Numlock News: February 2, 2021 • Nintendo Switch, International Space Station, Apprentices

By Walt Hickey

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VAMS

In May, the CDC awarded the consulting firm Deloitte a no-bid $16 million contract to design a system to run the scheduling and operation of vaccine clinics. This program became the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS), and in December the company scored another $28 million for the project. The entire objective was to make signing up for a vaccination simple and inventory tracking easy. The problem? Most states have dropped VAMS, several are in the process of doing so now, and those who do use it find it hard to use. Likely because older, less tech-adept patients — who for medical reasons constitute the first wave — are serving as the beta testers for this brand-new technology. “Not working in Internet Explorer, only Chrome” is not exactly going to get shots in seniors’ arms.

Cat Ferguson, MIT Technology Review

Tesla

Over the past several years, electric vehicle producer Tesla has used the strategy of selling regulatory credits to competing automakers who failed to sell the percentage of zero-emission vehicles that 11 different states require. The $3.3 billion from those sales — $1.6 billion in the last year alone — has kept Tesla in the black over the last five years. For a start-up company in an emerging industry with high R&D costs, that money is the difference between profitability and running in the red. Tesla’s profits last year were $721 million, meaning they’d have otherwise posted a loss were it not for the credits sales.

Chris Isidore, CNN

Apprentice

Apprenticeships can be really effective ways to get people into skilled jobs without burdening them with up-front costs and often prohibitively expensive educational trials. Over the past decade, several bits of legislation have gone a ways to expanding the number of apprenticeships available to new workers. From 2009 to 2019, the number of active Registered Apprentices was up 51 percent to 633,476. One push aims to expand the number of trades that someone can break into by way of apprenticeships from the current 27 to 74, opening up 3.2 million jobs that could be filled beyond the traditional fields of “plumber,” “electrician” and even “sorcerer.”

Chenoah Sinclair and Annelies Goger, Brookings

Batteries

Last weekend marked the completion of a long-running upgrade project when the International Space Station installed 24 brand-new state of the art lithium-ion batteries, each over 400 pounds (on Earth at least). The installation of the final set was completed during a five-hour spacewalk, the last of 14 over four years. Only half the batteries are needed to surpass the performance of the previous nickel-hydrogen batteries, and the new set is expected to last for the rest of the ISS’s operating life.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press

Nintendo

Surging sales of Nintendo’s Switch console will lead them to finish their fiscal year in March with profits up 55 percent compared to the previous year. The last time they revised that estimate was in November when they anticipated just a 16 percent jump in profit. Over the course of the nine-month period between April and December for which we have data, Nintendo sold 16 million Switch consoles, moved a total of 24 million machines with the addition of the Switch Light and had 30 games that sold over 1 million copies.

Jada Nagumo, Nikkei Asia

League

Next Sunday the Tampa Bay Bucs will face the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, and the road the NFL took during an ongoing pandemic to get there was an arduous, yet illuminating one since the NFL’s wealth, protocols and ample testing provided findings about how the virus spreads beyond the league. The NFL tested over 7,000 people weekly, a total of 954,830 tests from August to January. This led to the discovery of 724 positive cases, most noticeably 21 from intra-team transmission early in the season, proving that new restrictions were necessary beyond the widely accepted six-foot distance for less than 15 minutes guideline. The stricter rules helped to reduce the median number of interactions within that framework by 60 percent, and the number of interactions over two minutes fell by 28 percent. It’s almost as if constant testing and mandatory social distancing protocols can stop a pandemic, gosh, who could have possibly thought?

Andrew Beaton and Louise Radnofsky, The Wall Street Journal

Electric Vehicles

According to the latest estimate from the International Energy Association, global car sales fell 14 percent year-over-year, but at the same time the preliminary estimate is that electric vehicle sales were up 46 percent over 2019, with 3 million sold. Just under half of those — 1.4 million — were in Europe, which accounted for the majority of the growth in sales, though sales were steady in China with 1.2 million electric vehicles sold. Electric car sales were up 135 percent in Europe from 2019, and made up about 10 percent of total vehicles that rolled off the lots.

Marine Gorner and Leonardo Paoli, IEA

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