Archives June 2015

Google Confirms Addition of Buy Button Is “Imminent”

google logo

Google will soon be adding a buy button that will allow people to buy products without actually going to a retailer’s site, Chief Business Officer Omid Kordestani has confirmed.

“There is going to be a buy button, it is actually imminent,” Kordestani said at a technology conference May 27.

The move is intended to reduce obstacles so that users buy more online, he explained. The potential consumer pool using Google is enormous — about 93% of online experiences begin on a search engine, and Google gets about 70% of all traffic — but nine out of 10 purchases are still made offline, even when shoppers research online before buying.

The button addition, which is being referred to as Google Buy, will be rolled out first (or perhaps exclusively) on mobile devices, according to unnamed sources being cited by numerous major news outlets. The button would apply to the shopping ads that are displayed alongside organic, or non-paid, search results.

Especially when taken together with the fact that Google has begun prioritizing mobile-friendly sites in its search results, the news is a clear sign that Google sees smartphones and tablets as the driver of e-commerce in the future.

Reaction to the plan has been mixed. On the one hand, anything that drives consumer spending is good for the companies featured on Google (and, since those companies pay a premium for those ad spots, could increase revenue for the search engine itself). It also could help Google to fend off competition from Amazon, where many consumers turn to search for a wide variety of products and one-click shopping. On the other hand, some retailers may feel that the button erodes the business-consumer relationship.

The news that Google was considering the addition of a buy button was first reported by the Wall Street Journal last year, when Google was apparently polling retailers about the idea.

Super Cool Roofing Material Capable of Reflecting 97% of Sunlight

modern apartments with a blue sky
Summer has arrived, and it’s only a matter of time before it brings the heat. Cities in particular are apt to suffer, yet a new technology may provide a new way to beat the sweltering heat.

When exposed to direct sunlight, asphalt surfaces are capable of reaching temperatures up to 172 degrees Fahrenheit. Roads and rooftops everywhere bake during the hottest time of the year, creating a “heat island effect.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, heat islands are “built up areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas. The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F (12°C). Heat islands can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illness and mortality, and water quality.”

Luckily, a new technology might provide a solution. Researchers at the University of Technology in Sydney have developed a new material that can keep roofs cooler than the air above them — even in direct sunlight — thus reducing the effect of heat islands.

“We demonstrate for the first time how to make a roof colder than the air temperature around it, even under the most intense summer conditions,” said study co-author and Emeritus Professor Geoff Smith in a press release.

The super cool material is made of specialized plastics stacked on top of a layer of silver, and reflects 97% of the sunlight that hits it. In other words, it reflects sunlight so well that it doesn’t even warm up.

Compared to the energy efficient roofing materials currently available, the new material stays a whopping 50 degrees cooler.

“Cool roofing reduces the severity of the urban heat island problem in towns and cities and helps eliminate peak power demand problems from the operation of many air conditioners,” said Smith.

Although the material is not yet available to the market, it hopefully will be soon. With a warming planet and massive populations already suffering, the new material may be the key to staying cool in the face of a global inferno.

Minnesota Ranks Highest for Women’s Health, According to New Report

Doctor explaining diagnosis to her female patient
According to a new report by the Institute of Women’s Policy Research, Minnesota has become one of the best states for providing resources specific to women’s health concerns.

As the Duluth News Tribune describes it, “The research shows Minnesota is the best state for women, having made progress in key areas since 2004.”

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research is a nonprofit organization, Newsmax states, and researchers collected female-focused data on employment, pay rates, political participation, poverty, educational and professional opportunities, family responsibilities, and health.

Minnesota was ranked in the top 10 for the majority of these issues, and it even took the highest score for women’s health and well-being, primarily because of the state’s low rates of heart disease fatalities and diabetes among women.

The state dropped to 16th place concerning reproductive rights, however, which reflects poorly on the state but which is common for states across the country. In many cases, women have neither the resources nor the money to seek out procedures and preventative measures regarding sexual health, largely because reproductive rights are seen as controversial political topics rather than health issues.

For example, under 40% of sexually-active young women in the U.S. are tested for STIs and STDs like chlamydia, and many schools still abide by “Abstinence Only” education plans for sex ed classes.

Nevertheless, these concerns seem to be insignificant considering how well Minnesota scored in other areas of the recent report: 33% of state legislature positions are held by women, 34% of Minnesotan women have a bachelor’s degree or higher (an 8% improvement from 2000), and the average income of women in the state is about two cents higher than the national income for women.

Although Minnesota may still have many improvements to make before the state truly provides a welcoming environment for women, the most important trend that this data uncovered was that the state continually improved each year in multiple areas.