Google’s in-house incubator impacted by layoffs, police contractor that promised to track homeless people hacked, the potential of gravity batteries to power the whole planet.
That’s all the tech news that’s trending right now. Welcome to Hashtag Trending. It’s Monday January 23rd and I am your host, Ashee Pamma
Area 120, Google in-house incubator responsible for products such as Checks, Tables, Stack and ThreadBite has been significantly affected by layoffs at Google parent company, Alphabet. A majority of the Area 120 team has been slashed, according to TechCrunch and only three projects from the division will graduate later this year into core Google product areas. Area 120 was created by Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai in March 2016 with the aim to create experimental apps and services that could be later integrated into established profit drivers. Over the years, the division has launched a number of successful products including the HTML5 gaming platform GameSnacks, and AI-powered conversational ads platform AdLingo. A source previously told TechCrunch that Area 120 had under 100 employees after the previous round of cuts. Google declined to confirm the number.
According to a report by Vice, ODIN intelligence, a police contractor, which recently had plans to track homelessness with facial recognition, has been hacked. Over 15GB of data has been stolen from the tool. The cache includes a host of sensitive information, such as photos, reports, and other ODIN customer and internal data. The gallery of the law enforcement contractor contained 5,900 files including images such as mugshots, people’s homes, vehicles, and peoples’ tattoos. Some of the files included the name of the person in the filename or identity and Social Security cards. The police contractor already had several security issues and so far the website of ODIN is still offline.
According to a report by TechSpot, gravity batteries in abandoned mines could be key to storing excess renewable energy, reusing decommissioned mines, and providing jobs. Gravity batteries try to solve one of the central problems regarding renewable energy sources like wind and solar and that is storing excess energy. Wind and solar often generate more energy than a grid can immediately use, so power companies have to store what’s left over, usually in batteries. A report by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) suggests using abandoned mines because there are already millions of them across the planet that could be cheaply converted for this purpose. Most contain the basic infrastructure for the job and are already connected to the power grid. The report adds that operating gravity batteries in abandoned mines can restore the jobs lost when the mines closed.
Multiple YouTube videos sharing the first episode of BBC documentary “India: The Modi question” have been banned, as per the instructions of the country’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The federal government has also directed Twitter to block over 50 tweets containing links to the YouTube videos. Both YouTube and Twitter complied with the government after directions were reportedly issued on Friday using the emergency powers under the IT Rules. The two-part series sought to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stance as Gujarat Chief Minister during the Gujarat communal riots of 2002, that left more than 1,000 people dead, by government count – most of them Muslims. On Thursday, India denounced the controversial BBC documentary series on PM Modi and described it as a “propaganda piece.”
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