Posted Sep. 5, 2014 at 11:22 a.m.

Duke students eye XPrize; Tesla picks Nevada; CommScope's in-building advance; Yelp can manipulate results; Obama hires Google, Twitter execs

Published: 2014-09-05 11:22:21
Updated: 2014-09-05 11:22:21


In today's Bulldog wrapup of the latest technology news:

Duke students aim for an Xprize;

Tesla picks Nevada for huge battery plant;

CommScope moves forward with new in-building wireless product;

Yelp can manipulate results, judge rules;

President Obama hires Google, Twitter execs.

The details:

  • Duke Students Eye Xprize

The Blue Devil Ocean Engineering team are going for a $2 million Ocean health Xprize.

The team of Pratt Engineering and Nicholas School of the Environment team is one of 18 selected from around the world to submit sensors for testing of ocean pH testing.

“It is wonderful to see such a wide range of technologies submitted for the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE,” said Paul Bunje, senior director of oceans at XPRIZE. “What is especially exciting are the non-traditional approaches. Many teams are using new methods and materials, such as nanotechnology, to accomplish their goal, while others are adapting techniques commonly used in other industries. It will certainly make for a heated race towards the finish line.”

  • Tesla Picks Nevada

The Biggest Little City in the World is about to get a new neighbor: the biggest lithium battery factory in the world that Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval asserted will create more than 22,000 new jobs and pump $100 billion into the state's economy over the next 20 years.

Tesla Motors Inc. CEO Elon Musk declared the Silver State the winner Thursday of a high-stakes battle with California and three other states for the $5 billion "gigafactory" he says they need — and need fast — to mass produce cheaper batteries for its next line of more-affordable electric cars.

Sandoval unveiled the package of tax breaks and incentives worth as much as $1.3 billion that his economic development team negotiated with Tesla in secret for nearly a year to bring the plant to an industrial park 15 miles east of Sparks, a Reno suburb founded along the Union Pacific Railroad a century ago.

The package still must be approved by lawmakers during a special session of the Legislature, which appears inclined to do so and could take action as early as next week. But Sandoval called it a "monumental announcement that will change Nevada forever."

Musk confided Nevada's wasn't the most lucrative among the offers from California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.

  • CommScope's New In-Building Network

CommScope is moving ahead with a new in-building wireless product to help enterprises extend their networks. It's called ION-E.

“What once was a niche market—using distributed antenna systems to bring wireless coverage into hard-to-reach areas—has become a primary focus for most network operators and increasingly many enterprise IT organizations,” said Matt Melester, senior vice president and general manager, Distributed Coverage and Capacity Solutions, CommScope. “When you consider that upwards of 80 percent of mobile data traffic is indoors, and that businesses continue to adopt Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, it is little wonder why.”

  • Yelp Wins Court Case

Online review site Yelp can lower or raise the rating of a business depending on whether it advertises with the company, a federal appeals court ruled in a lawsuit filed by small businesses claiming Yelp used the tactic to try to extort ads from them.

Yelp has denied doing that, saying it uses an automated system to cull reviews that determine ratings.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that even if Yelp did manipulate reviews to penalize businesses, the practice would not constitute extortion.

The court said businesses do not have a right to positive reviews on Yelp, and that the San Francisco-based company can seek payments for its advertising.

"The business owners may deem the posting or order of user reviews as a threat of economic harm, but it is not unlawful for Yelp to post and sequence the reviews," Judge Marsha Berzon wrote for the three-judge panel. "As Yelp has the right to charge for legitimate advertising services, the threat of economic harm that Yelp leveraged is, at most, hard bargaining."

Berzon said the plaintiffs could pursue other claims involving Yelp, but the extortion allegation did not hold up.

Yelp said in a blog post on its website that it has never altered business ratings for money.

"We are obviously happy that the court reached the right result, and saw through these thin attempts by a few businesses and their lawyers to disparage Yelp and draw attention away from their own occasional negative review," the company wrote.

  • President's New Tech team

President Barack Obama has named executives from Google and Twitter to tops spots on his technology policy team.

The White House says Megan Smith will serve as chief technology officer in the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Smith will be responsible for guiding the administration's information-technology policy and initiatives. She most recently was a vice president at Google.

Smith succeeds Todd Park, who was named to the top job in 2012.

Alexander Macgillivray will serve as Smith's deputy and focus on Internet and intellectual property policy, as well as privacy issues.

Macgillivray most recently was general counsel and head of public policy at Twitter.

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