses are also gearing up in anticipation. A Residence Inn at Main Street Cupertino, expected to open in September, has been slightly customized to meet the needs of Apple employees. Guests will have access to Macs and high-speed internet connections, said Mark Lynn, a partner with Sand Hill Hotel Management, which operates the hotel and consulted with Apple about what its employees need at a hotel.

“All the things we have, lined up with what they needed,” Mr. Lynn said. “They will represent a large part of our business.”

The Birdland neighborhood in Sunnyvale, Calif., on the other side of the road from Apple Park. Credit Laura Morton for The New York Times

Tech companies are nothing new for Cupertino. Apple has called the city home for decades, and Hewlett-Packard had a campus in Apple’s new spot, employing 9,000 people. The surrounding towns have been remade as well in the last decade, as giant tech companies have transformed Silicon Valley’s real estate into some of the most expensive in the country.

But city officials and residents say this project is like nothing they’ve seen before. It is even bringing tourists.

Onlookers snap pictures of the spaceship from the streets. TV helicopters circle above. Amateur photographers ask residents if they can stand on driveways to operate their drones, hoping to get a closer look at Apple Park.

“I just say, ‘Hey, go ahead,’” said Ron Nielsen, who lives in Birdland, a Sunnyvale neighborhood across the street from the spaceship. “Why not?”

Drone operators want that coveted aerial shot while pedestrians want to get an eyeful of the curved glass building before the headquarters become hidden by a man-made forest.

Steve Jobs Presents to the Cupertino City Council (6/7/11)
Video by Cupertino City Channel

The campus is one of the last major projects started by Steven P. Jobs, the visionary co-founder of Apple, who died six years ago. Just a few months before his death, he went before the Cupertino City Council and laid out his vision for a futuristic circular house of glass that would foster creativity and collaboration. Two years later, the Council unanimously approved the plans for the campus.

The main center features the spaceship ring, the Steve Jobs Theater, a 100,000-square-foot gym and a visitors center in a woodland setting with two miles of running and walking paths. An orchard, a meadow and a pond are inside the ring.

Sheri and Ron Nielsen outside their home in Sunnyvale. The front of their house faces Apple Park. Credit Laura Morton for The New York Times

The entire project shows off Apple’s obsession with details. The custom windows were made in Germany and are considered the world’s largest panels of curved glass. One pair of glass doors is 92 feet high. The finish on the underground concrete garage, said David Brandt, Cupertino’s city manager, is so shiny it is almost like glass.

“Mind-blowing, mind-blowing, mind-blowing,” the mayor, Savita Vaidhyanathan, said about her visit to the site. “I saw the underground 1,000-seat theater and the carbon-fiber roof. The roof was made in Dubai, and it was transported and assembled here. I love that it’s here and that I can brag about it.”

Many of the public views will soon be going away. Apple Park will eventually have 9,000 trees, filling in much of the big open spaces. The public will instead have access to a visitors center with a cafe, a store and rooftop observation views. 

“It will be a separate glass structure and be set in an old-growth olive tree grove,” said Dan Whisenhunt, Apple’s vice president of real estate and development.

Not all of these changes have thrilled everyone. Residents of Birdland, an 877-home neighborhood, have been particularly vocal. They have complained about early-morning construction rigs that beep and rumble along major streets, unpredictable road closings, unsightly green sheeted barriers and construction potholes that result in punctured tires.

When her car was covered with construction dust, Sheri Nielsen, Mr. Nielsen’s wife, contacted Apple. The company sent carwash certificates.

Mr. Whisenhunt said the company strove to answer every complaint it received, “and if the issue is serious enough, I will personally visit to see what is going on.”


Art Maryon, a real estate agent, in the Birdland neighborhood. He said the neighborhood’s one-story ranch-style homes had been selling for $1.6 million to $1.8 million. Credit Laura Morton for The New York Times 

In the design phase, he said, Apple hosted more than 110 community gatherings for feedback. Birdland was addressed in late 2012 and early 2013 and was given information about what would be happening over the next three years of construction. Apple published community mailers five times and sent them to 26,000 households.

Homestead Road, the thoroughfare that separates Apple Park from Birdland, became its own subject of debate. Cupertino officials wanted to construct a tree-lined median to calm traffic. Apple offered to cover the costs.

But homeowners objected. Residents complained that the island would eliminate one lane, backing up the heavy traffic even more. When 20 or so neighbors approached a Sunnyvale town meeting in solidarity, the city ended up siding with the residents.

The price of property in the neighborhood has also become a source of some worry. Sunnyvale and Cupertino, like many other Silicon Valley towns, have had an extended real estate boom, as the tech industry has expanded. Prices in the area really started to rise, real estate agents and residents said, after Apple released its plans.

A three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,400-square-foot ranch-style house that cost $750,000 in 2011 has doubled in price. Since Apple said it was moving into the former Hewlett-Packard site, prices have moved up 15 to 20 percent year after year, said Art Maryon, a local real estate agent. Today, bidders usually offer 20 to 25 percent over the asking price.

Birdland is already drawing Apple employees, replacing homeowners who have cashed out to move to quieter regions. Those who remain are realizing that life will not be the same when all 12,000 of the Apple workers go in and come out on a daily basis. People in the neighborhood dread the increased traffic and expect workers to park in front of their homes since there will be fewer available spaces in the company garage.

Apple’s answers to concerned residents will continue, Mr. Whisenhunt said.

“When you tell people what is upcoming, some of the anxiety they have calms down a lot,” he said.

And yet, he acknowledged, “you don’t make everyone happy.”

Apple Disrupts Silicon Valley With Another Eye-Catcher: Its New Home

The 6 Most Profitable Industries of 2017

The 6 Most Profitable Industries of 2017

Most Profitable Industries

If you’re looking to start a new company, you might as well go where the money is! Here are six sectors that research firm IBISWorld says will keep savvy entrepreneurs firmly in the black.

1. Commercial Leasing

Modern business hall lifts

If you haven’t quite grown into your new office space, consider leasing out some of it. More than three-quarters of companies in the commercial leasing space have five or fewer employees. IBISWorld says as of 2016, industry profits averaged 52.7 percent.

2. Emergency Vet Services

Veterinary doctor using stethoscope for kitten

Regulatory changes allowing veterinarians to practice across state lines, as well as the increasing popularity of pet insurance, have combined to make emergency veterinary services an attractive field. Average profitability: 29 percent.

3. Translation Services

Traslation services

Globalization has increased demand for business translation services. At the low end, there are few barriers to entry, though the industry is starting to require postgraduate certifications in multiple languages for advanced translations. Average profit margin: 26.2 percent.

 4. Snowplowing Services

Plowing Snow with Blade Mounted on an ATV

Economic growth has been good for snowplowing– new businesses and storefronts mean more parking lots and walkways that need to be cleared. IBISWorld says snowplowing companies have average profit margins of just over 25 percent.

5. Solar Power


Decreasing equipment costs and state mandates for renewable energy have made the outlook for solar energy quite positive, at least for the next five years. IBISWorld estimates average profits of 30 percent in this industry.

6. Tugboat and Shipping Navigation

Tugboat towing container ship

Increased globalization means more work ensuring the safe passage of ships in and out of harbors. This industry includes docking and piloting of marine vessels, as well as marine salvage. Average profits ring in at 23.3 percent.


The 6 Most Profitable Industries of 2017

20 Top Tech Predictions for 2017

20 Top Tech Predictions for 2017

Will Machine Learning quickly cede way to Deep Learning in 2017? What happens when Artificial Intelligence (AI) aces non-verbal voice recognition? Could that be “read my lips” meets the Minority Report? What are the implications if you and your car become emotionally interdependent? Is that even healthy? Just remember, breaking up is hard to do.

Those were some of the extraordinary and unexpected predictions shared by the experts who participated in the five-part series on Coffee Break with Game-Changers  2017 Predictions Special, presented by SAP. Host Bonnie D. Graham asked 80 leading experts, academics, and business influencers what they see in their crystal ball for 2017. Each person was given just two minutes to share their predictions for what the next year holds for their industry, business, the world, and technology.

Here’s a sample of what they had to say:

  • Dematerialization is going to continue. We’ll see hardware that is thinner and lighter. New materials are coming on the market, like stretchable electronics. Imagine what that could do for wearable technologies. Everything is going to be computing in the future, whether it’s your shoes, clothes, or the temporary tattoo that you wear to monitor your health.
    – Gray Scott, Futurist, Founder and CEO at and techno philosopher
  • In 2017, we’re going to finally see that Artificial Intelligence components combined with highly sophisticated in-memory platforms are going to meld together. 2017 is going to be the year that brings end-to-end seamless communications and connections of consumers, public, clients, and citizens with business leaders and public officials. This will trigger leaders to take action at the speed-of-thought.
    –  Guillermo B. Vazquez, Specialist Leader / Senior Manager, Deloitte LLP
  • We’re going to see the blending of the digital and physical worlds come together. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are going to balloon in 2017. We’re going to see a lot more in digital twins: digital documentation of a physical thing so we can understand it better.
    – Rick Varner, Senior Executive Partner, Gartner Inc.
  • We see a lot of implications for security in the Internet of Things (IoT) – devices, medical devices, smart TVs, and (even) coffee machines. Those devices are getting more and more connected to the Internet to become smarter. But we are already seeing these devices are being used to launch attacks and to be targets. In 2017, we will see more attacks and more measures against those attacks.
    – Alon Kantor, Vice President of Business Development, Check Point
  • 2017 is the year that Isaac Asimov’s Psychohistory starts becoming real. Big Data and machine learning will combine to enhance mathematical sociology – enabling us to make sense of what happens to groups of people in society.
    – Timo Elliott, VP, Global Innovation Evangelist, SAP
  • In 2017, I see the beginnings of “cognitive” at the personal level – beyond Alexa, Cortana, and Google – by being able to access all data in the cloud in an intelligent way. For example, at the store you might see a new television and ask your phone to advise you, “Can I afford this?” An intelligent agent will go to your bank account and bring back that information.
    – Jerry Silva, Research Director, IDC Financial Insights Global Banking
  • We’re going to see a lot of drones. We’ll see drones-as-a-service in many businesses where drones are going to be put to work for us.
    – Sudha Jamthe, CEO, IoT Disruptions
  • 2017 is the year for blockchain I predict an awakening will take place on a global scale about what this technology is capable of and how it’s going to impact everyday citizens, governments, and businesses. One particular blockchain to watch is the Ethereum
    – Hilary Carter, Founder, InTune Communications
  • Business-by-voice will be a new name in 2017. Screen-based technology will go away in 2017 and will be replaced by voice. New startups will emerge to deliver voice-enabled cognitive applications that can think, learn, and talk to the users.
    – Surendra Reddy, Founder & CEO, Quantiply Corporation
  • As we grow bigger and stronger on mobile, Internet of Things, and sensors, we have to manage that information and react to it much quicker than we currently do sending it up to the cloud and then bringing it back. When we talk about connected cities, grids, and vehicles, decisions have to be happen in a millisecond. There has to be a way to access that information more quickly and manage it closer to the devices. Therefore, there’s going to be a huge investment in fog computing.
    – Laz Uriza, Senior Solution Principal, Extended Supply Chain CoE, SAP
  • Human experts are going to be assisted, not replaced, through technology advances. The correct interpretation of data, when it comes to specific businesses and people, is going to require human intelligence and expertise for years to come. Computer systems that are used to automate these processes can make recommendations; they’re a lot stronger in processing standard cases than they are in addressing exceptions. Sometimes those exceptions require a more intimate understanding of context and empathy.
    –  Dror Orbach, Chief Operating Officer, Illumiti
  • There are four big game-changers in 2017: Artificial Intelligence (AI) will help us think of cognitive as the new “smart”; augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will go mainstream; 5G technologies will be on the road in autonomous self-driving vehicles; blockchain technology will gain broader adoption.
    – Bridget Karlin, Managing Director, IoT Strategy and Technology Office, Intel Corporation
  • AI is going to go mainstream in 2017, both in ways you can see and in ways you can’t. We know that over half of corporate executives are investing heavily in artificial intelligence. It’s showing up in visual search; enterprise operations with cognitive computing and semantic matching; retail assortment planning and offer management; and semantic recognition.
    – Jeff Goldberg, Managing Director for Retail in North America, Accenture
  • There’s no doubt that healthcare reform is going to be a topic this year. Medical identity theft is an $84 billion dollar a year problem. Payment fraud is another problem. Also, electronic medical records have 10 percent duplicate records. A combination of these issues is creating a disturbance in the quality of data that physicians have at the point of care. Solving these problems is going to have to be the focus this year if we’re really going to get serious about value-based care.
    – Thomas Foley, Global Health Solutions Strategy Manager, LenovoHealth
  • Blockchain distributed ledger technology will mature. There will be a lot of little breakthroughs this year, and recognition of its broader applicability is going to grow. Today people associate it with Bitcoin and payment technology, but there are so many ways to put the technology to use. Walmart uses blockchain to establish authentication and traceability in its food chain; a French financial services company started a blockchain project to establish compliance with customer rules; and there’s an anti-counterfeiting blockchain service that can be used for authenticating diamonds and luxury goods.
    – Robert Kugel, CFA, Senior Vice President and Research Director, Ventana Research
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) will become a key factor as we move toward autonomous vehicles. Cars will learn how to drive. Vehicles will be conscious. The vehicle will become your partner. And your car will get emotionally attached to you. That means breaking up will be hard to do.
    – Larry Stolle, Senior Global Director of Automotive Marketing, SAP
  • We will start to see the emergence of abilities to protect information assets using AI. But hackers will also use AI to improve their attack capabilities. AI-sponsored attacks and defense could emerge. Also, AI-enabled toolkits will disrupt the traditional cyber-security products, services, and architectures. I’m seeing more startups and ventures that sponsor AI-enabled products for security.
    – Carlos Russell, Risk Management Director, Ternium
  • We’ll see incredible applications where human behavior and human meaning will intersect with AI in completely new ways. We’re starting to now see AI become better than humans at interpreting what humans mean. In the case of lip reading, or non-verbal voice recognition, AI is now almost four times better than the leading world experts. That means not only performing recognition of somebody’s lips, but also understanding the context and the meaning of what people say.
    – Rich Seltz, Vice President, Digital Transformation, SAP
  • Computers will “disappear” due to their ubiquity. For computers to disappear, first their boundaries have to blur. There are some ways we’ve seen this happening on the infrastructure side – with physical computers that a company might have owned becoming eventually dedicated, co-located boxes, becoming eventually lease servers, and now virtualized systems. Another example is Amazon’s Lambda, where you can write your software as a set of individualized functions that are each much simpler than a monolithic program running on a computer. When you have your apps using Lambda, it’s like having your software’s consciousness spread out and decomposed across dozens of different physical brains.
      Ken Redler, Chief Technology Officer and Partner, cSubs
  • Machine Learning is passé. In 2017 everybody will be talking about Deep Learning for solving big problems. Also, IoT will finally find a scalable problem to solve: we will finally find something in transportation due to all the autonomous vehicles that will be coming online.
    – Padman Ramankutty, Chief Executive Officer, Intrigo

20 Top Tech Predictions for 2017

Five Resolutions to Simplify Your Tech Life

Five Resolutions to Simplify Your Tech Life

In 2017, why not try a new kind of New Year’s resolution? Instead of just hitting the gym and dropping some pounds, consider changing some personal habits to simplify the tech in your life.

If you are like most people, there are things you do with tech that could use some tweaking. Strengthening your password security, for one, would benefit you tremendously in an era when hacks are rampant. For another, purging the e-junk you have accumulated over the years would help the environment and your sanity. While you’re at it, start doing maintenance on your electronics to make sure they work smoothly this year.

Here are my top recommendations for resolutions to abide by to make tech less frustrating in the new year.

Clean Up Your Password Hygiene

P.U. — what’s that smell? It’s your bad password hygiene. You are probably using the same password across multiple websites for banking, shopping, social media and email.

That’s understandable: A person can only memorize so many passwords. But in 2016, Yahoo reminded everybody that reusing passwords is a very bad idea, after it revealed that 500 million Yahoo accounts were compromised in 2014, in addition to 1 billion accounts that were hacked in 2013. If your Yahoo account password was the same as ones you used elsewhere, those accounts were vulnerable, too.

Start off 2017 by spending a few hours logging into each of your accounts and creating unique, strong passwords. To make this easier, use applications like LastPass or 1Password, which are password-managing apps that let you use one master password to unlock a vault of passwords to log in to all of your internet accounts. They also automatically generate strong passwords for you.

Then add an extra layer of protection by enabling two-factor verification on your accounts whenever the option is available. When you enter your password, you will receive a message (usually a text) with a one-time code that you must enter before logging in.

Taking these two simple steps will help safeguard you from the inevitable hacks that arise this year.

Maintain Your Devices


After regular use, our smartphones and computers start to feel sluggish and short-lived, but a bit of maintenance can make them feel brand new.

First, check the condition of your batteries. With iPhone and iPads, you can hook the devices up to a Mac and run the app coconutBattery, which reveals battery statistics. With Android devices, you can use the app Battery by MacroPinch.If your battery is on its last legs, it’s time to order a new one or schedule an appointment at a repair shop to replace it.

If your devices feel sluggish, freeing up some storage can also make a dramatic difference. Start by purging apps you never use anymore. Then do something about those photos you never look at: back up all your photos to the cloud using services like Google Photos and then delete them from your device to start the new year with a fresh photo roll.

Show your gadgets some physical love, too.Give your screens a good wipe with a wetted cloth. If you own a desktop computer, open it up and use compressed air to blow out the dust.

Do this basic maintenance every six months and your devices will run smoothly for many years.

Mind Your Infrastructure


We don’t hesitate to buy new smartphones every two years — but that neglected, ugly Wi-Fi router tucked away in the corner of the living room may be the most important tech product to upgrade every few years. Among all tech headaches, there is nothing more annoying than a sluggish, spotty internet connection.

Start off each new year by doing some checks on your internet infrastructure. If your router is more than three years old, you probably need a new one that is compatible with today’s faster, smarter wireless standards. If you are relying on a router provided by your broadband provider, you should probably buy a more powerful stand-alone router.

The Wirecutter, the product recommendations website owned by The New York Times, recommends TP-Link’s Archer C7 as the best router for most people. (If you have less technical know-how, I recommend the Wi-Fi system from Eero, which offers a smartphone app that holds your hand through the network setup.)

Be Less Wasteful


Unused gadgets and power cables take up lots of space in drawers and attics. This e-waste would be better off sold or donated to someone in need, or recycled for their precious metals.

During spring cleaning season, make plans to get this unwanted junk out of your life. Companies like Amazon and Gazelle offer headache-free trade-in services for selling used electronics. Just punch in the gadget you are trying to trade in, like a used iPhone or Samsung Galaxy device, and the sites offer a quote for how much money or Amazon store credit you can get in exchange for the gear. Then pack up the outdated hardware, slap on a shipping label, drop it off at a shipping center and wait for the money to roll in.

There is bound to be unsellable e-junk in your pile. Fortunately, all Best Buy locations will take your used electronics and recycle them for free. Just bag the items up and drop them off at the store’s customer-service counter, and the retailer will take care of the rest.

Be a Smarter Shopper


To get great deals on electronics, there is no need to wait until Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Carefully research high-quality, long-lasting items you want and buy them when their prices drop a significant amount. This technique can be used when online shopping for just about anything, but especially for tech products that decrease in price as they age.

Web tools like Camel Camel Camel and Keepa make price tracking on easy. On their websites, just do a search on the name of the item, and the sites will pull up a price history. From there, you can create a tracker to alert you via email whenever a price drops to a desired amount.

Many deals that emerge throughout the year are as good, or better, than the ones on Black Friday. You just have to know how to spot them.

Another way to save money is to consider buying used products whenever possible. Be on the lookout for sales of used or refurbished electronics from reputable brands like Apple, GameStop, Amazon and Gazelle. Before you buy a used item, read about its condition carefully: Often, products sold as used were barely touched before they were returned by a customer, or they were restored to good-as-new condition by a refurbishing center.

Five Resolutions to Simplify Your Tech Life

Design Your Own Pop-Up Hotel and Sleep Literally Anywhere in the World

Design Your Own Pop-Up Hotel and Sleep Literally Anywhere in the World

A high-end travel operator will actually build a hotel from the ground up, just for you, the way you like it.

For your next vacation, forget about taking inspiration from Instagram. You’re going to go where nobody has been before, on a trip that nobody has ever taken—and that nobody after you will ever take again.

That’s the promise of Blink, a new ephemeral vacation service that the high-end travel outfitter Black Tomato is launching Thursday. Here’s how it works: You pick a country or region, and Black Tomato will find a pristine parcel of land on which to build you a fully customized pop-up hotel, complete with staff and meals and excursions. You choose everything from the view to the bed linens to the bottles in your pop-up wine cellar. It’s tailor-made travel in the most literal way ever.


Dinner for a group at a pop-up hotel in Bolivia’s salt flats. Source: Black Tomato

“People use the words ‘tailor made’ so ubiquitously these days. What does that even mean anymore?” said Tom Marchant, co-founder of Black Tomato, who conceived of Blink as a response to the traction he saw from pop-up retail concepts. “Temporary experiences really excite people,” he said. “They create a sense of urgency.”

For Marchant, this is the direction that luxury is moving in. He says his personal definition of luxury is something that’s truly unique and can’t be replicated, and hoteliers far and wide agree. But there’s only so much customizing that a hotel can pull off. “Bespoke bath amenities” will be bespoke to a property’s design, not to the guests’ individual wishes; “customized excursions” are often just tweaks to tried and true itineraries.

1x-12Bell tents in Oman’s Musandam Peninsula—one of seven styles of accommodations you can choose from with Blink. Source: Black Tomato

But those who create a trip using Blink will have—by Marchant’s calculations—751,074,508,800 total trip combinations to choose from after all the granular details are factored in.

So where to begin? An epic location. Black Tomato has built its name off exceptional access to remote places, and Marchant’s team has spent roughly 18 months laying the groundwork for this new project. “Blink is available anywhere in the world,” Marchant said—and he means it. (Yes, that includes the Arctic.) But he and his team will inspire clients with such far-flung and exotic locations as the salt flats in Bolivia or Australia’s Kimberly region. Safari-goers might set up in Namibia or the Kalahari; culture fiends can head to Rajasthan or Myanmar’s Inle Lake; and action fanatics can choose from ski trips in Switzerland, northern lights spotting in Iceland, or riding the sand dunes in the Moroccan desert. These are all among Marchant’s favorites—and hardly compromise an exhaustive list.

1x-13Camping out in style in the Moroccan desert. Source: Black Tomato

Once the general location is set, travelers can get into the nitty gritty of designing their pop-up hotel from the ground up. In an effort to leave no trace behind, Marchant chose semipermanent (but high-design) tents as the format for all Blink pop-ups, but you can choose from a variety of styles: canvas, domes, bubbles, yurts, tropical villa tents, and a few more. Then everything from the layout of the beds (yes, real beds) to the patterns on the seat cushions and the brand of bath amenities is up to your personal whim.

The process can take place online—Marchant likened the experience to “choosing from a room service menu”—or over the phone with an expert, though he also clarified that guests can be as hands-on or hands-off as they want to be. (Even the customization process is customizable.)

1x-14A pop-up Pisco bar for pop-up hotel guests in Valle de la Luna, Chile. Source: Black Tomato

 Depending on the remoteness of the location and how established Black Tomato is in that area, it can take three to five months to execute a client’s vision. Not only does it require a logistical superstorm to get all your preferences lined up and installed on site; Black Tomato also has to staff each camp individually. For some guests, that might mean daily housekeeping and a couple of great guides; for others, it could mean a sommelier, chef, and an astronomer for expert-led stargazing sessions. Blink trips include meals, excursions, transfers, and everything in between. “We create the full package,” Marchant explained.
Blink’s service is fully end to end—you’re in remote places but with plenty of staff to fawn over you (and light candles at night). Source: Black Tomato
Blink took a lot of work to get off the ground—but it will quickly become a well-oiled machine, Marchant hopes. Black Tomato expects to start small, commissioning roughly 10-20 trips in the service’s first year and ultimately scaling it into the hundreds. “We have the infrastructure to support growth on this,” Marchant assured, but he also recognized that it’s not a trip that everyone can (or will) take. “It’s not a mass proposition—it’s about the right people at the right time in the right place.”

As for the pricing, that’s fully bespoke, too. According to Marchant, prices can range from $65,784 for a group of six that wants to spend three nights in Morocco to $177,600 for a group of six spending four nights in the Bolivian salt flats. “Neither of these are including airfare, but Black Tomato can arrange flights from anywhere in the world,” he said.

1x-16Blink can easily set up multiple tents for a group—or cater to couples seeking privacy. Source: Black Tomato

And while these sample bills were both representative of group trips, Blink is as appropriate for couples as it is for larger affairs. “I can see a lot of proposals and engagements happening with Blink,” Marchant half-joked. “The concept works on many levels: honeymooners looking for the ultimate secluded and private experience, family groups looking to celebrate a milestone event or birthday, groups of friends looking to escape together.” After all, it’s as easy to create a single tent as it is to set up five domes or bubbles in a row for your own private pop-up lodge.

1x-17A Blink yurt in the Bolivian Andes. Source: Black Tomato

Regardless, each camp will be dismantled as soon as you leave—removing every last trace of its existence—and it’ll never be built the same way again. In other words: Blink, and you’ll miss it. “That’s what gets the hairs on the neck standing up,” said Marchant. “Right now travelers just talk about hotels and Airbnb. Just wait, in 10 years’ time there’s a chance people will be talking about this—semi-permanent tents—instead.”

Design Your Own Pop-Up Hotel and Sleep Literally Anywhere in the World

This Solar-Powered Pipe Desalinates The Water That Flows Through It

This Solar-Powered Pipe Desalinates The Water That Flows Through It

It’s called ‘The Pipe.” And if it works, it could change the calculus of our water problems.

After a massive, billion-dollar desalination plant opened near San Diego eight months ago, it won an award for its efficiency. But even with the latest technology, the plant—which turns ocean water into clean drinking water for about 7% the county—uses enough electricity every day to power 28,500 homes.

But a new conceptual design shows how a desalination plant can run on solar power instead, while doubling as public art and a place for visitors to soak in salt baths.

Unlike the San Diego plant, which uses reverse osmosis to blast seawater through filters with microscopic holes, the new design, called “The Pipe,” says it would use a magnetic field to pull salt out of water. “We’re just addressing the salt,” says Abdolaziz Khalili, part of a team from Khalili Engineers that created the design. “Regular ocean water has about 3% salt, so we’re calling that 3% of salt out of the water rather than pushing the 97% that’s water.”


That saves a corresponding amount of energy. It also eliminates the need for moving pumps—which can quickly rust in ocean water—and filters that also need frequent replacement.

In a design for the Land Art Generator Initiative, a competition that calls for new energy infrastructure that looks like art, the engineers mocked up what the plant could look like off the coast of Santa Monica. The designers plan to build a prototype and prove that their technology is actually effective at desalination.

“We’ve created this as a pipe because it’s a good metaphor—pipes bring us water,” says architect Puya Khalili. “We need quite a lot of length to achieve this process, so we needed something long. We also need the surface to accommodate all of the solar cells.”

The pipe would stretch about 600 meters, and would sit on top of an existing breakwater in the Santa Monica Bay. Inside, the plant would send drinking water back to the city—roughly 4.5 billion liters a year, or half of the city’s needs—and use the salinated water in indoor swimming pools. As visitors float in the salt baths, they could listen to the waves and watch the surrounding ocean.


“It’s letting people get in touch with this new technology, which is very friendly,” says Abdolaziz Khalili.

The Pipe’s designs show it covered in flexible solar panels on the south and west. The technology can run directly on the current from the solar cells, rather than converting (from D/C to A/C) like most equipment; this helps it run even more efficiently.

Typical desalination plants can harm marine life when brine is dumped back in the ocean. But the new design, placed over the ocean, can use ocean water to dissolve the brine as it’s slowly released.

The design is a finalist in the competition. Though it’s just a concept now, the Land Art Generator Initiative plans to work with cities around the world to pursue implementing some of the most practical ideas. In California, as the drought continues, there’s likely to be interest. Los Angeles is considering another large desalination plant now; more than a dozen others have been proposed up and down the coast. But if the pipe works, there might be a simpler solution.

This Solar-Powered Pipe Desalinates The Water That Flows Through It

The Data Center Can’t Scale, But That’s Changing With Hyperconvergence

The Data Center Can’t Scale, But That’s Changing With Hyperconvergence

Hyperconvergence can help companies of all sizes reach new levels of data center speed and resilience. It’s become the “go to” solution for any organization looking to simplify, streamline, and lower IT costs.

The Data Center Can’t Scale, But That’s Changing With Hyperconvergence

Hyperconvergence can help companies of all sizes reach new levels of data center speed and resilience. It’s become the “go to” solution for any organization looking to simplify, streamline, and lower IT costs. Here’s why.

In the rapid-paced digital economy, business interactions and decision-making happen instantly, enabled by access to a range of resources, from group messaging apps and data analytics to social media tools and cloud services. Such exchanges are at the heart of the dynamic nature of business today, which has evolved quickly while the data centers that provide the support to make these interactions possible have remained static.

IT’s usual approach has been to build a unified data center infrastructure using diverse network, server, and storage components sourced from multiple vendors—a process that’s not only time-consuming and expensive but also out of sync with the increasing demand for data center simplicity and agility.

Research from IDC has shown that global spending on big data infrastructure, which consists of compute, network, storage, and security, will grow at a CAGR of 21.7 percent, and will account for roughly half of all spending in the big data and technology services market through 2019.1 What’s surprising, however, is that a significant portion of that investment is focused on merely keeping up with growing end-user and application demands.

Many organizations face other obstacles, including budgetary constraints as well as scalability challenges and management issues.

Converged infrastructure (CI) and hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) offer dynamic flexibility and performance levels to meet the needs of enterprises. Both are modular-based deployments that integrate separate data-center elements to deliver higher density and improved availability. They offer the advantage of simply adding clusters to meet the processing needs of a growing business.

In addition to gaining consistent application and data access, HCI adoption enables organizations to quickly scale from maintaining relatively small, traditional workloads to achieving high performance computing affordably. HCI in particular solves the limitations of traditional legacy infrastructures by eliminating information and infrastructure silos, simplifying overall management, and ensuring new levels of data center responsiveness.

Benefits of Converged and Hyperconverged Infrastructure

Companies are being seriously impacted by exponential data increases and the constant demand for applications and services. They regularly face a complex range of IT demands from the inside and the outside. For example, internal end users require a high degree of data access and application responsiveness from any device while customers and partners expect those same levels of always-on availability.

Moreover, IT managers are constrained by outmoded approaches to providing support, such as manual provisioning and deployments, which are time-consuming and resource intensive. However, simply adding new infrastructure won’t solve the problem. It only increases costs, management complexity, and data center sprawl.

Converged infrastructure answers that need by combining compute and storage elements into one physical appliance preconfigured by the manufacturer. Organizations can simply plug the appliance into the fabric of their existing data center to achieve desired performance levels, enabling fast workload provisioning and new deployments in a matter of hours and days instead of weeks and months.

Hyperconverged infrastructure takes that integration one step further by extracting the physical controls and making them operable in software running on low-cost, standardized x86 hardware. With virtual compute, storage, and networking, IT can create systems from similar server-based building blocks, expand by adding new clusters, and manage everything from one interface. HCI not only eliminates the need for IT specialists, it also strengthens overall performance by:

  • Reducing data center footprint
  • Optimizing resource allocation
  • Improving failover capabilities
  • Integrating automation, orchestration, and analytics

As IT leaders confront the unique set of demands brought about by the growth of third platform technologies (i.e., mobility, social media, big data, cloud services, etc.), they’re looking to hyperconverged infrastructure to provide much-needed resource consistency.

Overcoming Data Center Deficits With Hyperconverged Infrastructure

Remote office and branch office (ROBO) environments can be a critical part of many enterprise operations, but they often lack specialized IT support. Hyperconvergence enables dynamic, easily managed compute and storage to meet that changing demand. For example, instead of complex, high-cost traditional server and storage architecture, HCI can provide inexpensive, instantly scalable multinode deployments.

Such affordability is especially important in the public sector, such as state and local governments and education (SLED). Frequently tasked with handling diverse, complicated workloads on a limited budget, these institutions require locally accessible resources for a broad variety of use cases. Hyperconvergence can simplify these deployments as well as natively integrate data protection to ensure fast and comprehensive disaster recovery.

It’s difficult to overstate the seriousness of unplanned downtime due to a data center outage. Besides the financial impact, loss in worker productivity, and decline in customer confidence, brand reputation can suffer long-term consequences. Hyperconverged solutions contain built-in resiliency features, including virtual machine (VM) snapshots, advanced analytics, deduplication, and automation that can offset the risk of downtime caused by data center outages or human error.

Benefits of Lenovo and Nutanix Together

The Lenovo and Nutanix partnership is built on long-standing reputations and offers a hyperconverged solution that combines Nutanix Xpress software with Lenovo’s System x servers. According to a recent Gartner Research report, “HCIS will be the fastest-growing segment of the overall market for integrated systems, reaching almost $5 billion, which is 24 percent of the market, by 2019.”2

The growing popularity of hyperconvergence demonstrates just how quickly the current data center is changing. For small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), the attraction to HCI is based not only on affordability, but also on finding a solution that offers comprehensive support services in a complete package.

As one of the largest suppliers of x86 servers in the world, Lenovo offers customers a high level of support as well as HCI upgrade services and maintenance, including hardware warranty, 24×7 software support, and onsite coverage to ensure successful HCI deployments. Customer confidence in Lenovo is based on the company’s heritage of extensive x86 deployments within data centers globally and a well-established portfolio outside of hyperconverged systems. The Lenovo 1U (1-node) and 2U (4-node) form factors provide a hyperconverged system with a simple management framework in an open, modular book design that can be easily serviced and upgraded in the rack.

At its core, HCI is about configuring traditional data center infrastructure (compute, storage, networking) into one single package. The Lenovo Converged HX Series Nutanix Appliance pools resources into a single shared virtual structure that increases utilization and ensures greater availability while at the same time reducing the IT burden. Natively integrated data protection includes simple virtual machine (VM) backup, disaster recovery, and replication, eliminating the need for traditional storage area network (SAN) and network area storage (NAS).

Taking the Next Step

Today, companies of all sizes are confronting the limitations of traditional, legacy infrastructures as they try to modernize their data centers to embrace digital transformation. Trends such as cloud computing, data analytics, and new levels of user mobility along with application delivery, to name a few, are placing heavy demand on these IT environments.

Lenovo is shaping the next generation data center to help companies reduce complexity to meet these ever-changing demands while lowering costs. For more information on how to achieve new performance levels through hyperconvergence, please visit the lenovo website.

The Data Center Can’t Scale, But That’s Changing With Hyperconvergence

Ship Operators Explore Autonomous Sailing

Ship Operators Explore Autonomous Sailing

More automation will enable them to optimize use of cargo vessels, cut fuel consumption and labor costs

“All hands on deck” may become a thing of the past.

Ship designers, their operators and regulators are gearing up for a future in which cargo vessels sail the oceans with minimal or even no crew. Advances in automation and ample bandwidth even far offshore could herald the biggest change in shipping since diesel engines replaced steam.

Ship operators believe more automation will enable them to optimize ship use, including cutting fuel consumption. “The benefit of automation is as an enabler of further efficiency across the 630 vessels we operate,” said Palle Laursen, head of Maersk Line Ship Management, a unit of cargo-ship giant A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S.

British engine maker Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC is leading the Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications initiative involving other companies and universities. It foresees technologies long used to improve commercial airline operations migrating to ships. The group also is tapping know-how from those working on driverless cars to adapt for safe at-sea autonomous operations.

A future unmanned ship could resemble some of the most advanced combat drones. It would sport infrared detectors, high-resolution cameras and laser sensors to monitor its surroundings. The vast troves of data would be transmitted to command centers where staff do little more than monitor progress and ensure ships are operating at optimum speeds.

The consortium completed a study this year that concluded such vessels are feasible and offer savings.

Oskar Levander, vice president for innovation at Rolls-Royce’s marine unit, said moving toward greater autonomy and unmanned shipping could cut transport costs 22%. The bulk would come from lower staff costs, though such vessels also would be more fuel efficient by eliminating the need to carry equipment to support people onboard.

The first steps already are being taken. The Stella ferry, used in the Baltic and operated by Finferries, has been equipped with a variety of sensors including lasers and thermal cameras to assess whether such sensors could allow autonomous operations.

A critical step toward floating remotely controlled unmanned cargo ships on the oceans by 2030, and autonomous ones by 2035, is the ability to pass large amounts of data from ship to shore to ensure safe operations. For years, lack of affordable bandwidth has made that a challenge. A new generation of communications satellites is promising lower costs to transfer data.

Satellite-services company Inmarsat PLC this year launched its Fleet Xpress service to provide improved connectivity to ship operators. It combines high-bandwidth satellites with a more secure connection to guarantee vital safety connectivity. Ronald Spithout, president of Inmarsat’s maritime business, said the connection will let operators monitor engine and other ship functions more closely to enable enhanced automation.

Rolls-Royce, no longer affiliated with the luxury car maker, is betting that a push to smarter vessels will lift the fortunes of its struggling marine business. The prolonged slump in crude prices has led to a sharp drop in demand for sophisticated offshore vessels. Marine sales at Rolls-Royce fell 23% last year after declining 16% the prior year when oil prices started to slump.

Oil prices may rebound, but the demand for the gold-plated vessels used to service oil and gas rigs far offshore may never fully recover, said Mikael Makinen, president of Rolls-Royce’s marine division. Rolls-Royce is betting smart ships will be a new growth market.

The company is already in talks with operators it wouldn’t name to start trials of more autonomous vessels.

Automating shipping faces barriers, though. “There are a vast range of safety, security, navigational and legal challenges to be solved before crewless container vessels can be considered in our fleet,” said Maersk’s Mr. Laursen.

The International Maritime Organization, the arm of the United Nations overseeing global shipping, prohibits ship operations without crew. The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, known as Solas, requires all ships to be “sufficiently and efficiently manned,” the IMO said.

Safety rules emerged in 1914 in the wake of the sinking of the RMS Titanic two years earlier, which killed more than 1,500 passengers on the ship’s maiden trans-Atlantic voyage. Current rules, completed in 1974, have been adapted for new technologies such as introducing mandatory requirements for electronic charts and automatic identification systems for ships. Proponents of greater autonomy hope the rules may be further relaxed.

Separately, it is unclear as of yet how security issues like piracy and the mandate to help distressed ships will be addressed for these ships

IMO spokeswoman Natasha Brown said the British government-sponsored Marine Autonomous Systems Regulatory Working Group, set up in 2014, is reviewing pertinent regulations to potentially propose changes.

James Fanshawe, chairman of the working group, said it hopes to convince the international organization to pave the way for autonomous vessels before the end of the decade.

Capt. Thanasis Apostolopoulos, head of crews at Athens-based Springfield Shipping Co. and a sailor for 17 years, said the drive to unmanned ships may be inevitable. “It will be a sad day for seafarers when it happens,” he said.

Ship Operators Explore Autonomous Sailing

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