Movistar Costa Rica Hits First With Galaxy SIII posted by on July 7, 2012
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In the past cellular technology in Costa Rica was at the whims of the state agency ICE, bringing us the latest when it had become old in the world. Today, after the opening of the telecommunications sector last December, things are different.

Today we have the latest phones and and mobile devices, launching in some cases at the same time as in the United States, as both the Mexican operator, Claro and Spanish operator, Movistar, move at lightning speed to entice us.

Within that framework Movistar hit first with the latest Samsung offering, the Galaxy SIII (or S3).

The Samsung Galaxy S III is the 2012 flagship device of Samsung. Like its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S II, the S III is a touchscreen-based, slate-sized smartphone, with a significant addition of software features, expanded hardware, and a redesigned physique. In particular, it has an intelligent personal assistant (S Voice), eye-tracking capability, wireless charging, and increased storage. Depending on countries, the 4.8-inch (120 mm) smartphone comes with different processors and RAM capacity, and 4G LTE support.

Samsung unveiled the S III at a stand-alone event on 3 May 2012 in London. The device was released in 28 European and Middle Eastern countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the United Arab Emirates, on 29 May 2012, before being rolled out in throughout the world over the following month. Prior to release, 9 million pre-orders were placed by more than 100 carriers globally, making it the fastest-selling gadget in history.

Due to high demands and a manufacturing flaw, there is currently a shortage of S IIIs, especially in the United States. But, it can be had right here in the tiny paradise of Costa Rica.

Movistar has priced it at ¢474.900 colones (us$960) and be purchased outright or FREE as part of @XL plan, one its five postpaid plans. The pricing for the other plans ranges from ¢13.250 to ¢44.000 monthly.

If you are a lover of technology, this is a must have device.

Editor’s note: Notice we didn’t include ICE in the group, for it keeps only on responding to what the competition brings, instead of innovating. The chirping frog still has a lot of ways to go!

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Young Scientists from Costa Rica Shine with Projects for the Disabled posted by on May 21, 2012

Perseverance and innovation were the keys to success for two bright young Ticos who elevated Costa Rica’s standing in the international stage earlier this week at the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Pittsburgh.

As reported in The Costa Rica Star yesterday, Luis Gerardo Leon and Jose Miguel Gonzalez each took second place awards at the international technology and science competition, which attracted more than 1,500 students from 68 countries. For both Ticos, this was their second time competing at ISEF, and their persistence paid off.

In the case of Luis Gerardo Leon’s impressive project, the RIIS-ED: Prototype of Wheelchair for Quadriplegic People Controlled by Neural Impulses was the highest honor earned by a Latin American entry at the ISEF. The Braille printer project from Jose Miguel Gonzalez was recognized by the United States Patent and Trademark Office Society as a ready-for-production project.

It is important to note that both projects intend to leverage technology to improve the lives of those who live with disabilities.

About Luis Gerardo Leon

This young man from Guanacaste stated in Pittsburgh yesterday that he dedicated his RIIS-ED award not just to Costa Rica, but to Latin America. His RIIS-ED wheelchair is essentially a robot controlled by facial gestures that are translated into neural impulses and further into robotic commands. Luis Gerardo is 17 years old and is a student of the Jose Maria Gutierrez High School in Bagaces.

About Jose Miguel Gonzalez

He is an 18-year old alumnus of the Don Bosco Technical and Professional High School who lives in Escazu. He is currently a student at the Costa Rica Institute of Technology (TEC), and like Luis Gerardo Leon, this was his second ISEF. His project consists of a run-of-the-mill desktop printer and keyboard transformed into a Braille printing system that stores data and recycles sheets.

The eleven bright young Ticos who participated in ISEF also had an opportunity to sit down with Dr. Ada Yonath, Chemistry Nobel Laureate. She told the young people assembled at ISEF that:

“Society improves with more science. The more knowledge and scientific advancements, the better the society.”

Vice Minister of Science and Technology Keilor Rojas, who traveled with the young representatives of Costa Rica, underscored that ISEF is not just an academic exercise for the contestants:

“Costa Rica is on the right track as far as her intellectual economy. Here we have people with ideas and the potential to turn them into business. The young people today understand this better than the adults: science and technology projects do not simply end at the blueprint level; they are rather completed and turn to reality when they benefit society, or when they create businesses and enterprises that form part of the economic foundation of the country.”

The proud students will return to Costa Rica on Saturday night.

Source: Ministry of Science and Technology (MICIT)

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English Language Programming Snubbed by Costa Rica Cable TV Operators posted by on May 21, 2012

Anglophiles and English language learners in Costa Rica who are accustomed to getting their linguistic fix from the local cable operators have been noticing drastic changes in popular channels like Cinecanal and Cinemax.

As reported on the popular consumer protection blog “Quien Paga, Manda” (an adage similar to “the customer is always right”), those two movie channels on Cabletica recently switched off their original English programming and replaced it with films and series dubbed into Spanish. Subtitles are gone, as well as the Second Audio Program (SAP) feed.

The Cabletica subscriber who reported the change also wondered if he had any legal recourse in the matter, namely breach of contract or non-performance of an agreement. He sees the sudden change as arbitrary and points out the following concerns:
Many subscribers in Costa Rica signed up for cable TV because they are native English speakers, or they otherwise enjoy programming in the original language.
Even more subscribers signed up to improve their mastery of English as a Second Language (ESL), something that has become a driving factor of the labor economy in Costa Rica.
Subscribers with hearing difficulties or impairments enjoyed subtitles on channels that do not broadcast close captioning encoding.
Eliminating SAP is a harsh measure that leaves viewers without alternatives.

Cinecanal and Cinemax are apparently not the only channels to have suffered the above-described fate. Cable viewers have complained that channels that traditionally make up the basic programming package are being replaced by Latin American versions in which the shows are dubbed, no subtitles are offered, and SAP is absent.

According to Gabriel Zamora, an attorney at the Zamora Baudrit law firm, there is practically zero protection for consumers in this case, particularly since it is unlikely that the cable operators made any guarantees to prevent the vanishing of English language programs.

Blog readers at Quien Paga Manda offered their opinions and knowledge of the matter. Cabletica is not alone in this practice; Amnet, a cable operator that has been around longer, also engages in this practice, which also involves blaming the content providers while at the same time offering the original channels as part of their High Definition (HD) premium packages. Is it simply a matter of squeezing more money from the subscribers who want their channels in their full English glory by forcing them to pay for HD programming?

According to an explanation in newspaper La Nacion from Argentina, the change has a lot to do with demographics and socioeconomic transformation in Latin America.

English Language Programming in Costa Rica Started with Generation X

For those old enough to remember Costa Rica in the mid-to-late 1980s, cable television was only accessible to a select few who were not only able to afford it, but who also lived in ritzy neighborhoods of San Jose served by Cable Color (the precursor to Amnet). Back then English programming ruled cable channel lineups, but those who could not afford to live in Los Yoses and subscribe to Cable Color had a great alternative: Channel 19 on the UHF band.

Channel 19 one day appeared on the free airwaves of Costa Rica; it was essentially a WGN broadcast from Chicago during the daytime, and sometimes HBO or MTV at night. Just like Cable Color, it was 100 percent in English, and the channel introduced young Ticos to a world of programming that included GI Joe, the Transformers, Soul Train, and the Chicago Cubs with Ryan Sandberg on second base.

Tuning to channel 19 was a low-tech process that involved fashioning an antenna from broom sticks, chicken wire, aluminum foil, forks, etc. Channel 19 was probably responsible for boosting the interest of English among Generation X Ticos, although cable television would eventually cast aside channel 19 with virtually the same programming seen in the United States. Channel 19 is rumored to be making a comeback, and it could be timely considering the cold shoulder that some cable channels have given to original English programs.

Here is where socioeconomic and demographic change comes into play: basic cable television can now be afforded by many more subscribers in Costa Rica, not just those in the upper classes. Low-income basic cable subscribers are more interested in watching and listening to programs in Spanish. Viewers older than 50 years of age form part of the fastest-rising population in Costa Rica, and there is a generation gap between them and the Generation X Ticos raised on channel 19: they are not as interested in English language programming.

Should the snub trend of original English programming by cable companies in Costa Rica continue, Ticos and expats will always have options like Netflix and Crackle.

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Call Centers in Costa Rica Employ 16,000 People While Developing A Middle Class posted by on May 21, 2012

Call centers are often linked to telemarketing, but this is just one of the many business functions performed by call centers. Call centers may focus on one of the following business functions, or operate campaigns that cover many different functions:
Inbound sales, where customers are responding to an advertisement.
Outbound sales using client provided call lists.
Lead generation through qualifying customers calling about a sales promotion.
Market research by conducting surveys.
Processing of product orders from customers.
Customer support through providing help desk functions.
Technical support for particular products.
Appointment setting.
Credit and billing problems, including collections.
Cellphone activation.
Fundraising for charities.
Cause related marketing.
Direct response to TV / Radio marketing.
Sports booking.

Call centers essentially perform any business function that involves person-to-person contact over a voice connection. Costa Rica is the home of a number of corporate call centers, including Bank of America, HP, IBM, Proctor & Gamble, and Western Union. Independent call centers range in size for super call centers, such as Sykes Costa Rica with 3200 employees, to operations run from a home with one or two employees. There are no statistics regarding the number of call centers in Costa Rica. Richard Blank (CEO of Costa Rica’s Call Center) estimates that there may be as many as 300 call centers operating in Costa Rica. With just over a 100 seats (employees actually making the calls), Costa Rica’s Call Center represents a mid-sized call center.

If the number of call centers is hard to estimate, the number of workers employed by call centers is even more difficult to determine. According to the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE), the offshore service sector employs 1.4% of the Costa Rican labor force, with contact centers employing about 50% of this offshore service sector. With a total work force of 2.3 million in Costa Rica, this results in about 16,000 workers being employed by call centers. The CINDE report “Costa Rica Human Capital Cost – Services Sector” (PDF download) estimates the average wages for call center workers, as follows: Job Position Monthly
Average Monthly Average +
Mandatory Benefits
Call Center Clerk $533 $717
Contact Center Manager $4323 $5814
Contact Center Quality Inspector $1320 $1775
Contact Center Team Leader $1623 $2183
Intermediate Bilingual Agent $981 $1320
Junior Bilingual Agent $952 $1281
Spanish Agent $767 $1032
Senior Bilingual Agent $1019 $1370
Workforce Coordinator $2317 $3116

The above table reflects the average salaries for September 2011, when the exchange rate was 510 colones equaled one US Dollar. The Mandatory Benefits includes the Christmas Bonus, which is equal to one month of pay.

The A.T. Kearney Global Services Location Index for 2011 ranks Costa Rica as #19 in the world for outsourcing, and #4 in Latin America. The GSLI report points out that cost competitiveness is becoming a major challenge for Costa Rica. Nearshore Americas, in their article “Latin America’s Ranking Reflects, ‘Intensifying’ of IT, BPO Skill,” points out that El Salvador and Honduras are leveraging their lower labor costs to attract nearshore business. While price competition presents a serious challenge, Costa Rica still holds an edge according to CR Technology Insight, which points out that Costa Rica is #1 for innovation in Latin America, #3 for network readiness, #3 for property rights index, and #4 for high technology exporter.

The recent article on smartphone growth statistics illustrates the growing importance of smartphones on purchase decisions by consumers. The smartphone shortens the time between seeing a product of interest and acting on the decision to purchase the product. Once the consumer fills out a request, or contacts an 800 number, the call center comes into play. The call center acts either as an order processing center, or qualifies the lead. The qualified lead is then passed to either the client, or another part of the call center operation. Marketing to a potential customer, who has expressed an interest in a product, generates far more sales than attempts at marketing using “cold call” lists.

Internet forums and discussions on social media services, such as Facebook, created a self-help culture. This phenomenon reflects the frustration of many consumers, whose contact at a help desk does not speak good English. Consumers want an answer, and want one that they can understand. In many cases, the self-help groups may solve the problems. Without the presence of an official company representative, these forums may also give misinformation. In these cases, the work for the help desk representative is more complicated, as they must correct the misinformation, and then provide the correct solution. Help desks will remain as a vital operation for call centers, as they are the official company representative, who can also take corrective actions, such as authorizations for return, or corrections to billings. In both quality of English language speakers and understanding of technology, Costa Rica has an advantage over call centers located in the Philippines and India.

In terms of outsourcing, call centers are part of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). BPO includes many other business process, such as accounting, back office operations, and payroll. BPO, itself, is part of services outsourcing. Other services outsourcing areas are Information Technology Outsourcing (ITO), and the new area of Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO). There are Costa Rica businesses involved in all areas of service outsourcing.

I wish to thank Richard Blank of Costa Rica’s Call Centers for sharing his knowledge of call centers in Costa Rica, and for acting as a soundboard for my ideas on this article.

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Tourism and Exports in Costa Rica affected by Mobile Devices and changes in Internet Marketing posted by on May 14, 2012

When laptops offered more features (such as Webcams, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi), the sales of desktops began to decline. Before netbooks could gain a significant market share, smartphones and tablets grabbed their mobile market share. The change is so rapid that it is hard to find reliable statistics. Studies performed in 2011 are now outdated. Studies made this year will be ancient history next year. However, the studies do show a trend in how we interact with the Internet. Following are a few highlights of the ever changing world of mobile devices:

  • An International Telegraphic Union study for the year 2011 shows that there are 5.9 billion global mobile cellular subscriptions, which equates to about 87% of the world population. In mid-2011, there were 1.2 billion mobile broadband subscriptions (broadband connections cover both smartphones and data cards), with 90% of the world covered by 2G, and 45% having 3G coverage. The report provides no statistics on global 4G coverage.
  • In a Google Mobile Ads blog entitled “Consumers love there smartphones. Now businesses must fall in love with mobile.”, Jason Sepro predicts that 1 billion people will use mobile devices as their primary Internet connection by the end of 2012.
  • According to the latest global statistics from Share Wales, Android holds 50.9% of the market share for mobile devices. iOS dropped to 23.7%, and Symbian has slipped 11.7% of the smartphone market. Windows Phone 7 commands only 1.9%, which is well behind RIM’s (Blackberry) 8.8%.
  • Scripd presents an infographic summary of the April 2011, Google/IPSOS report. This report shows that 77% of the mobile device users rank search engines as the most visited Web sites. 51% of the users searched for dining information. While 47% searched for shopping information. The study shows that 89% searched the the Web, because of an urgent need for information.
  • A Viacom study (reported by Endgadget) shows that the tablet has replaced the desktop and smartphone, as an alternative second TV. Out of the total time spent watching TV shows, 15% percent of the viewing occurs on tablets. When a cable company offers a streaming app, consumers are more likely to use the streaming app than the Web browser.

The growth in the number of mobile devices accessing the Internet also changes how advertising dollars are spent. The following statistics indicate how mobile devices impact on purchase decisions:

  • The Scripd infographic, see above, shows that 9 out 10 smartphone users take action as a result of their smartphone search. 53% of the users make a purchase as a result of their search.
  • A US local business search graphic at Our Mobile Planet shows 51% called the business, 47% looked up the business on a map, 52% visited the business, and 27% made an in-store purchase. Surveys for this study were made during March and July of 2011. A Pew Internet study (performed in February of 2012) shows that 74% of the smartphone users now use location-based information.
  • A study by Flurry shows that as of July 2011, apps consumed more Internet time than Web browsing on mobile devices. The two largest categories for apps were games (47%) and social networking (32%). Since the study, more social networks have released apps, and the social networking apps are vastly improved over the versions available at the time of the study.
  • According to comScore, a majority of smartphone users access travel information on their devices. Seven out of eight users researched airline / hotel prices from their smartphone. In addition users researched airline phone numbers, checked flight schedules, and checked flight status. Only 21% of the smartphone users availed themselves of smartphone check-in.
  • In an article entitled “Mobile now accounts for more of a consumer’s time than TV,” On Device Research reported that mobile devices account for 27% of a consumer’s media time, versus 22% for TV. Moreover, 76% of the mobile users plan to conduct mobile commerce (mCommerce) activities over the next year. Of those users, 42% say that mobile advertising introduced them to something new, and 14% indicated that they will make a mobile purchase as a result of the ads.

The above global statistics impact the future marketing trends of Costa Rican tourism and export businesses. For local Costa Rican businesses, the growth in mobile devices in Costa Rica offers an opportunity to increase their connection with customers, and improve their sales. Whether a person takes a picture of a QR Code, or uses the browser to search for local information, the first contact is often the Web site. Yet, the vast majority of Web sites, including those in Costa Rica, are not mobile device friendly.

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IBM To Invest $300 Mln In Costa Rica Facility posted by on May 11, 2012

- Features cloud computing center of competency – High value information technology services to focus on service management, security, data storage and business analytics – Support for IT professional training in universities

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica and ARMONK, N.Y., May 10, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — IBM IBM +0.53% officially opened today its new Costa Rica Delivery Center, in America Free Zone, Heredia. IBM will invest US$300 million over 10 years, and intends to employ up to 1,000 people by 2014. The new center will provide high-value services for clients around the world, reaffirming Costa Rica’s position as a strategic services hub for IBM. The facility will support clients in the areas of IT security, data storage, business analytics, cloud computing, and other services in demand by IBM clients.

 

 

The new center will provide cloud infrastructure support and management, to help clients simplify and enhance operational efficiency. Cloud computing provides clients with the ability to reduce their IT infrastructure costs, have a standardized, virtualized platform, and enhance their process automation. Additionally, the center will provide technology capabilities that can anticipate and help prevent fraud and IT hacker attempts.

IBM IT experts will support global clients with service management, data storage services, automating data backup and providing support for a variety of storage platforms and tools. Business analytics capabilities will help clients analyze complex data and enable smarter decision-making.

“With IBM’s state-of-the-art facilities, thousands of Costa Ricans will be able to showcase their talent, pushing Costa Rica further down the path of innovation, knowledge and technology; a path that we have bravely undertaken with courage and commitment, but most of all, with great confidence in the talent of our people,” said Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla.

“This partnership between IBM and Costa Rica, as we engage in this adventure towards a more modern and technological world, is essential to our country. It becomes our driving force while reminding us of the important challenges that lie ahead,” added President Chinchilla.

IBM has services professionals in more than 170 countries with the industry’s largest number of infrastructure experts. The center in Costa Rica opens new opportunities for IBM clients in Latin America. With this center, IBM expands the local services operations it has been delivering since 2004, in the areas of human resources processes, call center, finance and administration, and shared services.

“This opening is very important for IBM, as our global services are a key differentiator from our competitors,” said Patt Romero Cronin, General Manager, IBM Global Technology Delivery. “The cloud computing capabilities of the new center, combined with cloud-based support provided by IBM from the United States, India and China, are important to our clients.”

“The IT services that IBM will deliver from Costa Rica require complete fluency in new and innovative technologies, which will bring along a significant technology transfer and will allow us to strengthen and scale our participation in global chains of high-value technology,” said Anabel Gonzalez, Costa Rica Foreign Trade Minister.

IBM Collaborates with the Costa Rican Education SystemIBM also announced that it is pursuing efforts to build skills in Costa Rica. IBM is working jointly with the public and private universities, Costa Rica Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE) and the government. The aim is to provide academia with technology, knowledge and access to specialized software to improve training and education, and to strengthen the curricula of IT programs around four main themes: cyber security, cloud computing, data storage and business analytics. The purpose of the IBM University Program is to provide students with new information technology skills that are in high demand in Costa Rica.

“The Ministry of Science and Technology is fully committed to aligning academia and the IT industry for development in strategic areas such as digital technology,” said Alejandro Cruz, Costa Rica Minister of Science and Technology. “The articulation between academia and industry will provide the opportunity to improve technical and higher education in more advanced skills of computing science and technology. This initiative, I am sure, will have full support from the main public and private educational institutions, which will allow our human capital to strengthen the competitiveness of Costa Rica for its future development.”

“Strengthening our skills and access to new technologies, such as the ones used by IBM, will improve the country’s competitiveness as a location for foreign direct investment,” said Gabriela Llobet, CINDE Director General. “It will portray our country as more innovative and open to learning new technologies, setting us apart from our regional competitors and raising us up to the highest level worldwide.”

IBM will offer access to IBM tools and technologies, courseware and IT education with the development of professor modules over the coming months. The company intends to develop knowledge, promote innovation and train skillful IT professionals to ensure a pipeline of innovative talent.

“The IBM University Program is aimed at meeting the needs that arise from the rapidly changing and complex world of information technology,” said James Rutledge, IBM Vice President, Latin America Global Delivery and Costa Rica Site. “Our mission is to work jointly with faculties to improve and increase the competitive IT workforce in Costa Rica in line with our goal to develop new skills for the twenty-first century and a Smarter Planet.”

For more information about IBM, please visit: www.ibm.com/services .

Media Contacts:

Catalina SileskyCommunications Manager, IBM Costa Ricacsilesky@cr.ibm.com+ (506) 2509-6272Mobile: + (506) 8366-7440

Carola SchaubExternal Relations, IBM Latin Americacschaub@co.ibm.com+ (57) 628 14 84

Tara Sucato Tsapepas External Relations, IBM U.S. tjsucato@us.ibm.com 917-472-3701

Andrea CentenoCommunications Director, CINDEacenteno@cinde.org +(506) 2201-2873+(506) 8876-9461

SOURCE IBM

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Costa Rica Used as Example for New Feature on Microsoft’s Bing Search posted by on May 11, 2012

Many Internet users turned to Microsoft’s Bing search engine yesterday, entered Costa Rica in the search bar, and checked the results presented by what the tech giant called “the most significant update to Bing since we launched three years ago.”

Microsoft chose Costa Rica as an example of Bing’s new powerful Sidebar feature. Sidebar is a direct response to Google’s “Search, Plus Your World” feature. Both Google and Bing are deeply interested in the massive amount of user-generated content that has been accumulating since the Web 2.0 paradigm and the online social networking phenomenon arrived. While Bing is still taking small nibbles at Google’s lion’s share of the search engine market, true social media integration is the latest battlefield of the war over search engine supremacy.

Bing is currently rolling out a revamped version of its fledgling search engine, which has managed to capture some market share from Google since its debut back in 2009. Just how much of that share is up for debate, since the figures differ greatly. The latest report from Stat Owl indicated that 8.4 percent of searches went to Bing in January 2012, while more than 80 percent went to Google.

The New Social Media Sidebar from Bing

Microsoft is betting heavily on Facebook integration, and this new release of Bing proves it. On the official Bing blog post announcing the release, Bing vice presidents Derrick Connell and Harry Shum explained the social media features of Sidebar:

“For example, if you’re searching for diving spots in Costa Rica, with the new Bing, you may discover that one of your Facebook friends knows a great spot, based on photos from their last trip to Costa Rica that they shared on Facebook. Or you might find a friend who lives in Costa Rica based on his or her Facebook profile.”

For the record, this is not the first time that Costa Rica has been associated with Internet technology debuts. The Costa Rica Star has previously reported on our country being a backdrop for the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet commercials, as well as being featured during the product release of the new Apple iPad.

Bing will not limit social media results to Facebook. Sidebar will be separated into sections like Friends Who Might Know and People Who Know. The latter section will pull relevant information from authoritative and influential sources and people in social media networks like Blogger, FourSquare, LinkedIn, Quora, Twitter, and even Google+. This is also the section where Bing users will likely see data pulled from the Facebook Timeline of The Costa Rica Star when they search for information related to our country.

Another Sidebar section that may prove popular is the Activity Feed. This is very similar to the Spark feature of Google+, except that the information shared comes from Bing. This feed will be updated along with Facebook, and will feature posts, questions and queries that your social network has chosen to share with others.

Bing is rolling out many more features, including mobile integration, and the announcement is very timely: the $98 billion Facebook initial public offering (IPO) is only days away. Having Microsoft as a search partner will certainly help Facebook’s hotly-anticipated IPO, an event that some Wall Street analysts are derisively calling “Dot Com Bubble 2.0″.

You can sign up to test the new Bing here (note that you may have to use a proxy server as this service does not appear to be available in Costa Rica, yet).

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Costa Rica Institute of Technology Rethinks the Design of Solar Panels posted by on May 9, 2012
Posted by on May 7, 2012 in Technology

A group of researchers from the Costa Rica Institute of Technology (TEC in Spanish) is working on redesigning solar panels as we know them. Within two years, the researchers expect prototypes that yield the following results:

  • Realistic production of electrical power in tropical climates.
  • Certification of the new panels in order to make Costa Rica a hub for clean power technologies.

The TEC project is counting on the support from the academic and business communities to stimulate the development of renewable sources of energy. The researchers are part of TEC’s Electronic Laboratories for Sustainability. They are investigating the technology currently in use in Germany and the United States, two nations where implementation of solar-powered electrical public utilities has had regional success. The idea is to modify these panels and make them adaptable to the more constant temperatures of the tropics.

Carlos Meza, a professor at TEC explained to online business publication Entorno Inteligente that the panels produced in Germany and the U.S. “are designed to be robust in order to withstand extreme wind conditions and snowfalls, plus the panels are graded to be installed at a certain angle, which does not correspond to the perpendicular way the Sun’s rays fall on the Tropics.”

Costa Rica should be an ideal country for solar power technology, explained Professor Meza. One of the ideas is to place the panels horizontally on the ground, to increase the effectiveness of capturing more radiation. The same goes for roof installations: the panel can be offset so that they form a perpendicular plane with the rays from the Sun.

As far as materials go, the TEC team will have the support of Tico nanotechnology researchers; the idea is to figure out how to use nanoparticles of silver and zinc to better capture sunlight. This in turn will reduce manufacturing costs, one of the current obstacles to the wide implementation of solar power energy for electrification purposes.

Solar energy projects for the production of electricity in Costa Rica are concentrated in the rural areas; they are not part of the nationwide electrical grid. With improved solar panels, these projects could actually extend their reach and connect to the existing grid, where they could provide up to 200 kilowatts per hour -enough to keep the lights on in 170 households for a month.

The TEC team has already spoken with German and Japanese businessmen about the research project, and they are very interested. They could finance part of the project now and later have the right to purchase solar panels manufactured to their specifications at low cost.

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