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Consumer hardware device shipments are on track for a 14% decline in 2020, courtesy of COVID-19

New numbers from Gartner show a sizable — if not unexpected — decline in device shipments for 2020. According to the analyst firm, the category (including phones, tablets and PCs) is currently on track to decline 13.6% for the year.

An already struggling smartphone market takes a big hit from COVID-19

COVID-19 is, naturally, largely to blame here. The virus has permeated virtually every sector of society, and hardware is certainly not immune. Phones are projected to take the biggest hit, down 14.6% from 2019. That list includes both dumb and smartphones, the latter of which now comprises most handset purchases. Smartphones as a category are down 13.7% year over year.

The smartphone market has been on a slide for recent years. But 2020 was going to be the year smartphone makers turned things around (for a little while, at least), thanks to the arrival of 5G. Like so many other things in this world, however, COVID-19 has put a damper on those figures, with the technology only expected to represent 11% of phone shipments for the year.

Interestingly, PC shipments weren’t impacted as strongly as might have been expect. The decline is still sizable at 10.5%, but a push to implement work from home models for many employees has helped lessen the slide. In particular, laptops, Chromebooks and tablets appear to be the least impacted of the bunch.

Source: TechCrunch | 26 May 2020 | 9:20 am

Preventing food waste nets Apeel $250 million from Singapore’s government, Oprah, and Katy Perry

Food waste and the pressures on the global food supply chain wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic have captured headlines around the world, and one small startup based in the coastal California city of Santa Barbara has just announced $250 million in financing to provide a solution.

The company is called Apeel Sciences and over the past eight years it’s grown from a humble startup launched with a $100,000 grant from the Gates Foundation to a giant, globe-spanning company worth more than $1 billion and attracting celebrity backers like Oprah Winfrey and Katy Perry as well as large multi-national investors like Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund.

What’s drawn these financiers and the fabulously famous to invest is the technology that Apeel has developed which promises to keep food fresh for longer periods on store shelves, which prevents waste and (somewhat counterintuitively) encourages shoppers to buy more vegetables.

At least, that’s the pitch that Apeel Sciences founder and chief executive James Rogers has been making for the last eight years. It’s netted his company roughly $360 million in total financing and attracted investors like Upfront Ventures, S2G Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, and Powerplant Ventures.

“The [food] system is taxed beyond its limit,” says Rogers. “We view our job at Apeel to build the food system and support the weight of a couple of more billion people on the planet.”

Rogers started working on the technology that would become the core of Apeel’s product while pursuing his doctorate at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The first-time entrepreneur’s epiphany came on the road from Lawrence Livermore Laboratory where he was working as an intern.

Driving past acres of California cropland, Rogers surmised that the problem with the food supply network that exists wasn’t necessarily the ability to produce enough food, it was that much of that food is spoiled and wasted between where it’s grown and where it needs to be distributed.

In the past, farmers had turned to pesticides to prevent disease and infestations that could kill crops and preservative methods like single-use plastic packaging or chemical treatments that had the seeds of other environmental catastrophes.

“We’re out of shortcuts,” says Rogers. “Single use plastic had its day and pesticides had their day.” For Rogers, it’s time for Apeel’s preservative technologies to have their day.

With all the new cash in Apeel’s coffers, Rogers said that the company would begin expanding its operations and working with the big farming companies and growers in Africa, Central America and South America. “To maintain 52 weeks of supply on shelves we need to have operations in the Northern and Southern hemispheres,” Rogers said.

For all of the company’s lofty goals, the company is working with a relatively limited range of produce — avocados, asparagus, lemons and limes. Still, the pitch — and Rogers’ vision — is much broader. “Let’s take what the orange knows and teach it to the cucumber so that it doesn’t have to be wrapped in plastic,” says Rogers. “When you reduce that waste there’s a ton of economic value that is unlocked.”

Right now, the way the business works is through convincing retailers about all that economic value that’s waiting to be unlocked.

In practice, once a company agrees to try out Apeel’s technology it installs the company’s treatment systems at the back end of its supply chain where all of their vegetable deliveries come in to be shipped to various locations, according to Rogers.

A single run of Apeel’s system can treat 10,000 kilograms of food in an hour, Rogers said. So far this year, Apeel is on track to treat 20 million pieces of fruit with its coatings, the company said. 

Apeel Sciences is already working with food retailers in the U.S. and Europe. On average, grocers that use Apeel have experienced a 50% reduction in shrink, a 5-10% growth in dollar sales, and an incremental 10% growth in dollar sales when sold in conjunction with in-store marketing campaigns, the company said.

“Food waste is an invisible tax imposed on everyone that participates in the food system. Eliminating global food waste can free up $2.6 trillion annually, allowing us to make the food ecosystem better for growers, distributors, retailers, consumers and our planet,” said Rogers in a statement. “Together, we’re putting time back on the industry’s side to help deal with the food waste crisis and the challenges it poses to food businesses.”


Source: TechCrunch | 26 May 2020 | 9:00 am

Benepass raises $2.4 million to help employees get the most out of their tax-advantaged benefits

Tax-advantaged benefits, like flexible spending accounts, can save employees in the United States thousands of dollars annually, and reduce the amount of payroll taxes companies pay. But those benefits are often underutilized, simply because they can be confusing to navigate. Benepass wants to make the process easier with a mobile app that centralizes all of an employee’s tax-advantaged accounts, and is linked to physical and virtual payment cards. The startup announced today that it has raised a $2.4 million seed round.

The funding was led by Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused venture fund, with participation from Global Founders Capital, Y Combinator, Soma Capital, Amino Capital, AltalR and Elysium Ventures. It will be used on hiring, product development and customer acquisition. Benepass recently completed Y Combinator’s winter 2020 program.

Benepass was founded last year by CEO Jaclyn Chen, CTO Kabir Soorya and COO Mark Fischer. Part of its mission is enabling small- to medium-sized companies to offer benefit packages that can compete with ones at larger employers. In addition to its tools for tax-advantaged benefits, Benepass also enables clients to offer company stipends for perks like wellness programs.

In a statement, Gradient Ventures general partner Darian Shirazi said, “Quality employee benefits are essential in today’s economy to hire and retain the best teams, but most tools for distributing and managing these benefits are difficult to use, confusing and poorly designed. We’re excited to partner with the Benepass team as they reimagine the pre- and post-tax employee benefits product suite and automate the processes that maximize team health and well-being especially during this uncertain time.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how important it is for companies to have flexibility when creating their benefits packages.Before the pandemic, Benepass was building additional features for commuter benefits, but is now focused on health and dependent care flexible savings accounts instead.

New legislation related to the crisis, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), have also impacted many benefits. For example, health flexible spending accounts can be used for more things, including over-the-counter medications, menstrual products and telehealth services, and mid-year changes to them are also now allowed.

In addition, many companies have also started redirecting budget originally used for in-office perks to help their employees set up home offices instead. Chen said Benepass was able to immediately adjust approvals for eligible spending.

Tax-advantaged benefits mean employees can set aside part of their paycheck, up to a certain amount, for health flexible and dependent care flexible spending accounts, student loan repayments, transportation and other programs. Companies can also contribute, and employee and company contributions are exempt from income and payroll taxes, respectively. But Chen told TechCrunch that the average employee currently deducts only about 3% of the total they are eligible for, meaning they are potentially missing out on thousands of dollars in savings.

Based on interviews done by the startup, Chen said low utilization is often because existing solutions are difficult to use, and there is little awareness or confusion about the benefits. For example, debit cards linked to pre-tax benefits are often denied, making employees less likely to use them again. Sometimes employees simply forget about their benefits, because their company’s intranet portals and expense software make them hard to navigate.

The combined work history of Benepass’ founding team include positions at Sidewalk Labs, Google X, Goldman Sachs and TPG Capital. Working for large companies meant they had generous benefit packages, but those were often tricky to navigate.

“There were intranet pages full of logos of benefits that we never used,” Chen said. “A lot of them were really great deals, but most of them didn’t really fit my individual needs.” Figuring out tax-advantaged benefits could also be a headache. For example, Chen lost a commuter card with money and couldn’t get it replaced because she didn’t have the right log-in information.

“None of these experiences made us particularly excited to continue engaging with benefits, and we were effectively leaving lots of money on the table,” Chen said.

But Benepass’ founders believed many of these issues could be solved with things that already familiar to most smartphone users, like mobile payments, digital sign-ups, push notification and reminders. “Benefits should be no different, but today tax-advantaged cards are woefully behind,” Chen added.

Benepass replaces outdated tools with its app, which makes it easier for employees to discover new benefits. The app also notifies them when a transaction is approved and keeps track of spending history. All benefits are managed through the same platform, so companies can see monthly analytics on employee engagement and utilization, and it also handles claims and compliance.

There is a growing roster of startups that want to make it easier for employees to take advantage of benefits. These include companies centered on flexible benefits like Zestful and Compt.

Benepass differentiates by focusing on tax-advantaged benefits, as well as company-funded stipends. Chen said Benepass took on tax-advantage benefits because “they are the only benefit that saves companies money immediately, through direct payroll savings, not ROI studies. They’re essential benefits for employees, so it’s a win-win.”

“We are unique in that we are a card-first product,” she added. “We think it provides a differentiated experience and enables us to have real-time feedback with the employee as they are purchasing their benefits. We are really focused on consumer education of their benefits, making sure onboarding is smooth and people really understand the selections that are right for them. We’re ultimately trying to solve a distribution and communications challenge within benefits and think our platform is uniquely positioned to do that.”

Source: TechCrunch | 26 May 2020 | 9:00 am

Bluecore raises $50M for its first-party, AI-based marketing automation tools

As more online brands look for ways to move beyond third-party cookies as a way of gaining more direct insights about their users and customers, a startup that has developed a platform to help them has raised a big round of funding. Bluecore, a marketing technology firm that uses data gained from direct marketing like email, social media, site activity and combines that with machine learning to make better predictions about who might want to buy what among its customers, is today announcing that it has raised $50 million.

The funding will be used to build the next generation of the Bluecore platform, expected later this year, which will tap into aggregated engagement data (but not actual browsing individuals) from “hundreds” of brands, which customers can combine with their own first-party data — based on consent-based, first-party customer IDs — to develop better targeting insights.

“There are a lot of systems that focus on customer data and transactional data but no system that focuses on the product and product catalogue, which we think is the key asset,” said Fayez Mohamood, the co-founder and CEO, in an interview. He says that the company manages over 200 million products and SKUs, second only to Amazon’s and bigger than Walmart’s, that companies can matches with consumer identities (from email and other direct channels). “We can deliver insights on what customers might want even if they have never engaged with a particular product.”

The Series D is being led by Georgian Partners, with FirstMark and Norwest also participating. All three are existing investors in the company and I’ve confirmed with Mohamood that it’s a significant valuation jump on its previous valuation of $148 million (based on its $35 million Series C in 2017, per PitchBook), but is still under $500 million. The company has raised $110 million to date.

The funding comes at a key moment in the world of martech. The New York Times hit the news last week because of a move it has made to shift its data sourcing activity from third-party to first-party data for ads and other money-making activities on its properties. That is, it’s tapping its own channels to source information rather than relying on the Googles, Facebooks, and the many third-party data aggregators, of this world to provide the information.

That story was interesting because it taps into what seems to be a trend at the moment, where businesses are shifting to first-party data to reduce their reliance on data that may be harder to trace (and thus potentially falls afoul of a lot of privacy and data protection measures), and in part just to strengthen their own businesses.

Just as the NYT is building this concept out in the media world, there has been a lot of activity in this area of marketing specifically in the world of e-commerce, which is the sector that Bluecore focuses on.

It’s a timely place to be: e-commerce has been on everyone’s minds of late because of the pandemic, and there has been a surge of activity on sites as consumers turn to the web to buy what they might have previously shopped for in person.

But Bluecore was actually already on a roll before the pandemic hit. The funding comes on the heels of significant growth for the company, and Bluecore believes that its platform and how its used influences some 10% of all non-Amazon Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) in the U.S. Given how fragmented the e-commerce landscape is (once you remove Amazon from the equation, of course) that is a significant percentage. Its 400 customers today include high-profile names like Sephora, CVS, Teleflora and Tommy Hilfiger.

Given the huge shift to shopping online that we’ve seen take hold of the world, it’s no surprise that this has had a big effect on business for companies like Bluecore, which helps retailers but also brands make better sense of what’s going on when they can no longer see customers, track footfall, and sell to them as humans.

“We have had a lot of conversations with existing customers, yes, but what we’re also seeing are new ones, some some non traditional brands that have only sold in stores,” he said. “My LinkedIn has never seen so much inbound messaging from brand names that have previously been stuck inside stores, now just starting to think of how to approach DTC.”

It’s not just brands of course, but retailers having to quickly rethink priorities.

“A retail executive of a huge department store told me they’ve spent more money on lighting fixtures than on their technology budget. It really tells you something. That hit it home for me.”

And, it seems, hit it home for investors, too.

“Bluecore is uniquely equipped to deliver the advanced artificial intelligence capabilities that retailers need to navigate rapidly changing market conditions,” said Tyson Baber, Partner, Georgian Partners, in a statement. “We are delighted to be deepening our partnership with Bluecore with this funding round, as well as continuing our long-standing research and development partnership. Their work is helping brands get actionable intelligence from one of the richest sets of retail industry data in the world.”

Source: TechCrunch | 26 May 2020 | 8:28 am

A new Android bug, Strandhogg 2.0, lets malware pose as real apps and steal user data

Security researchers have found a major vulnerability in almost every version of Android, which lets malware imitate legitimate apps to steal app passwords and other sensitive data.

The vulnerability, dubbed Strandhogg 2.0 (named after the Norse term for a hostile takeover) affects all devices running Android 9.0 and earlier. It’s the “evil twin” to an earlier bug of the same name, according to Norwegian security firm Promon, which discovered both vulnerabilities six months apart. Strandhogg 2.0 works by tricking a victim into thinking they’re entering their passwords on a legitimate app while instead interacting with a malicious overlay. Strandhogg 2.0 can also hijack other app permissions to siphon off sensitive user data, like contacts, photos, and track a victim’s real-time location.

The bug is said to be more dangerous than its predecessor because it’s “nearly undetectable,” Tom Lysemose Hansen, founder and chief technology officer at Promon, told TechCrunch.

The good news is that Promon said it has no evidence that hackers have used the bug in active hacking campaigns. The caveat is that there are “no good ways” to detect an attack. Fearing the bug could still be abused by hackers, Promon delayed releasing details of the bug until Google could fix the “critical”-rated vulnerability.

A spokesperson for Google told TechCrunch that the company also saw no evidence of active exploitation. “We appreciate the work of the researchers, and have released a fix for the issue they identified.” The spokesperson said Google Play Protect, an app screening service built-in to Android devices, blocks apps that exploit the Strandhogg 2.0 vulnerability.

Standhogg 2.0 works by abusing Android’s multitasking system, which keeps tabs on every recently opened app so that the user can quickly switch back and forth. A victim would have to download a malicious app — disguised as a normal app — that can exploit the Strandhogg 2.0 vulnerability. Once installed and when a victim opens a legitimate app, the malicious app quickly hijacks the app and injects malicious content in its place, such as a fake login window.

When a victim enters their password on the fake overlay, their passwords are siphoned off to the hacker’s servers. The real app then appears as though the login was real.

Strandhogg 2.0 doesn’t need any Android permissions to run, but it can also hijack the permissions of other apps that have access to a victim’s contacts, photos, and messages by triggering a permissions request.

“If the permission is granted, then the malware now has this dangerous permission,” said Hansen.

Once that permission is granted, the malicious app can upload data from a user’s phone. The malware can upload entire text message conversations, said Hansen, allowing the hackers to defeat two-factor authentication protections.

The risk to users is likely low, but not zero. Promon said updating Android devices with the latest security updates — out now — will fix the vulnerability. Users are advised to update their Android devices as soon as possible.

Millions downloaded dozens of Android apps from Google Play that were infected with adware

Source: TechCrunch | 26 May 2020 | 8:00 am

Cloud canteen startup Feedr has been acquired by Compass Group for ~$24M

Feedr, the food tech startup that delivers personalised meals to office workers as an alternative to companies setting up their own canteens, has been acquired by Compass Group, the publicly-listed foodservice company.

The price is described as “in the region” of $24 million, while I understand the the deal between the two companies was completed in early March 2020.

Compass Group says the purchase of Feedr will help accelerate its digital transformation, and — amidst the coronavirus crisis — form part of its “return to work” strategy. Specifically, it plans to utilise Feedr’s software across its portfolio of corporate clients in the U.K. and Ireland, with further potential applications of the technology in education and healthcare sectors.

“Feedr’s mobile ordering and pre-pay technology will enable Compass to transform the way people interact with on-site restaurants, so employees can browse menus, pay and collect more flexibly, enhancing their food at work experience,” explains Compass Group UK and Ireland.

Launched in 2016 by Riya Grover and Lyz Swanton, Feedr pitched itself as a “cloud canteen”. This sees it operate a two-sided marketplace that connects healthy food suppliers with office workers at companies, in addition to arranging delivery.

To do this, Feedr publishes a “unique rotating menu” every day and asks workers to choose what they want to eat by 10.30am. It then pools those orders and sends them to the food suppliers it works with, which are mostly artisan and independent food producers, to have ready for delivery at lunch time.

However, the technology behind Feedr handles logistics planning, in terms of predicting and helping to manage demand for each meal on offer from specific suppliers. There is also a large emphasis on personalised recommendations based on the preferences of individual customers and their order history. And it’s this aspect of Feedr’s offering that Compass Group thinks has utility when applied to on-site restaurants and canteens, too.

With that said, in addition to adopting Feedr’s technology, Compass says it will also invest in growing Feedr as an independent brand that will continue to operate in the delivery market with its cloud canteen product.

Riya Grover, co-Founder and CEO of Feedr comments: “We are thrilled to be part of Compass Group and to integrate our ordering, payments and health technology across their portfolio. Operating at new levels of scale will allow us to accelerate our product innovation, and to support our marketplace of restaurant partners with new opportunities.”

Meanwhile, Damien Lane, partner at Episode 1, and early backer of Feedr, adds: “We invested in Feedr because we bought in to Riya and Lyz’s vision of using technology to deliver healthier meal options to the workplace, and have been hugely impressed with the progress made since our investment. I’m sure that Feedr will prove to be a hugely successful acquisition for Compass, who will be able to deploy Feedr’s technology platform into its worldwide network and accelerate Feedr’s mission of bringing healthy food choices to consumers and employees”.

Alongside Episode 1, which led Feedr’s £1.5 million pre-Series A funding in 2018, other investors include Founders Factory, and angel investors Errol Damelin (Wonga founder and renowned fintech investor), Richard Glynn (former Ladbrokes CEO and founder of Alinsky Partners) and David Pritchard (founder of OpenTable Europe). The company had raised £2.7 million in total.

Source: TechCrunch | 26 May 2020 | 7:15 am

Realme's X3 SuperZoom phone has a periscope camera and 120Hz display
Realme's X3 SuperZoom phone has a periscope camera and 120Hz display

Chinese smartphone maker Realme made a name for itself by selling fairly powerful phones at very low price points, but it never had a flagship that could really threaten the likes of Samsung and Huawei in Europe. That may change today. 

On Tuesday, the company launched a new phone called Realme X3 SuperZoom, a flagship that launches in Europe first and hits all the right spots for a price of €499 ($547/£447). 

Realme X3 SuperZoom has a 6.6-inch LCD display with a 120Hz refresh rate and a punch-hole cutout for the dual, 32/8-megapixel selfie camera. On the back there's a 64/8/8/2-megapixel camera whose highlights are Starry Mode for those night photos, and the 8-megapixel periscope lens capable of 5x optical zoom.  Read more...

More about Realme, Realme X3 Superzoom, Tech, and Smartphones

Source: Mashable | 26 May 2020 | 7:13 am

This spooky VPN features cute little ghosts, and that's important
This spooky VPN features cute little ghosts, and that's important

TL;DR: A three-year subscription to CyberGhost VPN is on sale for £2.10 per month, saving you 82% on list price.

There are a lot of VPN providers out there and each one offers a wide range of different features to secure your business. It's important to make sure a service ticks all the boxes, but it can be easy to get bogged down by the details.

Most of the best services will offer strong levels of encryption, fast connection speeds, and WiFi protection. The best way to differentiate between providers is by considering the interface, because nobody wants a service that looks outdated.

SEE ALSO: 5 of the best VPNs for streaming in the UK Read more...

More about Streaming Services, Mashable Shopping, Shopping Uk, Uk Deals, and Cyberghost

Source: Mashable | 26 May 2020 | 6:51 am

Scandit raises $80M as COVID-19 drives demand for contactless deliveries

Enterprise barcode scanner company Scandit has closed an $80 million Series C round, led by Silicon Valley VC firm G2VP. Atomico, GV, Kreos, NGP Capital, Salesforce Ventures and Swisscom Ventures also participated in the round — which brings its total raised to date to $123M.

The Zurich-based firm offers a platform that combines computer vision and machine learning tech with barcode scanning, text recognition (OCR), object recognition and augmented reality which is designed for any camera-equipped smart device — from smartphones to drones, wearables (e.g. AR glasses for warehouse workers) and even robots.

Use-cases include mobile apps or websites for mobile shopping; self checkout; inventory management; proof of delivery; asset tracking and maintenance — including in healthcare where its tech can be used to power the scanning of patient IDs, samples, medication and supplies.

It bills its software as “unmatched” in terms of speed and accuracy, as well as the ability to scan in bad light; at any angle; and with damaged labels. Target industries include retail, healthcare, industrial/manufacturing, travel, transport & logistics and more.

The latest funding injection follows a $30M Series B round back in 2018. Since then Scandit says it’s tripled recurring revenues, more than doubling the number of blue-chip enterprise customers, and doubling the size of its global team.

Global customers for its tech include the likes of 7-Eleven, Alaska Airlines, Carrefour, DPD, FedEx, Instacart, Johns Hopkins Hospital, La Poste, Levi Strauss & Co, Mount Sinai Hospital and Toyota — with the company touting “tens of billions of scans” per year on 100+ million active devices at this stage of its business.

It says the new funding will go on further pressing on the gas to grow in new markets, including APAC and Latin America, as well as building out its footprint and ops in North America and Europe. Also on the slate: Funding more R&D to devise new ways for enterprises to transform their core business processes using computer vision and AR.

The need for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic has also accelerated demand for mobile computer vision on personal smart devices, according to Scandit, which says customers are looking for ways to enable more contactless interactions.

Another demand spike it’s seeing is coming from the pandemic-related boom in ‘Click & Collect’ retail and “millions” of extra home deliveries — something its tech is well positioned to cater to because its scanning apps support BYOD (bring your own device), rather than requiring proprietary hardware.

“COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the need for rapid digital transformation in these uncertain times, and the need to blend the physical and digital plays a crucial role,” said CEO Samuel Mueller in a statement. “Our new funding makes it possible for us to help even more enterprises to quickly adapt to the new demand for ‘contactless business’, and be better positioned to succeed, whatever the new normal is.”

Also commenting on the funding in a supporting statement, Ben Kortlang, general partner at G2VP, added: “Scandit’s platform puts an enterprise-grade scanning solution in the pocket of every employee and customer without requiring legacy hardware. This bridge between the physical and digital worlds will be increasingly critical as the world accelerates its shift to online purchasing and delivery, distributed supply chains and cashierless retail.”

Source: TechCrunch | 26 May 2020 | 6:10 am

You can still save in Samsung's bank holiday sale
You can still save in Samsung's bank holiday sale

TL;DR: Save 15% on Samsung smartphones, wearables, and tablets using the code MAY15.

The UK's bank holiday has been and gone, and we know that sucks. We're all suffering right now, but all is not lost.

You can still save in Samsung's massive bank holiday sale, with 15% off smartphones, wearables, and tablets. To access the discount, all you need to do is enter the code MAY15 at the checkout. It's that simple.

SEE ALSO: The best parental control software for your family

This sale is running until May 29, and you can only redeem the code once per transaction. Stocks are also limited, so we recommend acting fast if you find something of interest. We wouldn't want you to miss out, especially considering the range of products on offer. Read more...

More about Samsung, Smartphones, Mashable Shopping, Shopping Uk, and Uk Deals

Source: Mashable | 26 May 2020 | 5:45 am

Bolt, the European on-demand transport company, raises $109M on a $1.9B valuation

Bolt, a rival to Uber and others providing on-demand ridesharing, scooters and other transportation services across some 150 cities in Europe and Africa, is today announcing another capital raise as it weathers a difficult market climate where, because of COVID-19, many are staying in place and avoiding modes of transport that put them into contact with others.

The Estonia-based company is today announcing that it has picked up an additional €100 million ($109 million) in a convertible note. Bolt also confirmed that is now valued at €1.7 billion (or nearly $1.9 billion at today’s rates).

The money is coming from a single investor, Naya Capital Management, which was also a major backer of the company in its last round, a $67 million Series C in July 2019.

The funding is one more example of how investors are continuing to support their most promising, and/or most capitalised, portfolio companies as they face drastic losses of business during the COVID-19 pandemic, which can only be more complicated for a startup built on a business model that — even in the best of times — is very capital-intensive.

Before this round, in April we were hearing that Bolt was running out of runway and that they were in discussion also with the Estonian government — a big supporter of the country’s tech industry — to underwrite debt in the company.

Bolt has confirmed that this whole funding is in the form of a convertible note (that is, debt), with no additional equity at this point. “We have no plans that we can discuss at the moment,” a spokesperson said, so it sounds like a further equity round is something it’s working on regardless, given these take more time to close.

Bolt — which says it has 30 million users in over 35 countries globally — says that the worst of the lull in business was two months ago and that it’s been slowly recovering since. A spokesperson said that the company was closing in on breakeven at the end of last year, and it was preparing an equity round “mostly for food delivery and micromobility.”

Now, the picture is somewhat different, with ride-hailing and recovery measures putting more financial need into the business model.

Altogether, however, the company is still on the relatively smaller side when it comes to capital raise for its on-demand transportation model. Bolt has now raised over €300 million including debt and equity, with other investors including Nordic Ninja — a new fund out of Helsinki backed by a number of Japanese LPs to invest in Northern European startups (Bolt is based out of Tallinn) — Creandum, G Squared, Invenfin (a fund out of South Africa backed by investment holding company Remgro) and Superangel, a fund out of Estonia that has been backing the startup since its earliest days, as well as Didi (and, by association, SoftBank and Uber), Daimler, Korelya Capital and Spring Capital.

Formerly known as Taxify, Bolt rebranded last year as it expanded beyond private car rides into other areas like electric scooters and food delivery — and the plan will be to use this funding to expand all three business areas in the coming months, along with newer product categories like Business Delivery in-city same-day courier services and Bolt Protect for people to continue to use its ride-hailing services by kitting out cars with plastic sheeting between driver and passenger seats.

Uber, Bolt’s publicly traded business rival, has laid bare just how painful the pandemic has been for business. The company, which had raised billions of dollars as a privately-backed startup, has laid off nearly 7,000 employees in recent weeks, and while we currently have little visibility of the impact this has had on the contractors Uber engages to move people, food and other items in its network, its next quarterly earnings (which will cover the full brunt of the pandemic) should more clearly spell out the drop-off in overall business.

Bolt notes that so far, it hasn’t had to let people to as Uber and others have, and while it doesn’t go into financial details, it does acknowledge that business is not business as usual.

“Even though the crisis has temporarily changed how we move, the long-term trends that drive on-demand mobility such as declining personal car ownership or the shift towards greener transportation continue to grow,” said Markus Villig, CEO and co-founder, in a statement.

“We are happy to be backed by investors that look past the typical Silicon Valley hype and support our long term view. I am more confident than ever that our efficiency and localisation are a fundamental advantage in the on-demand industry. These enable us to continue offering affordable transportation to millions of customers and the best earnings for our partners in the post-COVID world.”

A lot of people have talked about how fundraising has become more complicated in the current climate. Not only are founders and investors not able to meet in person and get more embedded in evaluating an opportunity, but many are unable to see what the future will hold in terms of market demand and the overall economy, making the bets all the more laden with risk.

That’s left a lot of the activity spread between startups that are seeing business lift precisely because of present circumstances; startups that have businesses that are continuing to enjoy a lot of trade despite present circumstances; and startups that are strong enough (or already so highly capitalised) that investors want to support them to make sure they don’t go under. More typically, startups that are securing funding are falling into more than one of the above categories, as is the case with Bolt.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to invest in Bolt at this stage in the company’s growth story,” Masroor Siddiqui, managing partner, CIO and founder of Naya Capital Management, said in a statement. “Under Markus’ leadership, Bolt has established itself as one of the most competitive and innovative players in global mobility. We believe that Bolt is helping drive a fundamental change in how consumers interact with the transport infrastructure of their cities and look forward to the company’s continued execution on its strategic vision.”

Update: Bolt confirmed after we published that this is actually all in the form of a convertible note, so this is not a Series D. Also updated with more information about the state of the business.

Source: TechCrunch | 26 May 2020 | 5:37 am

'Dark' Season 3 teaser is filled with brain-melting, time-travelling creepiness
'Dark' Season 3 teaser is filled with brain-melting, time-travelling creepiness

Splendid news, time travel fans: Dark is coming back.

Netflix shared the first teaser for Baran Bo Odar's complex thriller on Tuesday morning, beaming a familiarly head-scratching mish-mash of images directly into our hungry retinas.

"The final cycle," as it's described in the teaser, hits Netflix on June 27.

Time to brace yourself for another 8-10 episodes of having very little clue what's going on, but being hooked all the same. Read more...

More about Netflix, Trailers, Dark, Entertainment, and Movies Tv Shows

Source: Mashable | 26 May 2020 | 5:08 am

If you still can't find toilet paper, this $50 bidet add-on will save the day
If you still can't find toilet paper, this $50 bidet add-on will save the day

TL;DR: Upgrade your bathroom with the Aim to Wash bidet attachment for $49.99, a 28% savings as of May 26.

The sudden toilet paper shortage of 2020 likely inspired you to do one of two things: join the hoarders or investigate other options. Chances are that if you chose the latter, you landed on baby wipes (bad) or a bidet (good).

But the fact is that other countries have relied on bidet attachments long before coronavirus, and the environmental perks are one of the great reasons why. 

After watching hoards of people pack their shopping cards with warehouse quantities of toilet paper, it will come as no surprise that over 3 million tons of toilet paper are used and flushed down the drain each year in the United States alone. That equates to 54 million trees being cut down to do a dirty job that can’t be recycled.  Read more...

More about Bathroom Tech, Mashable Shopping, Bidet, Tech, and Consumer Tech

Source: Mashable | 26 May 2020 | 5:00 am

Social distancing on a reality TV show looks weird, but 'MasterChef Australia' is making it work
Social distancing on a reality TV show looks weird, but 'MasterChef Australia' is making it work

On Monday night, MasterChef Australia finally reached the point where social distancing rules came into effect during filming earlier this year. It made for a very different-looking kitchen than viewers were used to. 

The show's 12th season has become a record of how reality television could navigate the coronavirus pandemic. It was already notably different to previous seasons, as it is the first year with new judges Andy Allen, Melissa Leong, and Jock Zonfrillo. Further, this season is subtitled "Back To Win," with all contestants having competed in previous seasons stretching back to Season 1 in 2009. Now the ongoing health crisis has also made it a piece of history. Read more...

More about Australia, Masterchef, Coronavirus, Covid 19, and Social Distancing

Source: Mashable | 26 May 2020 | 3:53 am

Cathay Innovation’s first investment in Germany is healthcare startup Medwing

Medwing, a German startup with an ambition to tackle Europe’s shortage of healthcare workers, said on Tuesday that it has secured €28 million ($30 million) in a Series B financing round. Global venture capital firm Cathay Innovation led the round, marking its first investment in a German company. Other participating investors include Northzone, Cherry Ventures and Atlantic Labs.

The World Bank forecasted a worldwide shortage of 15 million health professionals by 2030, with demand being highest in affluent regions like Europe with an aging labor force and an aging population in need of care.

The pressing issue inspired Johannes Roggendorf, who previously worked at Rocket Internet and Bain & Company, to launch Medwing in 2017 and later brought on his co-founder Dr. Timo Fischer. The entrepreneurs discovered that, contrary to conventional wisdom, many healthcare workers in Europe wanted to work more, not less. Part of the reason why jobs were not filled was information asymmetry that led to a mismatch between supply and demand.

“There is a group of people who are willing to work more if they can manage their schedule,” Roggendorf told TechCrunch over a phone interview. “There are many qualified workers who left the healthcare system often because of inflexible working hours.”

In a survey that Medwing conducted, 50% of those who left the healthcare system said they would return if they were given more flexible working conditions.

Medwing’s solution is an automatic job matching system connecting workers with hospitals, nursing homes and other medical institutions. Focusing on Europe, the startup has so far registered more than 200,000 workers and 2,500 partner employers — including 80% hospitals in Berlin . Employers pay Medwing a commission every time a candidate is successfully placed. Each month, the platform is adding 15,000 new applicants, placing over 100 health experts in permanent positions and filling some 2,000 individual shifts. 20% of its users are looking for non-permanent jobs, according to Roggendorf.

The platform strives to differentiate itself by “starting with the candidates,” asserted the founder. Unlike traditional staffing sites, which search for applicants based on recruiters’ criteria, Medwing does the opposite and filters recruiters according to candidates’ preferences on whether the position is flexible or permanent, part-time or full-time. It’s an approach that the founder believes can optimize worker satisfaction. In addition to matchmaking, the platform also provides career consulting services to job seekers.

To Jacky Abitbol, who oversaw the deal for Cathay Innovation, Medwing is addressing two kinds of technological innovation his fund hunts for. For one, Medwing is driving “the future of work” by giving employees more autonomy and freedom. Terminal, which lets companies build out remote engineering teams overseas, is another startup in this category that has attracted financing from Cathay Innovation.

“Medwing is also bringing digital to a more traditional sector,” Abitbol told TechCrunch on the phone. That means streamlining the recruiting process by eliminating agencies or middlemen, saving time and costs for both workers and employers.

“What sounds very logical was not done this way until today,” the investor added.

Medwing operates a team of over 200 employees from over 30 countries, many of which have been hit hard by COVID-19. The startup is providing some of its services pro bono to fight the virus, placing professionals and volunteers in hospitals, nursing homes and private households that need support. Abitbol said the impact of the health crisis on the startup’s revenue remains “slight”, as only certain facilities are designated as coronavirus hospitals and demand will return to normal as the pandemic starts to ease.

Source: TechCrunch | 26 May 2020 | 2:00 am

7 addictive Korean dramas to binge right now
7 addictive Korean dramas to binge right now

"Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films," said Parasite director Bong Joon-ho when accepting the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. This isn't just true of films, though. It also applies to highly bingeable K-dramas.

There's a rich, wide world of captivating stories told in languages other than English, which many people are only just beginning to explore. South Korean dramas in particular have gained increasing global popularity over the past decade, even before Parasite threw Korean stories into the spotlight.  Read more...

More about Romance, Korean Drama, Kingdom, K Drama, and Goblin

Source: Mashable | 26 May 2020 | 1:16 am

China’s food delivery giant Meituan hits $100B valuation amid pandemic

Meituan’s shares hit a record high on Tuesday, bringing its valuation to over $100 billion.

The Hong Kong-listed giant, which focuses on food delivery with smaller segments in travel and transportation, is the third Chinese firm to reach the landmark valuation. Tencent and Alibaba respectively topped the number back in 2013 and 2014.

Tencent-backed Meituan saw shares rally to HK$138 ($17.8) on Tuesday after it earmarked a smaller-than-projected decrease in revenue during Q1 and a net loss of 1.58 billion yuan ($220 million) after three consecutive profitable quarters.

While nationwide lockdowns might have increased the need for food delivery, Chinese consumers have been tightening their belt amid a worsening economy triggered by COVID-19. Overall food delivery transactions slid as a result. Meituan also had to pay incentives to delivery riders who work during the pandemic and subsidies to merchants to keep their heads above the water.

There’s one silver lining: While Meituan’s daily average number of transactions dropped by 18.2% to 15.1 million, the average value per order jumped by 14.4% as delivered meals, which were conventionally seen as a habit for office workers, became normalized among families that stayed at home. In the first quarter, a large number of premium restaurants joined Meituan’s food delivery services, and they could continue to attract bigger ticket purchases in the post-pandemic era.

All in all, though, Meituan executives warned of the uncertainties brought by COVID-19. “Moving on to the remaining of 2020, we expect that factors including the ongoing pandemic precautions, consumers’ insufficient confidence in offline consumption activities and the risk of merchants’ closure would continue to have a potential impact on our business performance.”

Source: TechCrunch | 26 May 2020 | 12:04 am

Hacked NES Power Glove is a thing of horrifying, wriggly beauty
Hacked NES Power Glove is a thing of horrifying, wriggly beauty

Makeup tutorials, woodworking tutorials, baking tutorials — there are creators of every kind uploading lessons in their craft for the YouTube-watching masses. Still, it's probably safe to assume this guy is the only YouTuber DIY-ing a robotic hand from an NES Power Glove to remotely play a modular synth. Probably.

On Sunday, musician-turned-inventor Sam Battle (aka Look Mum No Computer) released a 12-minute video showing off his revamped NES Power Glove and the musical feats it has achieved. 

A 1989 Nintendo creation that flopped big time, the Power Glove doesn't seem like it would be good for much. But Battle has transformed his into a remarkably tactile triumph in electrical engineering, capable of manipulating volume, tone, and pitch all with the curl of a finger.  Read more...

More about Nintendo, Hand, Robot Hand, Synthesizer, and Tech

Source: Mashable | 25 May 2020 | 8:35 pm

The 10 best kids' movies on Netflix right now
The 10 best kids' movies on Netflix right now

School's out for the summer, and Netflix is here to help. With preventative measures against coronavirus still in place around the world, the pressure is on to keep kids occupied at home without theme parks, vacations, or summer camps. 

The streaming platform offers a robust rotating selection of kid-friendly content, so we picked our favorites for you to try out, rediscover, and probably rewatch endlessly if they're a hit.

Here are the 10 best kids' movies currently available on Netflix.

1. Despicable Me (2010)

Also known as the movie that gave us minions, Despicable Me is the story of Gru (Steve Carell), a grumpy super villain who adopts three little girls that inevitably thaw his cold, dead heart. Come for the minions, stay for the unexpectedly heartwarming arc of what could have been an irredeemable baddie. Read more...

More about Entertainment, Movies, Netflix, Kids Programming, and Streaming Guides

Source: Mashable | 25 May 2020 | 8:00 pm

A beefier Motorola Razr with 5G is reportedly dropping in the fall
A beefier Motorola Razr with 5G is reportedly dropping in the fall

Maybe call it a comeback? Motorola's revived Razr, which released earlier in 2020 as a folding-screen flip phone, definitely underwhelmed. But now there's some chatter that another one may be coming before the end of the year.

Get out that salt shaker, as this falls squarely into "rumor" territory. Setting aside the release timing, the next Razr is expected to to step up to a Snapdragon 765 CPU, a big improvement on the mid-range Snapdragon 710 at the heart of February's Razr release.

The so-called "Razr 2" will also sport 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, a beefier 2,845 mAh battery, a 48MP rear camera, and a 20MP front-facing camera, along with Android 10 support out of the box. Importantly, the new phone would come with support for 5G networks, though the specifics of what form that 5G support will take remains murky. Read more...

More about Motorola, Motorola Razr, Tech, and Smartphones

Source: Mashable | 25 May 2020 | 3:51 pm

The Automation Boom is Coming. Will the Internet Be Ready?

We live in an increasingly connected world. It’s estimated that there will be about 260 million internet-connected devices in the U.S. by 2020, and the next wave of these devices will push our data demand even further. New Bluetooth advancements, for instance, enable devices to perform within a range that’s four times greater, twice the speed, and eight times the bandwidth of traditional Bluetooth devices.

Besides this, connected and automated devices in the home are already ubiquitous given the popularity of smart home installations: Vacuums, thermostats, lights, and pretty much anything else with a plug can now be controlled using phone apps and voice commands. But this increasing connection isn’t limited to the home; the workplace is automating as well. A majority of businesses are exploring automation for its potential to drive efficiency, productivity, and innovation, and this will only increase as the Internet of Things continues to expand.

Advancements like these will lead to a world that’s connected everywhere you go — meaning society’s data demand is growing. What’s more, streaming subscriptions have already surpassed cable. Many streaming services are already available on mobile devices as well, which increases connectivity and data demand even further.

As a society, our demand for data is increasing at a rapid pace — but the internet in the U.S. isn’t poised to keep up with demand. 

As it stands now, the U.S. ranks 10th in the world for its fixed broadband speeds, falling behind the fastest global speed by more than 64 megabits per second. High connectivity and automation rely on rapid and consistent data transfers, but the U.S. internet in its current state isn’t likely to support this.

One Problem: Not Enough Competition Among Internet Service Providers

U.S. internet speeds pale so much in comparison to other countries’ in part because the internet is currently offered in highly oligopolized or monopolized markets. Most online traffic travels through coaxial cables maintained by regional ISPs with few competitors. Some traffic still travels through even slower copper phone lines of the DSL days.

Only so much data can be crammed through coaxial cables and copper wires, and ISPs know that. The problem is that our data-processing infrastructure hasn’t improved alongside our technologies. But given the lack of competitive pressure, companies have no incentive to make improvements — and so they rarely do.

In a more open market, heightened competition might push ISPs to offer the latest innovations in data transmissions (fiber-optic networks, for example) to maintain a healthy market share.

This would push companies to upgrade and innovate, and it’s likely that new technologies would emerge at a faster rate than they would in closed markets. A natural solution to this problem might seem to be opening the market to more providers and putting more competitors in the space in order to motivate ISPs to innovate. But this solution comes with challenges of its own.

Competitors struggle to enter the space at all, largely because of a lengthy and costly right-of-way approval process that creates barriers to entry.

ISPs have to work with local governments to gain access to public rights of way that allow them to place broadband wires. Placing these wires is expensive because ISPs must pay exorbitant fees to rent space for them — whether the wires are on utility poles or in underground conduits. These fees alone can double the cost of network construction. This, along with antiquated laws that aided in creating regional monopolies, means that competition is pushed out and that only a few big players remain. To change that, local governments would need to change their approval processes and allow easier entry into the market for new ISPs.

As an alternative, ISPs and governments could form public-private partnerships to create a new entry into the market. Essentially, a publicly funded, privately run organization would enter the ISP arena to boost competition — and therefore, innovation — while driving down prices. The private sector can bring new opportunities to cities that don’t have the resources to develop solutions on their own.

Should the Internet Become a Public Utility?

Another option on the table for advancing the internet enough to take on the next wave of automation is classifying internet service as a public utility. Utilities can be strictly regulated for quality and cost controls because these services are considered too important to leave entirely up to market forces.

Consider what internet service would look like if it were a public utility similar to electricity or gas.

ISPs would still be private companies, but governments could mandate specific internet speeds to reach and put a ceiling on costs. The idea is that the private sector is likely better at service delivery, but the existence of strict government controls would prevent ISPs from exploiting their near-monopoly status.

Additionally, because internet access is now widely considered necessary for people functioning in the modern world, it would make sense for the government to set up a baseline of internet service for low-income or underserved communities. This could push ISPs to offer better service because people would default to the public service if they saw no greater benefit from using other ISPs instead.

Ditching Land-Based Infrastructure

Another option is eschewing land-based internet infrastructure altogether and moving to space instead. In fact, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is already constructing a constellation of satellites — Starlink — to provide space-based internet access. SpaceX has launched 60 satellites into space so far, and its internet service is already available in several places on the planet (this includes Musk’s home, where he was able to send a tweet through space). The U.S. Air Force is also testing this technology.

This option is still in the early stages, but SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell said Starlink’s broadband service could be available in the U.S. as early as the middle of next year. If all goes well with its current testing and future launches, Starlink could offer high-speed internet access to consumers and avoid countless infrastructure challenges in the process.

IoT is expanding, and the world is becoming more connected at home, at work, and on the go than ever before. With the growth of modern technology and connectivity, it makes sense that the internet should evolve alongside it. If its growth stays stagnant, however, we won’t see new tech advancements reach their full potential. It’s time to reevaluate the U.S. internet service infrastructure before innovation is truly stifled.

The post The Automation Boom is Coming. Will the Internet Be Ready? appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 7 Jan 2020 | 6:00 pm

These Teen AI Entrepreneurs Will Amaze You
teen entrepreneurs

Starting a business is not an easy decision to make. Building a company requires work and money as well, and time. The resources of time, work, and money mean you will have to make sacrifices to start your business. It takes someone who has a lot of passion and confidence to establish a startup. These young people have proved that anyone can create a business at any age. However, some fantastic young entrepreneurs had the fortitude and strength in them to build their businesses in their teenage years. Here are five teen AI entrepreneurs that will amaze you.

1. Sofi Overton

It is disappointing that when you are wearing leggings or socks, there are no pockets. When you are wearing leggings, you need a place you can put your phone and keys because you don’t have a pants pocket. Sofi Overton was able to solve that problem when she established Wise Pocket when she was 13 years old. Sofi products were making leggings and socks with pockets in them.

Sofi wanted to establish this business when she was out and about one day with her cousin. Sofi noticed the problem with not having pockets while wearing her leggings. Her cousin ended up putting her phone inside of her boot — a lousy place for a phone. Once Sofi identified a need, she immediately set about working to establish Wise Pocket.

2. Richard Black

There are plenty of people who are hearing as well as vision-impaired. These individuals face many challenges because of their disabilities. More than anything, all people need, want, and deserve the chance to be independent. Richard Black, 17 years of age, made this possible.

By utilizing the latest AI technology, Richard established Halfcode that sells gadgets for people with vision and hearing impairments become independent and navigate the world much easier.

3. Asia Newson

Asia Newson loved candles when she was very young. And she had ideas on how to create unique and fun homemade candles, and that is how she became passionate enough to establish her own handmade candle business, Super Business Girl, at the age of 14.

People all over the world were inspired by Asia, and she was featured on America’s Got Talent as well as on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Asia also was a keynote speaker for TEDxDetroit. Asia’s parents have begun to work in the business as well. They have become the director of sales, and one parent has taken the role of president.

4. Miracle Olatunji

During her mid-teens, while she was in high school, Miracle Olatunji wanted to help her high school peers get connected to opportunities that would help them find interest in a career. That is why she established OpportuniMe, which is a platform to help high school students find opportunities to help them get into the jobs they want or to help them know that there are well-suited careers for them.

The idea of this platform is also to help high school students find their desires and passions for what they want to do in life before they go to college. Not only is Miracle at the age of 19 still involved, but she is now the director of innovation at Thrive and wrote the book, Purpose: How to Live and Lead with Impact.

5. Maddie Rae

Maddie Rae found slime to be funny and had a passion for doing something with it.  Maddie felt that to make slime, useful — she would have to turn the slime into glue. At age 12, Maddie was able to established Maddie Rae’s Slime Glue. Her company takes slime and glue mixed together — the results have been a substantial hit among all age groups. She was able to expand her online store, quickly becoming successful.

Maddie Rae’s Slime Glue Company sells slime glue, slime, as well as many progressive accessories having to do with everything slime.

After reading about these amazing teenagers that had the passion and dedication to start their own businesses, you can do something about your own passion and turn it into something amazing.

The post These Teen AI Entrepreneurs Will Amaze You appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 7 Jan 2020 | 5:00 pm

What You Need to Know to Use Drones for Your Wedding
drone at wedding

The popularity of wedding drone photography is constantly rising. It’s not surprising because these flying machines can take really amazing photos and videos. But many people still aren’t sure about the necessity of aerial photography at weddings or different events. We’ve gathered for you the most important information you need to know about drones if you want to use them for a wedding.

When using drones, safety comes first.

It may not be the information you wanted to read first. But safety is a necessary measure and you should always keep it in mind if you have decided to get some pictures from a drone. The drone itself is a little helicopter that has a camera. When the drone operator has no required skills, the risk to have some unpleasant accidents rises.

Professionalism and planning are necessary.

The drone pilot should have insurance, extended knowledge on how to operate the vehicle, an established safety plan, and excellent coordination with facility managers, wedding photographers, and the couple. Otherwise, the whole wedding party may be in danger. It is also important to be sure that your photographer and videographer cooperates with the drone pilot. You need to discuss all the plans and details with them because everyone should be aware of the other professional’s actions.

Check all the needed paperwork.

Personal property and liability insurance for commercial unmanned aerial vehicles are required for every drone pilot. In case something goes wrong, the damaged object will be restored and the operator can feel safe. This aspect shouldn’t be neglected. You need to be sure that your drone operator has taken all possible safety precautions.

Drones show a whole new perspective.

It is quite easy to find a professional drone pilot in order to shoot your wedding. But professional pictures made from the drone are quite different from the usual photos. You’ll want to be sure that all photos will be amazing because your wedding is a very special day. Drones provide an entirely new style of capturing your wedding. They bring you a unique opportunity to memorize that will never be forgotten in a completely fascinated way.

Take advantage of your location.

The drone camera can capture dynamic photos and videos that demonstrate the scale and style of your event. Drones offer unusual and great prospects for stunning places where people choose to get married. If you decided to tie the knot on an exotic beach, in a flower valley or in another amazing place, imagine that you are viewing your wedding album on your 25th anniversary and get a stunning aerial shot of your wedding venue. This is a wonderful way to take complete advantage of the magnificent location that you have chosen.

You can make your dreams real.

Drones can be very versatile and can add some creativity to plain wedding photos. A good idea is to gather all your guests to spell out words or you may organize a group photo in another way. You can also get a magnificent photo of a just the married couple surrounded by a sprawling cityscape or landscape. The contrast between the closeness of this moment and the epic splendor of the perspective makes these shots very impressive.

A drone can operate in the cold.

Drones are quite sturdy, but you should remember that they are still electronic devices. That means that you shouldn’t use them in nasty humid weather. But cold weather will not stop them. As soon as the drone starts to discharge, it will produce its own warmth.

Cold air is denser, so the drone can get even more lift. You can get some extra minutes of flight in winter but it is a controversial advantage. If your marriage takes place in a cold climate, you still will not be able to take many pictures of your guests on the street.

Drones need a lot of space.

It is better to use drones outside, but sometimes it is possible to fly them inside if the drone pilot has good skills. It is also important that the ceiling is high enough to guarantee that the drone and people are not in danger. But even if you have a lot of space, it is still better not to use a drone in a ceremony indoors because it is quite noisy. Open space remains a better option for drones.

When you decided to have an outdoor wedding, we recommend you to think about drone photography. This will be especially appropriate for family property. You will be able to look from above at the place where you spent your childhood. Or if you have a wedding on a ship, a drone is the one and only who is able to take pictures of your party.

Close-ups are not available with your drone.

Drones should never get in the way, so it is better to avoid close-ups. It would be not only very dangerous but also unpleasant, distractive and loud. Drones don’t record sound, so you will not be able to take your wedding vows on video. But they can capture the whole view. You can film a walk, the moment when the couple meets the officiant near the church and many other fascinating details. So you’ll get the whole picture of the wedding without spoiling the most intimate moments.

Take a review of Instagram marketing so that you can provide your wedding couple with ideas to share their special day on this social media.

The post What You Need to Know to Use Drones for Your Wedding appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 7 Jan 2020 | 4:00 pm

Trade Secrets Claimed by Prolacta to Steal Founders’ Company – Again
trade secrets
Elana Medo has dedicated many decades of her life to making mother’s milk available to premature babies. Now a questionable trade secret lawsuit threatens to destroy her life’s work and leave preterm infants without access to life-saving milk.

The cost of a Corporation Stealing from an Individual has been the loss of human lives — the very lives the individual is trying to save.

The Medo case highlights a growing problem in America: Corporate efforts to suppress competition by claiming they are protecting their “supposed” trade secrets have reached alarming heights.
Medo has been working with newborns and human milk since the mid-1980s. In 1999, Medo founded a company called Prolacta. Prolacta was the first company to develop a 100% human milk-based fortifier.
Per physician’s recommendation, a fortifier is added to a mother’s breast milk to increase the nutrition content. When Medo founded Prolacta, hospitals were using fortifiers made from cow’s milk. But many infants are allergic to cow’s milk, leaving hospitals and parents with dangerous and even fatal consequences.

For instance, preterm babies given fortifiers made from cow’s milk have a much higher risk of developing a fatal condition called necrotizing enterocolitis.

The cruel disease attacks a baby’s intestine, eating away at this organ with devasting results.
According to Amy Gates, a neonatal dietitian and board-certified pediatric nutrition specialist, “Human breast milk is a
“critical” and “life-saving intervention for premature infants.” Prolacta was a game-changer. By 2006, Medo had raised $23 million in venture capital. But Medo and her corporate backers had different visions for the company’s future.

Medo wanted to save babies’ lives. Her investors only wanted to make money. As a businesswoman, Medo knew they could do both. The corporation wanted more money — faster.

In 2007, venture capitalists took control of Prolacata’s board of directors and ousted Medo as CEO. In 2008, Medo resigned from her employment and transitioned to a new role as an independent consultant to the company. In February 2009, she formally ended any relationship with Prolacta.

Since 1999, Prolacta has had a monopoly or near-monopoly in the market of human milk fortifier.

The company’s prices and profits reflect a lack of any meaningful competition. At $175 an ounce or more, the cost to feed a single preterm infant Prolacta fortifier can easily top $15,000 a day.
Many hospitals cannot afford Prolacta, while others strictly ration the supply, limiting its use only to the smallest, sickest babies. The stingy insurance-rationing then puts other preterm babies at significant risk.

In 2009, after separating from Prolacta, Medo launched Medolac, a public benefit corporation.

Medo does not mince words about her motivations. “Hundreds of babies die each year from not having the ability to receive human milk. Profit must be secondary to the social impact of a company’s decisions.”
Between 2009 and 2015, Medo developed a new model for donor milk. Prolacta’s fortifiers are frozen and have a shelf life of two years frozen and 48 hours thawed. Medolac’s milk product is shelf-stable at room temperature for three years. That distinction alone can give Medolac a competitive advantage in the market through dramatically reduced shipping and storage costs.

The development of shelf-stable mother’s milk would also allow Medolac to pass along much of those savings to consumers and help stabilize more sick babies, and ultimately saves lives.

When Prolacta learned of Medolac’s competitive threat, they filed suit against Medo and her daughter Adrianne Weir in Orange County, California. Prolacta alleged that they had built Medolac using stolen trade secrets.

The Medo-case has been in litigation for the past five years. As with all corporate suits, they use the tactic of prolonged litigation to break down the efforts of smaller companies and individuals.

Prolacta’s central allegations are that Medo stole their customer data, research and development documents, and used Prolacta’s standard operating procedures. Medo denies stealing anything and contends that the information at issue is public or commonly known within the industry. Medo, herself, built Prolacta as a company and was taken over by her own board. She had the initial product, information, and know-how. It could be alleged that Prolacta stole her information in the first place.

What do the lawyers say? It depends on which side you are on. A lawyer makes more money with a corporation than they do with an individual. But, founders need to protect themselves right in the beginning.

Jonathan Pollard, a competition lawyer with extensive experience litigating trade secret cases, says this is part of America’s current “epidemic of frivolous trade secret litigation.” According to Pollard, “The new corporate America playbook involves squashing ordinary competition at any cost.
If a rival poses a competitive threat to your market share, you sue them for theft of trade secrets — no matter how weak the case.” Pollard explains that big companies with deep pockets use litigation as a weapon. Protracted litigation can cost millions.

Beyond the financial cost, there is also the intrusive discovery process through which the parties in a case obtain information and evidence form the other side. And corporations have more money to throw at the issue.

As is the case in many suits, in the Medo case — her company has been sued for theft of trade secrets. In an ironic twist, this ended up making her the victim of trade secret theft. As is often the case, the plaintiff used the discovery process to obtain exclusive intelligence on its rival. Pollard calls this the “chilling effect” in the market.
Clients, lenders, and other market actors are hesitant to do business with
someone who is being sued for theft of trade secrets.
Many of Pollard’s concerns seem to be playing out in the Prolacta litigation. After five years, four amended complaints, more than twenty depositions, many thousands of documents, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, Medo and her company are fighting just to survive. Corporate America stealing an edge over a founder of a small company — for gain.

Medolac has developed a 48,000 square foot processing facility that claims it can provide for 100% of the domestic market— at a fraction of Prolacta’s cost.

The dream for these desperately sick infants can only happen if Medolac can ever make it through the current litigation.

As for the merits of the case, Pollard is not impressed by Prolacta’s allegations against Medo.
“Take customer information. This is one of the most commonly asserted trade secrets. But in the year 2020, it’s also one of the most absurd. In this case, it seems obvious that any hospital in the United States serving newborn babies is a potential customer. All you have to do is call the neonatal
Courts have to catch up with reality and recognize that the emergence of resources like Google has fundamentally changed the landscape of competition. Just because something was a trade secret in 1995 doesn’t mean it’s a trade secret today.”
For now, all that Elana Medo and her daughter can do is plead their case to a jury. The case goes to trial this month.

The post Trade Secrets Claimed by Prolacta to Steal Founders’ Company – Again appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 7 Jan 2020 | 3:00 pm

Achieving Paperless Operations and Document Automation with AI and ML
paperless operations

Paper is an essential commodity for office operations. Most conventional offices rely on paper for completing the simplest tasks. Even after digitization, the dream of a completely paperless office is far from reality. Humans are used to a standard form of note-taking and documentation. Here is how to achieve paperless operations and document automation with AI and ML.

Progressive technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning help enterprises achieve their goal of paperless offices. Using these technologies, the issues associated with managing large volumes of data documented on paper can be efficiently solved.

Concept of Paperless Enterprises

Paperless enterprises run on digital devices with minimum paper consumption. In a digitally connected world, this gives businesses an unprecedented edge. All data is stored digitally, on the cloud or on-premise, which can be used in real-time to derive valuable insights about operational efficiency, marketing campaigns, employee engagement and a lot more.

Machine Learning (ML) is making it possible to achieve next-gen digital transformation by automating several business operations, that requires filling up loads of paper documents. Already, businesses are making an effort to integrate machine learning and artificial intelligence to go digital and achieve higher efficiency.

Growing Penetration of Machine Learning in Modern Enterprises

paperless operations
Growing Penetration of Machine Learning in Modern Enterprises


Benefits of Paperless Operations

Automation can offer several benefits to modern enterprises. Not only the tedious task of filing and storing a large number of documents can be minimized, but organizations can improve their data discovery and utilization capabilities. Here are some of the benefits of adopting paperless processes:

  • Efficient Document Organization

Digitization through artificial intelligence and machine learning allows companies to organize all information in easily accessible formats. This saves time as employees don’t have to waste hours searching for a document. Also, this promotes remote working culture and bring next-level authentication as the origin of digital information can be identified.

  • Enhanced Security 

One of the biggest drawbacks of paper-based data storage is associated with the security and safety of data. Conventionally, office cultures were not serious about data protection and stored critical information either in filing cabinets or any similar method.

All these methods are prone to data theft or damage due to unavoidable circumstances. Paperless office enhances the security measures as companies can take a backup of data, secure data through passwords and take steps to enforce security measures.

  • Reduced Overheads

Storing data using paper-based techniques is a cumbersome and costly affair. Companies can save millions of dollars annually by eliminating the need for paper, copier equipment, and maintenance. Also, companies don’t have to waste valuable real estate for storage of files and other documents.

Paperless digitization promotes easy accessibility from anywhere, which means less money is spent on the physical transmission of data using conventional methods.

  • Real-time Insights

Digitally stored data serves as a massive data pool to derive real-time insights from available data. This means that the information available to an enterprise can be put to better use for boosting efficiency. Marketing managers can utilize real-time data gathered from various campaigns; production teams can understand customer preferences.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence can enhance data analysis capabilities and make organizational processes closer to the customer’s needs and preferences.

Industry Use Cases: Who will Benefit the Most?

1. Legal firms

AI/ML-based paperless workflows will significantly improve the productivity of law firms. Traditionally, the legal profession is seen as a labor-intensive task- browsing through thousands of legal case files, reviewing past case studies, examining legal contracts and more.

AI can reduce manual intervention for data analysis and processing, leaving more time with advocates, lawyers and legal firms to advise their clients and appeal in courts. Artificial intelligence (AI) can be leveraged to keep a record of legal contracts and provide real-time alerts on renewals, proofreading legal documents and locate valuable information in seconds. For the legal system, artificial intelligence is the key to paper-free litigation and trials in the future.

2. Automobile industries

The automobile industry is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the AI/ML innovation. Machine learning has allowed automobile factories to create autonomous systems for managing large volumes of data generated during the manufacturing process.

Moreover, AI is reducing the effort required for filing claims in case of shop-floor accidents as data is digitized and form filing can be automated. Also, ML algorithms allow customers to get real-time diagnostic support without needing to file paper-based forms as a vehicle can be directly connected to the manufacturer via cloud infrastructure. This means that repairs, service and general performance issues can be reported in real-time without the need for paper.

3. Insurance

The insurance sector can use machine learning to automate claims will prove delightful for customer service processes. Machine learning and artificial intelligence can be leveraged to create sophisticated rating systems for evaluating risks and predicting an efficient pricing structure for each policy. All this can be automated, which reduces the need for manual intervention from human agents for classifying risks.

Also, artificial intelligence can streamline workflow by managing a large volume of claims data, policy benefits, medical/personal records, digitally. The data stored on the cloud can be used by an AI algorithm to derive real-time insights about policyholders and bring efficiency to the fraud detection process.

Wrapping Up

Artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionize workspaces like never before. With the help of an AI development company, small, medium and large-scale enterprises can make a substantial move towards a paperless future. Not only will it reduce the cost of operations but it will boost the overall efficiency of the existing business processes. The industry use cases suggested above is just the tip of a massive iceberg.

The possibilities are limitless. An AI-driven product development company can understand your existing business processes and suggest custom solutions that can be a suitable fit for your business operations.

The post Achieving Paperless Operations and Document Automation with AI and ML appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 7 Jan 2020 | 2:00 pm

Secret to Getting Leads with Digital Marketing Technology

Nowadays most companies are doing SEO, PPC, and Content Marketing. Yet sometimes the company’s are not getting the leads they need. Some businesses get leads — but not quality leads, or they don’t get the leads that fit their expectations.

The main reason a company doesn’t get the leads they need is that they are not completing the actual process of generating leads correctly. If the process is done correctly, the combination of SEO, PPC and content marketing will bring you the leads that you need.

SEO is the process of improving the ranking of your website, and getting traffic on your site. SEO is not just about ranking and not just about traffic. But it’s all about conversions.

If thousands of visitors come to your website — and not a single visitor becomes a lead — then it’s not a great deal.

The secrets you’ll want to have for your website.

What you want for your website is:

Ranking + Clicks + Conversions

You will want to move toward the best formula for generating leads is as easy as ABC:

A= Attract the Customers
B= Build the Audience
C= Conversions

A= Attract customers.

1) Write a blog.
2.) Target traffic to that blog.

  • First, you’ll want to write three articles of at least 2000 words. Make sure that the article is in your niche and that the writing has to do with your business. Make sure you write well, research your content, and put proper keywords in the article. Have the piece edited.
  • Make sure to have the proper keyword and topic selection for your blog,

Tools for keyword research.
Google Keyword Planner
Answer the Public

  • Second is getting the targeted traffic to your blog. You will want to pull quality traffic to your site.

1.) Social Media Promotion.

Share your blog on targeted social media groups like LinkedIn groups, particular niche facebook groups,
Twitter also helps you to generate instant and quality traffic,
Also Read:

2.) Paid Promotion.

Start PPC campaign for your blog,
By setting the proper research campaign, you gain traffic as we wanted,
And the main thing is that our blog is already well keyword research, so we have also more chances to gain free organic traffic
Here our first task is completed,

B = Build The Audience

Now, after getting traffic to our site our second goal is build the audience who visited our blog, either it is paid audience, either it is free organic audience or either it is the audience that is generated by social promotion,
If you don’t know how to store the data that who visited your blog then you have to refer this official blog

C = Conversations

Now, this is the final task that is getting leads,
After building the audience, it’s time to Provide lead magnet to those who visited your site,

Lead Magnet :

A lead magnet is generally offered free content like ebook, Checklist, Whitepaper, Video, and brochure in exchange for getting users email id’s name and number,

Or We can say that anything that provides the customer to free with the purpose of fill the form and get their details,
Believe me guys the most number of successful company use lead magnet for getting leads,

For providing a lead magnet to your visitors, you perform two activities.

1.) Whenever customer arrived at your blog either your customer come via PPC, wither it comes via Social Media or either they come via organic results. You must show them a popup and show the lead magnets after 40 seconds.

2.) You have to do remarketing (Remarketing is a very very effective technique).
Please refer to this blog written by @Neil Patel for fantastic techniques about how to set a remarketing campaign.

Remarketing helps you to converts your visitors into purchase free lead magnets, It continuously follows your customers until they didn’t purchase your lead magnet. Once your audience starts purchasing, your database is filling up with the quality names, numbers, and emails.

The conversion ratio of this data is too high, because we know this is the audience that comes via an article. They are purchasing our lead magnet means that the audience is interested in our services.

Now you start email marketing.

Now it’s time to sending your business proposals to those people — data (the name, number, and email id) whom you getting by lead magnets. The data generated by the lead magnet is very powerful. The more information you get with the name and number by a lead magnet the more you convert a lead.

If you are CEO, you can share data with your BDE, Lead Generator, or marketing department, and they can easily convert leads by this data. I often call this the 100% genuine technique.

Nowadays most people know how to SEO, PPC, and remarketing. But, try these mixtures and a technique for generating leads.

The post Secret to Getting Leads with Digital Marketing Technology appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 7 Jan 2020 | 11:00 am

Successful Scaling: How to Grow Without Tumbling Back Down

“Breathing would be delightful,” the director of products told me in our kickoff. His startup was growing fast. It had a bunch of new funding, the pressure was on to ship, and the team was underwater. I was there to help and take the pressure off so they could breathe. “Let’s begin to think strategically about the future,” I told them. Here is successful scaling and how to grow without tumbling back down.

Scale is the problem you want — and one many companies never get to experience. It’s a sign of a good team and a good product when you can scale and scale quickly. Ironically, growing can be what destroys you. Your team can lose sight of the goal and group dynamics can get thrown off.

Systems can crack under pressure that they were never designed to support. Leadership will often become frustrated with their teams, wondering why they can’t keep up with the onslaught of new ideas and tasks. Worst of all, confusion can infiltrate your product, impacting the customer experience and even your reputation.

Product Management and UX are more difficult to scale than engineering. Engineering has commonly accepted and uses ratios and patterns for scaling. Product Management and UX trends to add people when it becomes painfully clear the current team is overwhelmed. Then the team hire and onboard new people while doing everything else.

How to Avoid Problems and Implement Successful Scaling

The reality is that scaling looks different for every company and team. Here are some constants that have guided us over the years as we’ve helped grow teams from small strike forces to significant success stories:

Direct the train

Product and UX need to direct a train that is already running. There is little to no appetite at most companies for engineering to slow down so product and UX can figure things out. As simply and often as you can, tell everyone where we’re going, why it matters and what it will look when they are there so they can make decisions without needing detailed documentation. We teach everyone at 3Pillar about the Product Mindset and how we need to build for outcomes like revenue and engagement.

Contain the whack-a-mole effect

Success breeds success – and ideas generate ideas. If things are going well with your company, it’s likely that you’ve had at least a few brainstorming questions, looking to generate new strategies and concepts.

“Hiten Bombs” is what they called at KISSmetrics when founder Hiten Shah dropped new ideas on the team and in a very brave post he wrote about how his ideas blew up progress on the team.

One of the core principles of our Product Mindset is to excel at change. It’s tempting to try and make all these exciting new ideas a reality, but the fact of the matter is that if you listen to everything, you’ll never get anything done. Systematically collect ideas, review them, select the most promising ones – and move on.

Fix your movement patterns

I’ve taught skiers with a chapter of Disabled Sports USA for many years. A skier needs to get down the hill without hurting themselves or others, and they adopt a movement pattern that will get that job done. But it doesn’t mean that it’s efficient or effective as they want to get on harder terrain. My job as an instructor is to understand their goals and how they move and start to replace their old movements with new ones that will help them progress.

The same principle is true of businesses: The patterns that served a small business won’t necessarily serve it well as it scales.  Figure out what habits are holding your team back and forge new ones. It might be awkward at first, but it can save you time, money and talent in the long run.

Create simple rules

There’s a place for the comprehensive, big, bound employee handbook – and, more often than not, it’s in a wiki no one reads. What we need are ways to help our teams use their judgment to make better decisions. Researchers from Stanford found that simple rules help employees make decisions in a world of complexity and change. 

Nine times out of ten, if someone struggles with effective decision-making – whether it’s on dress, hours, remote work or benefits – they need coaching, not a detailed policy. Keeping things simple will keep you nimble as you expand.

Listen carefully to your new hires

It’s hardly conventional wisdom; if anything, new hires are the ones who need to do the listening. But hearing their expectations will give you greater insight into interpersonal dynamics, and listening to their past experiences of what worked and what didn’t could supply you with new approaches and tactics.

Own your day

In the flurry and flutter of change, it’s easy to spend all your energy putting out fires and ensuring that everyone gets through the day intact. Take time – each quarter, each month, each week, each day – to consciously and concretely advance your long-term goals, even if it’s just by a fraction. If our experience shows anything, you won’t be able to do this every day. But on the days you can do it, you’ll feel all the more accomplished and centered on what it is you do and who it is you are.

At the end of the day, if you keep your eye on the big picture, a bigger team can be a stronger team. If you set clear roles and clear expectations for your employees, foster an environment of trust and collaboration through strong leadership and tackle growth step-by-step, you can successfully scale without losing sight of how you got there.

The post Successful Scaling: How to Grow Without Tumbling Back Down appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 6 Jan 2020 | 6:00 pm

WIB Vulnerability: Sim-Card that Allows Hackers to Takeover Phones
sim take over phone

In the past, we’ve all witnessed sim-jacking attacks that allow a hacker to impersonate the targeted victim to steal the phone number. Hackers can gain access to unauthorized information related to the victim using the vulnerability, ‘SimJacker’ was that vulnerability.

Recently there’s a similar vulnerability that has popped up, which uses the same SMS-technology to track users’ devices by exploiting little-known apps that are running on a sim-card.

The new attack namely, WIBattack is similar to Simjacker. Folks at mobile security firm AdaptiveMobile disclosed that attack vector.

Both attacks are similar in the way they work, they even grant access to the same commands. The main difference between the two attacks is the fact that they target different applications running on the sim-card.

Mainly, Simjacker executes commands using the S@T Browser app. Whereas WIBattack sends commands to the Wireless Internet Browser (WIB) application.

Telecommunication companies have both java-applets pre-installed on sims to provide management to customer devices and their mobile subscriptions. Cybersecurity is evolving at a fast pace and AI is being considered to be implemented in it to tackle exploits that humans will have difficulties preventing.

Remote access being insecure is the cause behind the WIB vulnerability, in my opinion. Here are 3 important strategies to protect yourself from cyber threats.

The History Of WIB Attack

AdaptiveMobile, a mobile security firm released a report that disclosed details about a company involved in sending rogue commands to the S@T Browser application running on sim-cards. The company had ties with the government and was executing those commands to track individuals.

Recently a report was published by GinnosLab, that disclosed information about the WIB app being vulnerable to similar attacks. Attackers start by sending a specially formatted binary SMS also known as an OTA SMS to target WIB and S@T applets. The SMS executes sim-toolkit instructions on the device, which grants hackers the ultimate access.

The sim-cards that do not have special security features pre-enabled by the telecommunication companies are vulnerable to those malicious instructions.

The applets installed on the sim-card supports the execution of the following commands:

  • Get location data
  • Start call
  • Send SMS
  • Transmit SS requests
  • Send USSD requests
  • Launch an internet browser with a specific URL
  • Display text on the device
  • Play a tone

According to GinnosLabs, Since the attack is fairly similar to Simjacker, it can be abused to track victims. One of the possibilities of this attack method is that a skilled hacker can start a call and listen to nearby conversations which can get quite scary if you think about it.

Exploitation After Gaining Persistence

If the hacker establishes persistence and exploits the vulnerability, then things go downhill faster. The hacker can execute social engineering attacks using the victim’s vulnerable sim-card. For instance, phishing links can be forwarded to the victim’s contact list causing small-scale personal data breaches unless the victim is an important personality, the effects can be major.

It is essential for anyone working towards data security and privacy to be aware of the different types of data breaches. Knowing the enemy is the first step in retaliating. The fact that technology has progressed so far also means the attack vectors are also adapting and evolving.

Phishing is one of the attacks, hackers can execute overtime after they establish persistence. Human-generated phishing links are the past now. AI-generated phishing techniques are the future and are more dangerous. Not only that there are many cyber threats emerging rapidly that can completely change your perspective on what’s secure and what’s not.

What Is Over The Air (OTA) Technology?

Since this vulnerability utilizes “Over The Air” technology, it is essential for us to know what it is and how it works. Telecommunication companies use OTA technology to download, manage and modify the data on sim-cards without being physically connected to it. In other words, remotely.

It enables a network operator to introduce new services or modify existing ones in a cost-effective manner. It uses the client-server architecture where your sim-card serves as the client and the operator’s back-end system serves as the server which might include:

  • Customer care services
  • Billing system
  • Application system

How Does OTA Work?

The operator’s back-end system is responsible to send service requests through an OTA gateway. The OTA gateway converts the requests into Short Messages that are transmitted through a Short Message Service Center (SMSC). It is responsible to circulate the messages to one or more sim-cards in the field.

Proving the point that OTA doesn’t require you to commute to a retail outlet to modify something on your sim-card.

The components required to implement OTA technology are listed below:

  • A backend system to process and send requests.
  • An OTA gateway that converts the requests in a suitable format for the sim-card to understand.
  • An SMSC to send requests through a wireless network.
  • A bearer to transport the request, in this case, it’s the SMS-technology.
  • Mobile equipment to receive the request and pass it on to the sim-card.
  • A sim-card to receive and execute the current request.

OTA SMS can be transmitted from peer-to-peer. In simple words, from one mobile subscriber to another.

What Would Be A Typical Attack Scenario?

Knowing how a hacker would attack your system is essential to counter it. Here’s how a typical hacker would execute this attack to exploit vulnerabilities on your sim-card.

The “Wireless Internet Browser” (WIB) is the leading sim-based browser that provides a menu that can be managed or updated using OTA technology.

The attack starts with an SMS sent from the attacker’s device to the victim’s mobile phone. The message is a malicious OTA SMS that contains WIB commands.

Once the victim receives the OTA SMS with the WIB commands. The WIB browser receives the transmitted commands on the victim’s phone. WIB responds to the requests made in that malicious SMS and sends back a proactive command such as initiating a call, sending SMS, etc.

Attackers can execute other commands that can track your location geographically.

How Many Devices Were Caught In This Vulnerability? 

SRLabs the veterans in mobile and telecom security developed two applications, one for desktop and the other for mobile to tackle this situation.

The apps being SimTester and SnoopSnitch. The first one being the desktop application and the other one being the Android application. To test if you are vulnerable, you need to have a rooted phone.

Researchers used telemetry from both applications to analyze the extent of SimJacker and WIBattack vulnerabilities. They managed to gain data from 800 sim-cards globally. The results are fairly good because telecommunications companies are now shipping sim-cards that do not have the vulnerable applets running on them.

The statistics provided by SRlabs are as follows:

  • 4% of the tested sim-cards had the S@T applet installed.
  • 5.6% of total sim-cards were vulnerable to SimJacker. The cause being security levels set to 0.
  • 7% had the WIB applet installed.
  • 3.5% of sim-cards were vulnerable to the WIB Attack.
  • 9.1% of the total sim-cards tested were either vulnerable to S@T Attack or WIB Attack.

Data of 500,000 users that installed SnoopSnitch revealed that only a few number of people received those malicious OTA SMS’es.

Important Countermeasures to Be Aware Of

It is important to have information about the attack vectors but the process doesn’t end there. If only knowing about the attack protected you from the negative effects, you wouldn’t need cybersecurity experts.

Knowing the problem is one half of the picture. The other half is knowing how to counter it or mitigate its effects properly. Here’s what you can do if you’re dealing with an insecure sim-card.

There are two ways to look at this problem, one is from the perspective of the network operator. The other is the perspective of the end-user.

For network operators, it is essential to deploy relevant solutions to tackle this problem. Some of the solutions may include, replacing the vulnerable sim-cards to give the end-user 100% security. Another solution that might be worth looking into is filtering OTA SMS’s.

As far as the subscriber is concerned, if the sim-card that the subscriber is using is vulnerable. The best thing to do is to replace the sim-card and invest in a few bucks to ensure 100% security, it’s because if you go roaming to other networks, your network provider won’t be able to ensure your security.

How Does The Vulnerability Affect You?

The question that comes up to the surface is how does it affect an average consumer? Well, It can be labelled as the invasion of privacy, data breach, and spying.

WIB browser executes commands that can easily provide enough information about the target’s surroundings, its location and even about the device he’s using.

The WIB browser vulnerability is as scary as it seems. Imagine talking to your friend but someone’s eavesdropping on your conversation. The exploit can be used to gain intel and possibly be used to harm people if not completely taken care of.

It seems like the movies, where the hacker can practically track everything that you do. It is true, nobody leaves their home without their phone. People are too dependent on gadgets and that dependency is capable of harming them.

Final Thoughts

The WIB attack is fairly similar to SimJacker. Both of these attacks are capable of executing the same kind of commands, the only major difference is the apps that they exploit. GinnosLab reported the vulnerability to the GSM association.

No need to be concerned about being vulnerable. The sim-cards in the market do not have the vulnerable applets anymore. If you want to test your sim-card you can utilize any of the listed applications above.

Not to mention, that data security is important in any aspect of technology. The details of the vulnerability were declared this year. It is essential to take the proper countermeasures so that you are not the victim of such attacks.

The post WIB Vulnerability: Sim-Card that Allows Hackers to Takeover Phones appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 6 Jan 2020 | 5:00 pm

6 Industries Blockchain Technology Will Revolutionize

In line with new evolving computer technologies, a lot of issues previously found complicated are now seen as an easygoing task, for example, e-commerce, contactless payment, secured online transactions, and ride-hailing. All thanks to blockchain, a new technology that massively revitalized all-around sectors, equipping the financial industry with enhanced solutions with less or no additional fees.

Kicking off as the underlying technology of digital currencies such as Bitcoin (BTC), blockchain technology has interestingly gone far beyond the concept of serving as a public transaction ledger, to affecting the way we pay, play and work.

Blockchain is an open, distributed ledger that efficiently keeps records of transactions permanently.

“BlockChain,” as it was initially called, constitutes a growing list of records known as blocks, which are linked using cryptography. In a simpler term, Each block holds data either about financial transactions, voting results, contracts, medical reports, trades, and so on, within blockchain network in cryptographic form. The blocks are usually interconnected and lined up in a chain to create a new block.

The idea allows for the distribution of digital information that cannot be copied, thereby creating a foundation for a new type of internet.

While the technical communities around the world are seeking other potential applications of this technology, blockchain has already ignited changes.

While there are nonobvious industries that blockchain will likely affect, we will highlight in this article, how blockchain-based technical solutions can enhance operational systems in sectors such as:

  • eCommerce
  • Finance
  • Government Administration
  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Agriculture

1. Blockchain in eCommerce

With blockchain being heralded as the foundation of Web 3.0, it would not be wrong to expect that the innovative technology has as much impact on the multi-trillion eCommerce industry as the internet had on commerce in general.

Among other possible applications, blockchain technology could revolutionize eCommerce by:

  • Simplifying payments
  • Monitoring the supply chain
  • Introducing decentralized marketplaces.

Payments and Loyalty Rewards

Adopting cryptocurrencies (an offshoot of blockchain technology) can allow a merchant to receive payments in real-time. There is no need for a middleman such as banks or expensive payment processors, while also serving an international audience.

Crypto payment processors like BitPay or BTCPay typically charge a 1% fee for helping merchants collect cryptocurrencies with the option to receive the fiat equivalent in their bank accounts or crypto in their wallets.

Although cryptocurrencies fluctuate in value and as such could decline massively in the space of a few minutes, other variants such as Tether (USDT) and Circle (USDC) are stablecoins and could help merchants accept payments seamlessly.

Meanwhile, the use of tokens issued on a blockchain can revolutionize the idea of reward loyal customers more transparently. For instance, customers who purchase a specific number of items monthly could receive tokens that can be redeemed for other products or invitations to local events.

Supply Chain Monitoring

Many of the largest retailers and commercial banks, including the U.K based Lloyds Bank has adopted blockchain-based solutions to monitor supply chain in trade finance.

The use of blockchain helps merchants eliminate paper and manual work while also keeping an eye on their shipments as they travel across the world, to the doorstop or port of the recipient.

Decentralized Marketplaces

A blockchain-powered decentralized marketplace is the modernized version of P2P eCommerce sites, with the primary difference being that a single cryptocurrency could serve as the unit of payment.

In other cases, members of the network could stake cryptocurrencies to receive rewards or serve as judges on rare occasions where two transacting parties cannot reach consensus regarding a sale.

2. Blockchain in Finance

Recent advances in blockchain opened up several arrays of decentralized and distributed systems, notably revolutionizing fintech and the capital market.

For instance, several processes involved in the financial institutions have dramatically improved by DLT, resulting in security, speed of transactions, and simplicity. Famous U.S bank JP Morgan Chase recently created a cryptocurrency to enhance its internal operations.

On another hand, it is fair to note that the current capital markets infrastructure is relatively expensive, slow and often requires more intermediaries. Although the bureaucratic nature complicates the performance and receiving of financial services, the concept of DLT holds solutions to this problem.

Following the advent of crypto tokens as a tool for raising capital in 2017, the market has mostly evolved to allow businesses to raise money by distributing blockchain-based tokens (security tokens) representing the investor’s ownership in the company.

According to a report from industry researcher, BlockState, 64 companies that used this method raised nearly $1 billion between the start of the year and July, meaning that there is potential for more adoption of this funding mechanism.

3. Blockchain in Government Administration

Looking at the cross-cutting potential of blockchain — the technology has moved from relative obscurity to mainstream adoption in the governmental sector, from the improvement of public services to the resolving of political issues like the storage of voting records.

One good thing about this technology is that the public sector organizations and governments all over the world now acknowledge the transformative advantage of blockchain to do away with antiquated processes and legacy systems and instead achieve responsive structures.

While we continue to note a growing number of potential public sector blockchain applications, a few hundreds of leaders in government are reportedly joining several blockchain groups. These groups include the General Services Administration’s (GSA) blockchain working group, to share use cases and best practices.

Governments are incorporating blockchain to build trust with her citizens, following an attribute of blockchain-based solutions, accounting for transparency through decentralization. The idea enables participating parties to see and verify data too.

Launching a blockchain solution for the citizen services will trigger independent verification of legal claims.

The governments of Estonia, Sweden, and Georgia are conducting a test on blockchain-based land registries, allowing different parties to hold copies of the record securely.

This model of sharing access to records helps in addressing property disputes and potentially decrease distrust while promoting the trust between the citizens of a country and the government.

Deploying this technology helps to protect sensitive data in governmental departments. The fact that governments exist as a default record keeper for the country makes them a prime target for hackers.

In 2017 alone, Bloom reported that 143 million different personal data such as full names, birthdays, driver’s license numbers were exposed aside from other significant major data breaches through the years.

data breaches
Major data breaches throughout the years.

Instead of accepting such breach from hackers, the issue can rightly be resolved through the responsible integration of blockchain data structures. Blockchain supports data structures that harden network security, reduce single-point-of-failure risk, and renders any attempts to have the info prohibitively challenging.

According to a statement from Doughlas Maughan, an official of the U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “blockchain technologies have the potential to revolutionize the way we manage online identity and access the internet; this R&D project will help bring this potential closer to reality.”

4. Blockchain in Healthcare

The fact that blockchain much works as a tool in securing and saving patients’ confidential data, cannot be overemphasized. The possibilities for the application of the technology in different hospitals, clinics, the laboratory has begun to be tested across various pilot projects around the world.

In 2018, Booz Allen Hamilton Consulting, based in the United States, implemented a blockchain-supported pilot platform, which aims at assisting the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Translational Sciences to learn possible ways blockchain can be applied in the healthcare data management.

The pilot project uses Ethereum to manage data access through VPNs, and it is currently being operated at four major hospitals. The plan reduces data duplication from off-chain cloud components by using a cryptographic algorithm to enable user sharing.

This finding indicates that the latest digital platforms supported by blockchains are rapidly emerging, not just for the government and financial institutions only, but for healthcare as well, as it enables a fast and seamless interaction amongst data providers, including the patients.

Decentralized applications (DApps), as well as distributed apps built on the blockchain platforms, allows patients and physicians to easily participate in telemedicine without paying for a middleman costs except for the minimal charges of the Ethereum network. This idea allows for the empowerment of patients.

The fact that maintaining a typical healthcare Information system comprises several advanced operations such as performing backup storage services, ensuring up-to-date fields, and having recovery mechanisms in place, is the fundamental reason for the application of blockchain in the healthcare sector.

In a blockchain, there is no point of failure that can lead to an inherent backup mechanism, giving that data are distributed across the network. Also, each version of data is usually copied on every node of the blockchain.

This effort mitigates the burden on the healthcare ecosystems by reducing the volume of transactions that occur between any information system.

Thus, with the progress of healthcare institutions in the cloud healthcare data storage, patient data privacy protection regulations. Electronic health-related data gathering, opportunities are automatically popping up for daily health data management, allowing for easy access and sharing of patients’ health data.

5. Blockchain in Education

Education is another sector that is just as important as finance and healthcare, although there are lots of areas in this sector that could be enhanced using the technology.

Having a closer look at other industries that currently use blockchain technology, one can give a distinct prediction on how these networks could be used in the educational sector. However, it is also worthy to note that blockchain use in the education setting is still very new and unexplored.

Nonetheless, tremendous progress has already been made from little participation in this technology. Nowadays, blockchain solutions are deployed in simplifying the process of document verification in schools, e.g., Californian Holberton School and other institutions are considering the implementation of the network too.

The Russian platform Disciplina is arguably the first institution to harness the power of blockchain technology on the purpose of education and recruiting. One of the Disciplina applications dubbed TeachMePlease is considered a higher education marketplace that unites teachers and students.

Further, since technology makes it easier to keep track of and store information, schools can test the possibility of deploying blockchain to enhance Information services and libraries in schools.

Blockchain-based ride-sharing applications can also be utilized to arrange carpools for any students with special needs. This takes off the burden of parents or guardians, ensuring that their children get safe transportation since roadways are getting more congested.

Moving away from providing more security for humans, the verification of student records is becoming a significant problem on college campuses, even after students leave the school for work, due to existing vulnerabilities.

Data breaches on schools are mostly directed on student records, wherein the stolen pieces of information are used in creating fake identities by hackers.

To solve this problem, employing blockchain security protocols in the protection of school records renders such attacks on credentials near impossible. As a lot of schools are currently going digital, from kindergarten to university, harnessing blockchain is an unarguably essential tool in ensuring the student’s privacy.

With blockchain, verification of students’ credentials is made easy. As blockchain stores that information in a secure ledger, employers can detect whether the potential candidates have the qualifications stated on their resume before the students can enter the workforce.

6. Blockchain in Agriculture

Farming consists of complicated ecosystems, with a lot of moving parts, seasonal financing structures, as well as careful timing. Once a product leaves the farm to the market, it automatically becomes a part of the vast supply chain that involves a lot of intermediaries.

It becomes so much easier for people to know where the food has been produced through the concept of Blockchain Agriculture. The application of blockchain calls for transparent execution and tracking of pieces of information while making the process of growing and supplying food simpler.

The idea for the blockchain agriculture supply chain feeds all the parties involved with a single source of truth.

A blockchain pilot project financed by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality called “Blockchain for Agrifood,” indicates that the technology allowed for the tracking of farm produces, right from the farm to grocery stores in a moment.

Another compelling use case of the technology is to help keep tabs on abundant commodities on the farm and mitigate the case of shipping fraud and illegal harvesting.

According to data released by the United Nations, food frauds cost the world economy a whopping amount of $40 billion yearly due to illicit trades that the use of blockchain could have significantly reduced.

On a final note, while it is true that most of the blockchain use cases that we’ve mentioned so far only exist theoretically, the level of industry growth that we’ve seen in the last decade raises confidence that the technology will outlive the hype and truly become the foundation for Web 3.0

Yes, with global blockchain revenue expected to hit a conservative $23.3 billion by 2023, one can only help but envisage how widespread the technology will become in the next few years.

The post 6 Industries Blockchain Technology Will Revolutionize appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 6 Jan 2020 | 4:00 pm

4 Unique Growth Tactics for 2020
growth tactics

Marketing tactics change constantly. Each year new tactics become more impactful, and old ones fade into obscurity. Sticking to the same tactics is stale for your current customers and potential customers, too. Instead of just running the same growth tactics for years on end, it’s time to make a switch in 2020. Here are four unique growth tactics you can implement in 2020 to help you make the switch to growth.

1. Optimize Your Sales Pipeline For Engagement

Having a sales pipeline is nothing new. And you probably have a great one in place already. But there is always room for improvement. A significant issue I see in many sales pipelines is a failure to communicate effectively with prospects.

If you have great leads, you need to engage with them to build a relationship consistently.

As Gaetano Dinardi from Nextiva says:

“Engagement is the number one spot that most fall short in closing sales. Whether it’s poor timing on the engagement or simply not enough, engagement literally will make or break your sales. Within your CRM, ensure you are setting up reminders and checking outreach logs to engage often and with better accuracy.” 

Gaetano hits the nail on the head here. Engaging at the right time is just as critical as the amount you engage.

Many fail to engage in fear of “annoying” their prospects or being too intrusive. But engaging doesn’t have to be a sales pitch every single time. It can be as much as asking how you can help, noticing new solutions to their problems, or checking in.

A great way to increase engagement is to vary your engagement style. If customers aren’t receptive to email messages, try engaging them on a new platform, like social media, or SMS.

SMS has become one of my favorite ways to engage prospects throughout the sales funnel. It taps into the idea of conversational marketing, which has proven to be high-converting.

Here are some amazing example texts you can use to engage prospects in your funnel:

  • Hey __, I think this article on social amplification would be a great fit for your (insert pain point).
  • Hey __, I hope the holidays are going well. Did you find a fix for (insert problem they were facing)? If not, I think I have a few solutions.

Once you have scheduled SMS texts in your pipeline, you can start developing other ways to engage prospects for unrivaled growth.

Speaking of more engagement tactics, let’s jump into personalized landing page campaigns.

2. Run Personalized Landing Page Campaigns

Personalization is and will always be a stellar growth tactic. The more you can personalize (to an extent), the better. Your personalized campaigns, web pages, ad copy, are all fantastic ways to speak directly to your target market.

Rather than spinning up generic campaigns, personalized ones convert at higher rates. Why? The answer is because personalized campaigns help you speak directly to pain points, rather than using generalizations.

For example, which one of these value propositions sounds more impactful when speaking to students?

  • Using our calendar scheduling tool, you will never miss an appointment
  • Using our calendar scheduling tool, you can ensure that you find the time to meet with your professors that fits both of your busy schedules.

The answer is number two. Personalization is currently critical and will continue to be in 2020. But, how can you take it to the next level and create unique experiences for your potential clients to help you grow? By building personalized landing page campaigns.

What’s is a personal landing page?

Essentially, personalized landing page campaigns are used to sell to more premium and high-value target accounts in addition to specific niche segments. For example, if you wanted to land Microsoft as a client, you’d spin up a dedicated, personalized page for them on your site. Conversely, for less distinct target segments, you can still personalize landing pages.

Let me show you what a personal landing page looks like in action.

Take a look at this landing page from MailChimp: 

What do you notice? 

It’s not their standard homepage. Instead, it’s a near replica of its website homepage, just targeted via copywriting and images to focus on startups. Instead of generic copywriting and headlines, they focus the value proposition to startups. A value proposition is how you can convert at higher rates.

Compare the landing page to their homepage: 

Not much changed besides the copywriting and images. 

So, how is Mailchimp doing this at scale?

One of the best options (and my personal favorite) is to use website builders.

Why? Simply put — they are cheap, easy to use, and help you scale this for multiple targets or segments.

The folks over at Website Setup published a study where they mentioned some average costs:

“Building a good custom website could easily cost $2000 (on the low end). Making changes to the website can still require a freelance designer and a webmaster to help you continually update your site (read: you need to spend additional $$$).” 

Case and point: website builders are faster, much cheaper, and perfectly suited for this type of growth tactic.

The only problem is: which website builder do you choose?

There are currently dozens and dozens of website building platforms with different costs, tools, usability, skill level, and ratings. There’s a great breakdown of the best ones on Website Setup:

Pick one website builder that matches your price range and usability. Remember: you want to scale these pages fast and with templates / drag-and-drop. Look through the top building tools and pick one that allows you to do what you want to within your price range and usability.

You don’t need custom development to get the job done. When trying to close deals with major client accounts, you need to be able to run personalized pages fast. Going back and forth with a developer is usually far from fast.

Instead, implement a website builder and get the job done fast.

3. Build Authority Faster By Being a Journalist Source

Building brand authority is a growth tactic in and of itself. Without a brand name and social proof, growth can be extremely slow. When you think of inbound marketing, what comes to mind? HubSpot? That’s branding.

Branding helps you attract new customers by setting yourself apart from the competition, showcasing that your brand is the right choice.

One of the fastest ways to do your branding is by becoming a source for journalists. What does that mean? Essentially, you provide tidbits of information to help improve articles for journalists.

It often comes in the form of quotes and advice. For instance, take a look at this post from Incredo on SaaS Christmas marketing:

Many experts contribute their opinions and information to the article, helping both the journalist and their own brands. 

Thankfully, doing this is extremely easy, and it’s one of my favorite PR hacks.

Create a free account with HARO (Help a Reporter Out). HARO is a service that journalists use to list their article topics and what they need from experts, whether that be quotes, advice, or more. Once you sign up with HARO and create your account, you can decide which niches to get notified about.

If you want to contribute to general business, marketing, finance, health, etc. You can select specific segments. 

Each day you will receive emails listing out journalists who are looking for quotes:

Many of the journalists using HARO are writing for significant publications, too. For example, take a look at this query from a journalist at FastCompany:

Typically, cold emails to journalists at huge publications like FastCompany would result in deleted or ignored emails. But utilizing HARO, you can share your expertise and showcase your brand to potentially millions of monthly readers. With most contributions, you will also earn a link back to your website, driving direct referral traffic that converts.

In 2020, start focusing heavily on building more brand awareness. It’s one of the driving forces of purchase decisions.

4. Diversify Your Content Marketing Formats

Content is king. We all know this and experience it daily when searching for solutions on Google. Content is both useful and enjoyable to consume for business and pleasure. Everyone seems to be blogging and writing new content to drive organic traffic that converts. The problem is: blog content is often not unique for the majority of people producing it.

Millions of blog posts are published every single day, making them a common growth tactic. But in 2020, content is shifting from just written content to two more unique formats:

Podcasts and videos.

While blog posts garner just 15 seconds of attention on average, people are watching hours of video content and listening to hours more of podcast content daily. Now is the time to branch out into more than just keyword-driven blog content. Platforms like Spotify and Apple Music are goldmines for organic traffic and brand awareness.

Currently, there are nearly 100 categories on Apple for podcasts, let alone Spotify, SoundCloud, and other services.

(Image Source)

Any and every business can develop interesting podcast content that is easily digestible, driving more organic visits, brand awareness, and more. Don’t know what to talk about on a podcast? Or how to market your podcast?
Start by looking at your blog and analyzing the latest posts you have written:

For example, looking at the ReadWrite blog, I already notice multiple blog topics that can be repurposed into topics for a podcast.

  • Why Productivity and Customer Experience go Hand in Hand
  • Digital marketing in the government sector

If there is a category for your niche on Apple podcasts, there are eager listeners waiting for you to deliver stellar content.


If you want to grow your business in 2020, repeating the same overused tactics isn’t your best bet. While you can still hammer home the fundamentals — there are plenty of unique growth tactics at your disposal.

Implement these four unique growth tactics in the coming year for improved growth and success.

What are some of your favorite unique growth tactics? Which have had the biggest impacts?

The post 4 Unique Growth Tactics for 2020 appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 6 Jan 2020 | 2:00 pm

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Facebook tests paid video subscriptions, starting with CollegeHumor
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Project Athena gets its own version of the 'Intel Inside' badge
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Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 9:00 am

Google puts playable podcast episodes in Search
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