Google is offering a new service, which it says could help British homeowners save money by switching to solar power.
The tech giant has released an online tool called Project Sunroof, in partnership with energy supplier Eon, that estimates savings using data from Google’s Earth and Maps apps.
It first launched in the US in 2015, where reviews suggested it was broadly accurate but gave some odd results.
Google is also working with German software firm Tetraeder on the project.
Project Sunroof uses machine learning to estimate how much solar potential a house has by examining the property’s features, such as its roof area and angle, and weather data, such as sun positioning.
Google claims that its models are detailed enough to assess the impact of a single tree on a home’s solar potential.
It isn’t the first tool of its kind – Ikea offers a similar service in collaboration with Solarcentury, and Tesla launched its own Solar Roof Calculator last summer.
But these companies and others require homeowners to submit additional data about the shape of their roofs or their homes before getting a quote on savings.
Jonathan Marshall, head of analysis at the non-profit organisation Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said that Project Sunroof “lowers the barriers” for homeowners by automatically inspecting roofing data using Google Earth imagery.
“By analysing the roof shape, they will take out one of the steps that you would have to go through to get solar panels installed,” Mr Marshall told the BBC.
“The speed of the process means that if you’re half-tempted by the idea, you’re more likely to go ahead with it.”
Project Sunroof first launched in the US in 2015 and then in Germany last year. It is now available in select UK regions, including Birmingham, Brighton, Liverpool, Newcastle, Reading and parts of London.
Nicole Lombardo, head of partnerships at Google, said: “We are excited to help people in the UK make more informed choices about installing solar panels on their rooftops and transition to renewable energy sources.”
The tool is another example of Google’s public commitment to green energy.
It announced in 2017 that its global operations were powered using only renewable energy sources.
AMAZON ERROR ALLOWED ALEXA USER TO EAVESDROP ON ANOTHER HOME
A user of Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant in Germany got access to more than a thousand recordings from another user because of “a human error” by the company.
The customer had asked to listen back to recordings of his own activities made by Alexa but he was also able to access 1,700 audio files from a stranger when Amazon sent him a link, German trade publication c’t reported.
“This unfortunate case was the result of a human error and an isolated single case,” an Amazon spokesman said.
The first customer had initially got no reply when he told Amazon about the access to the other recordings, the report said. The files were then deleted from the link provided by Amazon but he had already downloaded them on to his computer, added the report from c’t, part of German tech publisher Heise.
CRYPTOCURRENCY INDUSTRY FACES INSURANCE HURDLE TO MAINSTREAM AMBITIONS
Cryptocurrency exchanges and traders in Asia are struggling to insure themselves against the risk of hacks and theft, a factor they claim is deterring large fund managers from investing in a nascent market yet to be embraced by regulators.
Getting the buy-in from insurers would mark an important step in crypto industry efforts to show that it has solved the problem of storing digital assets safely following the reputational damage of a series of thefts, and allow it to attract investment from mainstream asset managers.
“Most institutionally minded crypto firms want to buy proper insurance, and in many cases, getting adequate insurance coverage is a regulatory or legal requirement,” said Henri Arslanian, PwC fintech and crypto leader for Asia.
“However, getting such coverage is almost impossible despite their best efforts.”
Many asset managers are interested in digital assets. A Greenwich Associates survey, published in September, said 72% of institutional investors who responded to the research firm believe crypto has a place in the future.
Last month, Mohamed El-Erian, Allianz’s chief economic adviser said that cryptocurrencies would gain wider acceptance as institutions began to invest in the space.
Most have held off investing so far however, citing regulatory uncertainty and a lack of faith in existing market infrastructure for storing and trading digital assets following a series of hacks, as well the plunge in prices.
The total market capitalisation of crypto currencies is currently estimated at approximately US$120bil (RM502bil) compared to over US$800bil (RM3.3tril) at its peak in January.
“Institutional investors who are interested in investing in crypto will have various requirements, including reliable custody and risk management arrangements,” said Hoi Tak Leung, a senior lawyer in Ashurst’s digital economy practice.
“Insufficient insurance coverage, particularly in a volatile industry such as crypto, will be a significant impediment to greater ‘institutionalisation’ of crypto investments.”
Regulatory uncertainty is another problem for large asset managers. While crypto currencies raise a number of concerns for regulators, including money laundering risks, few have set out clear frameworks for how cryptocurrencies should be traded, and by whom.
Insurance might allay some of the regulators’ concerns around cyber security. Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission recently said it was exploring regulating crypto exchanges, and signalled that the vast majority of the virtual assets held by a regulated exchange would need insurance cover.
Keeping crypto assets secure involves storing a 64 character alphanumeric private key. If the key is lost, the assets are effectively lost too.
Assets can be stored online, in so-called hot wallets, which are convenient to trade though vulnerable to being hacked, or in ‘cold’ offline storage solutions, safe from hacks, but often inconvenient to access frequently.
Over US$800mil worth of crypto currencies were stolen in the first half of this year according to data from Autonomous NEXT, a financial research firm.
Some institutions have started working to solve this problem, and may provide fierce competition to the incumbent players.
This year, Fidelity, and a group including Japanese investment bank Nomura have launched platforms that will offer custody services for digital assets.
Despite the industry’s complaints, insurers say that they do offer cover. Risk advisor Aon, received some two dozen inquiries this year from exchanges and crypto vaults seeking insurance, according to Thomas Cain, regional director, commercial risk solutions, at Aon’s Asian financial services and professions group.
“It is not difficult to insure companies that hold large amounts of crypto assets, but given the newness of the asset class and the publicity some of the crypto breaches have received, applicants need to make an effort to distinguish themselves,” Cain said.
The industry also says it is getting closer to solving the custody problem.
“This year there have been a number of developments, and some providers have developed custody solutions suitable for institutional clients’ needs,” said Tony Gravanis, managing director investments at blockchain investment firm Kenetic Capital.
“Players at the top end of the market have also been able to get insurance,” he said.
But this is not the case for all.
One cryptocurrency broker, declining to be named because of the subject’s sensitivity, said insurers struggled to understand the new technology and its implications, and that even those who were prepared to provide insurance would only offer limited cover. “We’ve not yet found an insurer who will offer coverage of a meaningful enough size to make it worthwhile,” he said. – Reuters
CTECH’S THURSDAY ROUNDUP OF ISRAELI TECH NEWS
Scrapped London Skyscraper set to dominate Tel Aviv skyline. A tower ditched mid-construction in London due to the economic downturn of 2008 is now being resurrected in Tel Aviv in the midst of the city’s unprecedented tech boom. Watch the video
Acquisition by Medtronic complete, Mazor delists. Medtronic paid $1.3 billion in cash for the Israeli surgical robotics company. Including Medtronic’s existing stake, the deal is valued at $1.7 billion. Read more
Israelis receive 8.5 spam calls a month, according to Truecaller. The country ranked last among the top 20 countries affected by spam calls in 2018, according to a new report released by the company. Read more
Innoviz expands globally, sets up a commercial manufacturing line in China.The Israel-based LiDAR maker has doubled its employee count in the past year and intends to recruit additional personnel for research and development, business and sales. Read more
Particle analyzer company PML sold following liquidation. The company developed electro-optical systems for monitoring and measuring fluid particle sizes and concentration.