Business

Majority of Americans now accept climate change, support carbon tax

By Cyan Zhong
Medill Reports

Remember this tweet from President Donald Trump as the Midwest shivered through record low temperatures?

Despite the nation’s chief executive still denying climate change, America’s public sentiment on climate science is shifting to acceptance and a call for action.

The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released the results of a poll in January surveying Americans’ stance on climate and energy issues, showing that seven in 10 Americans now believe climate change is a reality.

More than 70 percent of Americans believe climate change is a reality. (Courtesy of EPIC/AP-NORC)

While partisan difference persists – 86 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans believe climate change is real – it has become a majority opinion across party lines, said Lindsay Iversen, deputy director at EPIC.

The poll results showed not only increasing support for the science of climate change but also a general willingness to take action on it. Forty-four percent of participants said they support the implementation of a tax on carbon-based fuels.

“The fact that people are willing to support a carbon tax on all of their income and across a number of different realms, not just in the narrow application with their electricity bill, I think that’s suggesting an openness to a bigger picture policy,” Iversen said.

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Japanese and Illinois companies connect for Industry 4.0

By Jessica Xieyang Qiao
Medill Reports

Japan, a hotbed of craftsmanship and innovation, is well equipped for the fourth industrial revolution as Japanese manufacturing companies leverage high technology to accelerate the delivery of industrial automation solutions.

Panasonic System Solutions Company of North America (PSSNA), a subsidiary of Panasonic Corporation, launched in April last year to kick-start factory automation via computer-integrated manufacturing software. Masakatsu Kaji, director of PSSNA, said recent years saw a shift in customer interest from technology to productivity.

“In 2006 and 2007, customers were looking for the technology –  how components could become smaller and smaller,” said Kaji at the  Connect & Create conference in Chicago on Tuesday. “In 2015 and 2016, customers began asking how to optimize the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), how to optimize their assets and machines in the factory.”

The conference emphasized more partnerships and investment opportunities between Japanese and Illinois companies.

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The future of shopping expands–grab and go at Amazon’s 4th store in Chicago

Yixuan Xie
Medill Reports

Amazon launched a fourth automated check-out store in Chicago this month, giving Chicago and Seattle most of the 10 stories open nationally.

The latest Amazon Go store opened at 111 E. Wacker Dr. at the Illinois Center this month,  offering 1,950 square feet of ready-to-eat foods and grocery essentials. Its “Just Walk Out” technology allows shoppers to walk in a store, grab items they want and simply walk out with everything automatically charged.

A store without cashiers or checkouts? Although it sounded like a gimmick when the first Amazon Go store opened to employee testers in 2016 in Seattle at company headquarters. It has expanded rapidly to the 10 stores operating across the U.S, including four each in Seattle and Chicago and two in San Francisco.

Chicago’s first Amazon Go store, located at 113 S. Franklin St., debuted in September 2018. The second and third, which opened in October and November, are located at 144 S. Clark St., and 500 W Madison St.

Photo at top: Chicago’s fourth Amazon Go cashierless store opened this month. (Yixuan Xie/Medill)

Local Chicago Instagram account helps launch international media company

By Seth Schlechter
Medill Reports

Andy Lederman describes himself as the friend who likes to find fun new things to do with his pals. This mindset didn’t change when he moved to Chicago after college seven years ago to work in private equity. The issue was he couldn’t find the go-to guide he wanted, so he decided to produce his own.

“We were all working really hard at our respective finance jobs so we didn’t have time to research this stuff and there was no good research out there,” he said.

Lederman created Chicago Bucket List, an Instagram account with a mission to curate a list of the best things to do in Chicago for his friends.

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Show-stopping concept vehicles grandstand music and grill fresh pizza at Chicago Auto Show

By Cyan Zhong
Medill Reports

As the flashiest fleet revved its way into the 2019 Chicago Auto Show, one special model boomed into spectators’ ears and eyes at the pre-show media exhibition. Penetrating bass and beats came from the back of the vehicle.

Kicks DJ, an orange Nissan vehicle adapted into a music powerhouse, has four diaphragms bouncing on what was supposed to be the rear window. Standing near a mixer board extending from the window, the knob-twisting, button-pushing “badass” DJ, Eric Shimp, jammed to the beats.

Eric Shimp of Vehicle Effects in California mixes music with the Kicks DJ’s mixer. (Cyan Zhong/Medill Reports)

“It’s not something that you would really want to drive, but it is fun to be able to take this into a concert venue or a field or a warehouse in this, roll it off the truck and rock a party,” Shimp said.

Aside from being a “superstar DJ,” Shimp is also project manager at Vehicle Effects, a small car-making team in Sun Valley, California. He works with Dennis McCarthy, a famous car builder for Hollywood films including the Fast and Furious series, Justice League and Batman v Superman.

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Traffic never jams at Chicago’s busiest internet intersection

By Tyler Sonnemaker
Medill Reports

Remember when you used to order DVDs from Netflix and discs would arrive within a week or two? When you added a movie to your queue, Netflix would locate a physical copy in one of its distribution centers, load the DVD on a truck and then ship it to your house in a signature red envelope.

Most people stream movies now, but that data still gets delivered to your device from somewhere else. It has a physical address, and that address might not be as far away as you think. Continue reading

Demystifying artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning

By Xieyang Jessica Qiao
Medill Reports

Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and deep learning (DL) – these buzzwords are used so interchangeably that they become fluid in interpretation. But while these emerging technologies are intertwined, they provide different levels of application.

DL is a subset of ML, and ML is a subset of AI, the umbrella term that is common to all three. In a diagram, AI is the biggest circle encapsulating ML and DL. But the progression toward smaller circles takes us to more sophisticated and brain-like systems of analyzing data and learning from it for new applications.

“Human intelligence exhibited by machines, that’s the formal definition of AI,” said Jason Mayes, senior creative engineer of Google. “Now, there are two types of AI: artificial general intelligence (AGI) and narrow AI.”

Hollywood movies such as “The Terminator” revel in the idea of AGI, where machines can successfully perform any intellectual task a human being can. While human beings might automate products and services in the future with AGI, we are now still in a phase called narrow AI.

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FDA taking a firmer stance on e-cigarette regulation in 2019

By Emma Goodson
Medill Reports

The Food and Drug Administration is preparing to move on stricter regulation of e-cigarettes – electronic nicotine delivery systems – if youth usage of these products continues to rise in 2019.

Commissioner Scott Gottlieb voiced the agency’s concerns at a recent public hearing focused on eliminating youth use of electronic cigarettes.

“In recent years, we’ve appeared poised to slay one of the most pernicious public health challenges of our times – the death and disease caused by cigarette smoking,” Gottlieb said at the hearing in Silver Spring, Maryland. “Sadly, this progress is being undercut – even eclipsed – by the recent, dramatic rise in youth vaping.”

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How this nano startup tackles big problems at the smallest scale

By Cyan Zhong
Medill Reports

A floating birthday balloon that sticks to the wall. A sponge absorbing water. An exploding soda can. A bottle rocket.

These seemingly unrelated items are all analogies Benjamin Hernandez uses to explain his startup, NuMat Technologies, a nanotechnology company in Skokie that tackles big problems at the smallest possible scale.

Think of birthday balloons. When they float around and rub against the wall, they stick to it because the electrical properties of gas determine that it likes to stick to surfaces, the 35-year-old founder said. Continue reading

Latinx residents and young candidates join forces for upcoming Cicero elections

By Ankur Singh
Medill Reports

On a cold Monday night at the V Bar in Berwyn, the room radiated energy as a group of young people gathered to build a grassroots political campaign that has never been seen before in their community.

“Some of you might recognize me as the voice of the announcements from the class year of 2012,” said Gerardo Nava, as he introduced himself as a supporter.

“I have been involved politically, not so much in Cicero because, at this point if you live in Cicero, you know how the politics are. But now we have the opportunity to take that landscape and make it our own. I’m really excited to see what can happen,” added Brenda Hernandez, campaign manager for Morton High School District 201 board  candidate Esteban Rodriguez. Continue reading