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Tech News: On the Heels of Project Loon, a New Green Energy Project From Google X


Plus, Yahoo reveals government data request numbers, Mark Zuckerberg meets with the president of Samsung, and more.


On the Heels of Project Loon, a New Green Energy Project from Google X

Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) is working with a California-based wind-power company that it recently acquired, Makani Power, to develop what Google X executive Astro Teller believes may "have an important part to play in the future of the world energy production." Google X, of course, is the so-called "Moonshot factory" that develops far-out and innovative ideas, its latest being Project Loon, which aims to fill global Internet gaps with balloons that hover 12.6 miles in the air and beam high-speed Internet down to rural areas without connection.

The aim of the new wind project is to harness the power of wind turbines without the massive, 300-ton structures that the technology has until now required. Makani and Google envision blades like mini airplanes that are launched when wind reaches a specific speed strong enough to sustain the flight of the devices, which will be tethered to the ground. Such technology would make the production of massive supports unnecessary while freeing up the space currently used by wind power farms.

And so Google X delivers into the world a new airborne innovation: What could be next? As Teller described his department, "I have this incredible collection of Peter Pans with PhDs all kind of running amok, who are very productive in a sort of loosely organized way. But if you hold on too tight and turn it into something organized the magic will leave the building. But if there is no oversight, then the magic will also leave the building."

If Teller and his team can strike that balance, we will continue to see amazing developments from Google.

Marissa Mayer Reveals Number of Government Data Requests at Yahoo

Joining fellow tech companies Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Mircrosoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), and Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) has revealed government data request numbers, saying that law enforcement agencies made between 12,000 and 13,000 data requests to company between December 1, 2012 and May 31, 2013. In a post from its Tumblr page, Yahoo stated, "The most common of these requests concerned fraud, homicides, kidnappings, and other criminal investigations."

(See also: Apple Inc.'s Number of Government Data Requests Lags Facebook Inc., Microsoft Corporation)

Last week, with Edward Snowden's disclosure of the NSA's Prism Program, most prominent tech companies requested that the federal government allow them to make public the data requests they receive, including those under the jurisdiction of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The Department of Justice and FBI gave their permission to these companies on Friday, but with a significant stipulation: that tech companies must include the top-secret FISA requests along with more mundane criminal investigations. As such, the federal government is allowing only a small amount of transparency on the subject.

A story published on Mother Jones today includes charts that document how many data requests Google, Microsoft, and Twitter grant: those numbers are 89%, 79%, and 72%, respectively.

Zuckerberg and Samsung Meet to Discuss Facebook's Mobile Future

This morning in Seoul, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with Shin Jong Kyun, the president of Samsung Electronics Ltd. (OTCMKTS:SSNLF), to discuss Facebook's mobile presence and a potential partnership with the Korean tech company. Facebook has seen a great deal of growth in mobile ad revenue, and is continuing to devote time and resources to attracting even more users to its mobile services.

Earlier in April, Facebook unveiled its Home, an all-encompassing software for smartphones that further integrates the social network into the smartphone experience. The first companies to embrace the new software were Samsung and HTC Corp. (TPE:2498), whose HTC One smartphone comes pre-loaded wtih Facebook Home.

Zuckerberg also met for a brief 30 minutes with Park Geun-hye, the President of South Korea, to discuss the best ways to promote technology startups. Reportedly, Zuckerberg told the president that he plans on investing further in South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy.

AT&T Partners with Goal Zero and Brooklyn-Based Pensa Design to Bring Solar-Powered Battery-Charging Stations to NYC

New York City has public Wi-Fi available all over for smartphone users to access, but that means nothing if your battery dies. To address this shortcoming, AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T), the solar kit manufacturer Goal Zero, and the Brooklyn-based design studio Pensa Design, have united to develop Street Charge, a solar-powered charging unit, the first of which is debuting today at Fort Green park in Brooklyn. The units will spread across the city throughout the summer.

Each Street Charge station will include six USB ports, with a micro USB cable included for users of Android, Windows, or BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) phones. And, if you have your own charger with you, there are three female USB ports on each station. The stations will operate 24 hours a day.

A New, Twist-Off Wine Cork!

With a partnership between cork manufacturer Amorim and bottle-making company O-I, and a full four years of research, a twist-off wine cork is born. The new cork, called Helix, is made from agglomerated cork that is more granular and less expansive than typical cork. The less expansive quality would be a problem for sealing wine, but Helix has a threaded design that creates its own tight seal. Plus, it will be re-sealable.

The question is, weren't non-cork twist caps developed because of the scarcity/price of cork? How will the Helix, by uniting cork and the twist-off, address the needs of the wine market?

The Helix cork will be aimed at wines in the $8 - $15 price range and is debuting at Vinexpo in Bordeux today.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshWolonick and @Minyanville

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