Wichita Falls May Find Savings for Customers With New Water Meters
Apr25

Wichita Falls May Find Savings for Customers With New Water Meters

It has been just over one year since water meters in Wichita Falls were replaced with advanced watering infrastructure (AMI smart meters), and the city reports that they are very happy with the results. Jim Dockery, Deputy City Manager, said that the new system is performing exactly as they had hoped. “We continue to work on fine tuning the system to make it even more efficient, but overall it has done what it was intended to do,” he said. The annual cost of the new system was offset by the elimination of five meter-reader positions in the utility billing department. This helped the city replace more than 34,000 water meters over the course of a few months. The new features included in the system are things like highly detailed information that is available to customers and utility-billing staff. The information shows water usage down to hourly increments. “It takes out the guessing game of saying to them, ‘The water went through the meter sometime during that month, but we don’t know when or why,'” Dockery said. The new system helps customers and the city be more proactive in catching things like damage, leaks, or running water in a home. Roughly 10% of homes have leaks that can waste up to 90 gallons of water or more per day. Catching these issues early can save residents a lot of money. According to the city, they expect to save $400,000 from water collection, $115,640 from sewer collection, $133,261 from low-flow water capture, $220,524 from operations, and $175,000 from maintenance. Because it is so early in the process, the city can only generally predict an increase in things like revenue. “It is a little difficult to prove that these new meters are generating the revenue that was estimated when the system was installed because that additional revenue was only expected to be an increase by a fraction systemwide,” Dockery...

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Considering Investing in A Shipping Container Home? Here’s What You Need To Know

Durable, steel shipping containers average a 25-year lifespan and require minimal maintenance. That’s just one reason why many resourceful homeowners have transformed shipping containers into their humble abode. “They’re sleek. They’re innovative. They’re metal. They’re eco-conscious and sustainable…It’s little wonder that shipping container homes have become a national obsession, threatening even to overtake traditional tiny homes in the hearts and imaginations of new home buyers looking for something way out of the ordinary,” writes Angela Colley on Realtor.com. Though shipping container home are highly versatile and customizable, they do require a significant level of planning and maintenance to construct — a level of maintenance that many people underestimate. But with that in mind, shipping container homes are also a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to traditional housing. A 2017 Unilever study found that 33% of consumers prefer to choose brands that support social or environmental causes, so it’s no surprise that shipping container homes are growing in popularity. But before you invest in a shipping container home of your own, it’s important to have realistic expectations regarding cost and maintenance. Here are just a few points to keep in mind if you’re considering investing in a shipping container home of your very own. Avoiding Rust and Roof Corrosion Experts say that rust is one of the primary elements you’ll have to worry about after getting your shipping container home. Shipping containers homes near the ocean are more prone to rust, so expect to have to paint and de-rust more frequently. “Special attention is required if you live near the ocean and the salt air becomes a concern. The ocean dwellers must inspect their container homes a few times a year and in most cases are required to de-rust and paint more often,” writes Jimmy Lee on ContainerHomes.net. Similarly, you should be aware of the potential for roof damage during transportation and construction of your shipping container home. Many containers sustain roof damage when being transported by lower quality companies, especially when the containers are being shipped overseas. Plus, an inch of summer rainfall pours nearly 1,500 gallons of water onto your roof, and most shipping container roofs have dents around the sides that collect rainwater and corrode the roof over time. Experts say the dents sustained during transportation should be repaired prior to construction, and all rust and corrosion should be treated with high-quality rust and corrosion prevention paint. Getting Financial Help Through Grants If you’ve looked into the maintenance involved with a container home and are committed to keeping up with it, you can move onto looking into opportunities to receive federal grants for help with your container home...

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Iceberg! Global Warming Causing Icebergs that Threaten Shipping Lanes
Apr03

Iceberg! Global Warming Causing Icebergs that Threaten Shipping Lanes

Global warming is causing problems in an unexpected place: the melting polar ice caps have let loose an unusual number of icebergs, which are now affecting global sea shipping lanes! While massive container ships may be able to handle collisions with icebergs better than the Titanic did in April 1912, the icebergs are causing serious problems. They may even be convincing some companies to skip sea shipping for air cargo instead. Each year the global aviation industry transports more than $6.4 trillion worth of cargo. Overall, aviation is on the rise. In the U.S. alone, commercial airlines carried more than 3.8 billion passengers and generated global revenue of $501 billion as of 2016. According to Mashable writer Mark Kaufman, “In the spring of 2017, a thick-hulled icebreaking research vessel, the Amundsen, had left its Quebec port en route to a research cruise in Hudson Bay. But the scientists aboard never made it to their destination: The Amundsen was diverted to rescue unsuspecting ships that had become entrapped by Arctic ice floes that moved into North Atlantic Ocean shipping lanes.” Due to increasing temperatures, these masses of Arctic ice are beginning to melt and opening the channels between the Arctic and the North Atlantic. On March 15, scientists aboard the Amundsen published their research in the Geophysical Research Letter journal to issue a warning that this treat could become more common. University of Manitoba ice researcher Dave Babb explains that increased ice movement is a sign that the Arctic climate is expected to drastically change over the next few decades. Because of the ice movements, boats are now running into trouble because the sea ice is getting flushed into the Arctic. According to Babb, “The warming in the Arctic and decline in ice cover is increasing the ability of this ice to be transported out of the Arctic, to areas that typically don’t have these large pieces of ice.” Last year, there were numerous rescue efforts for trapped, punctured, or sinking ships in the ocean area north of Newfoundland. Two ships were sunk by the ice and other ships had to be guided to ice-free waters. So while ice levels are at a record low, the movement of the ice is causing more harm than good. This spring, researchers will head out on the Amundsen once again and hope to gather more data. They hope to have more icebreaking vessels in the area to assist if a surge of ice should come down again from the Arctic and cause trouble for...

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New Tax Law Great For High-End Private Jet Buyers
Mar12

New Tax Law Great For High-End Private Jet Buyers

Just a few years ago, in 2011, there were approximately 11,261 private jets registered across the United States. Thanks to the recent 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and updated U.S. tax code, we could soon see many more high-end private jet buyers. According to Business Insider, the new U.S. tax code now allows 100% bonus depreciation for private jet aircrafts and allows buyers to deduct 100% of the jet’s cost right away. These changes are projected to significantly boost demand for these aircrafts across the United States. “This is a very generous depreciation offer and the market has been on the cusp of a turnaround for some time,” said Richard Aboulafia, vice president and aviation industry analyst at Teal Group. “Maybe this serves as one of the precipitating factors.” Globally, the richest people already spend $23 billion a year on private aviation and the U.S. accounts for 49.7% of that market, with Europe in second at 20.8%. Thanks to these new tax breaks, that number could soon skyrocket. “Although we are still in a recovering market, this milestone tax reform, complemented by positive economic data and macroeconomic indicators, such as GDP and corporate profits, highly favor new aircraft acquisition,” added Michael Amalfitano, Executive Jets CEO of Embraer. Additionally, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) states that the new 100% bonus depreciation applies both to pre-owned and newly manufactured aircrafts, though it must be the buyer’s first use of a pre-owned jet for it to legitimately qualify. Take a look at some of the most expensive private jets currently on the market: The Boeing Business Jet — 18-seater priced at $34.9 million. The Gulf Stream G550 — 19-seater priced at $33.7 million. Bombardier Global Express XRS — 17-seater listed at $18.9 million. Jets with binding sales agreements attached to them on or before the cutoff date of September 27, 2017 will be subject to a 50$ bonus...

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Microsoft Aims New Cloud-Based Updates At Federal Government Agencies

According to CRN, Microsoft is aiming to increase its business from the federal government with the release of new cloud-based and productivity tools. According to one study, around 50% of organizations experienced compliance issues within the last year. However, Microsoft has released an upgrade to its Azure Stack solution that meets the standards of compliance regarding federal sensitive workloads. There are also new data centers under constructed in undisclosed locations and an additional Microsoft 365 release hosted in these secured buildings. Microsoft revealed these plans at the Microsoft Government Tech Summit in Washington. More than half of survey respondents say their organization currently transfers sensitive or confidential data to the cloud, and the company is “taking the next step in meeting the mission-critical needs of U.S. government customers.” Microsoft is also in competition with Amazon for highly sought-after government contracts that entail the hosting of various classified data. The upgrades made to Azure Stack will incorporate Microsoft’s cloud solution for navigating architectures involving cloud hybrids with Azure Government, a platform customized to abide by the requirements of the federal government, according to Azure’s head of global infrastructure Tom Keane. Keane said the solution serves as “a foundation for the intelligent edge and enables advanced services that can power the [Department of Defense’s] tactical missions” through “consistent connections to Azure Government across identity, subscription, billing, backup and disaster recovery, and the Azure Marketplace.” Keane also noted that the most recent Azure Stack will allow government agencies to relocate workloads in between public, on-premises, and government-only cloud environments, enabling them to “rapidly respond to geopolitical developments and cybersecurity threats.” In 2014, 11,625 heavy equipment thefts were reported. While the value of the equipment was reported at $7,735,458, total losses were estimated to be over $13.1 million, considering lost efficiency and missing deadlines. However, the private cloud environment is aimed at protecting digital security and controlling servers deployed in hot spots where the military or U.S. embassies are employed. In addition, the government version of Microsoft 365, which packages Office 365 with Windows 10 and Enterprise Mobility and Security, has also been improved to meet compliance standards. The general manager for Microsoft’s Worldwide Modern Workplace team, Josh Rice, announced that there will be availability for the Microsoft 365 version currently operating in the U.S. and Government Cloud regions. Rice also said that for government agencies of varying sizes, the product provides “the value of cloud services with the unique compliance commitments for handling controlled unclassified information.” Furthermore, Reed M. Wiedower, CTO of Washington, D.C.-based partner of Microsoft, New Signature, told CRN that Microsoft has already done well presenting its public cloud offerings...

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Toyota Invests $68.8 Billion in Tokyo Taxi-Hailing Company
Feb26

Toyota Invests $68.8 Billion in Tokyo Taxi-Hailing Company

Toyota has announced that it will be investing $68.8 billion in a Tokyo taxi-hailing app. The automaker will be investing in shares in JapanTaxi through a private placement this month. The two companies will collaborate in areas such as data collection and analysis. By utilizing artificial intelligence, the new dispatch support system will analyze data to find peak-demand times and locations. This, in turn, will make the ride-hailing company more efficient. JapanTaxi is part of the Nihon Kotsu group, which is one of the largest taxi companies in the country. The ride-hailing service intends to make its nationwide platform easier to use for customers. The company also plans to expand its network of about 60,000 cars. Even though Japan produces about 7.83 million passenger vehicle every year, the area is seeing a large shift away from vehicle ownership. Because of this, Toyota has decided to partner with Uber and Singapore’s Grab in search of alternative transportation services. Unfortunately, Japanese taxi companies have had a negative response to the automaker’s partnership with Uber. But Toyota has pressed on and has tried to strengthen ties with the industry. The funding Toyota is putting into these ride-hailing services is said to go towards furthering the development of the services. According to Toyota, it plans “cooperation and business collaboration in such areas as connected terminals for taxis, the joint development of vehicle-dispatch support systems, and big-data collection.” While Uber does not provide business information for its business in Japan or other Asian markets, it is said to account for under 1% of Tokyo’s taxi market. On the other hand, JapanTaxi claims four million downloads of their app and about one-quarter of all taxi drivers in Japan. Japan bans peer-to-peer rides, which makes ride-hailing services so popular. Messaging app Line is another taxi services competitor in the area. Line’s hailing service can be conveniently utilized within its app, which is Japan’s most popular app for messaging. However, it is unclear how well the company is doing in today’s market. Many taxi companies are competing for the top spot in Japan’s ride-hailing market. With Japan’s taxi industry being one of the largest, at $15 billion each year, it’s no surprise so many companies are competing for the top...

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