Between the 24-hour news cycle and binging Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why, we could all use a little break. May we suggest the humble puzzle as a way to distract from the hell hole that is Twitter and cable news?
If you're looking to add a bit more mindfulness into your life, puzzles are a great way to kick back and relax while still exercising your right brain. And we're not just talking about the jigsaw variety (so 2017).
These Wood Trick DIY Mechanical 3D Puzzles provide hours of mental stimulation, calling upon your imagination, spatial reasoning, motor skills, and tactile sensitivity. They’re all made from renewable wood without added toxins or glues, so they make for an extremely eco-conscious hobby. Plus, you’ll have a beautiful piece of functional art to display when you’ve completed one. Read more...More about Puzzle, Mashable Shopping, Shopping Stackcommerce, Shopping Solo, and Tech
Source: Mashable | 27 May 2018 | 6:00 am
To the uninitiated, API stands for Application Programming Interface. Technical jargon aside, it's basically a set of codes commercial sites permit others to borrow, allowing them to use it however they want. Take Twitter, for example: You don't imagine them exposing the entirety of their code (aka inner workings) to the public, do you? Still, they want others to incorporate or make use of their service to build applications. Hence, they supply an API. By doing so, they're essentially enabling their platform to work and interact seamlessly with other products.
If you're a developer, product manager, or just someone who wants to break into the field, you should have extensive knowledge of APIs. APIs are rapidly becoming the building blocks of the web, allowing companies to provide a better customer experience to their users. If you don't know where to start, the Complete API Mastery Bundle can school you on what you need to know. Read more...More about Web Development, Api, Mashable Shopping, Shopping Stackcommerce, and Shopping Solo
Source: Mashable | 27 May 2018 | 6:00 am
Today, we use the internet to find everything – new restaurants and bars, the closest movie theater, and the most efficient route to our friends’ houses. Finding health information and researching health care providers is no different, and that includes finding the closest provider for abortion care. But unlike many other health care services, where a Google search will produce a multitude of local options, people logging on to try to find an abortion provider are met with a harsh reality: In order to reach the closest abortion clinic, they may need to travel hundreds of miles.
Source: Mashable | 27 May 2018 | 6:00 am
Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 27 May 2018 | 1:23 am
Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 26 May 2018 | 11:11 pm
Earlier this year, in a small, grey-walled storefront inside a very large mall in Torrance, Calif. (just past the AMC Center) , the virtual reality game-maker Survios planted its first flag in the market for location-based gaming.
It’s one of several companies (many based in Los Angeles) that are turning the city into a hub for anyone looking to experience the thrill of immersive gaming.
While Survios’ offering is more akin to the virtual arcades cropping up in cities across the country and around the world (including Dubai, New York, Seoul, and Tokyo), other companies like the Los Angeles-based Two Bit Circus and Lindon, Utah’s The Void are creating site specific game experiences that promise a different kind of approach to virtual reality.
For Survios and other companies that have placed multi-million dollar bets on the viability of virtual reality, the move to location-based gaming isn’t a matter of choice. It’s a matter of survival thanks to the persistent lack of demand from consumers.
Sales of head-mounted displays began to climb out of their doldrums late last year, and are expected to surpass 1.5 million head mounted displays sold in 2018, according to data from Canalys. But that’s still a far smaller market than the 10 million game consoles that were sold in the U.S. alone in 2017 (not to mention the roughly 32 million consoles sold at the market’s peak in 2008), according data on the Statista website.
The benefits of location-based experiences are clear. The cost of premium headsets and gaming systems prohibit most U.S. households from getting the gear in their hands and until those costs come down, out-of-home experiences provide the best way to get consumers comfortable with the technology.
And one that VRWorld brought (with much fanfare) to virtual reality in the U.S. with the debut of its three-floor gaming hub near the Empire State Building in the heart of New York.
That experience, a more extravagant investment than Survios’ humble multi-bay storefront, was one of the first in the U.S. to commit to the sensory overload that is virtual reality. By 2018, New York was home to at least seven virtual reality spaces where users could experience the technology, according to The New York Times.
And while it’s hard to recreate a truly immersive, mobile game experience in the home, the ability to access cinematic quality production values, a physical space purpose-built for immersive game play, and the intellectual property of some of Hollywood’s most enduring brands (like The Void’s Star Wars experience) can make for a compelling pitch to consumers.
That’s the hope of people like Nancy Bennett, an entertainment industry veteran who was brought on as the Chief Creative Officer at Two Bit Circus.
“What’s cool about VR and a differentiator of the medium is that it gives you embodiment,” Bennett says. “There’s no other medium that does that.”
Bennett knows a thing or two about entertainment. A producer with MTV Networks, the founder of the collaborative game development platform Squarepushers Inc. and a celebrated creator of virtual reality projects for the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, Bennett won the Lumiere award for best music VR experience for her work on the “One At a Time” video for Alex Aiono.
From haptic platforms and motion floors that simulate the ability to walk around a space, the location based experience will offer a more fully immersive platform that can lend itself to more interesting narratives, says Bennett.
For Bennett, the vision of a place like Two Bit Circus, or the experiences on offer from other location based platforms are about the combination of narrative and technology in a way that can provide verisimilitude to someone strapped into a headset.
She, and others in the location-based community, look to immersive theater like Sleep No More as a model for how to proceed. “Immersive theater is absolutely the platform that will help drag us along,” Bennett says.
At Two Bit Circus, which raised $15 million from investors last January, virtual reality will be about 20% of the experiences on offer. The company’s inaugural space in Los Angeles will also avail itself of projection mapping, augmented reality and other ways to immerse and entertain, Bennett promises.
But immersion will be at the heart of it all, she said. “Those kinds of mixed immersive experiences are going to be de rigueur,” according to Bennett. “And locations are going to be the only places where you can pull that off.”
Bennett sees the industry offering different tiers of immersive entertainment. With virtual reality arcades like Survios’ in Torrance operating on one level and more highly immersive experiences like The Void and Baobab Studios operating on another.
It’s one reason why companies like Cinemark have announced that they’re working with The Void and other immersive, location-based virtual reality companies to create experiences in their theaters.
“Really it’s about what serves the creative goal,” says Bennett. “What I think is really cool is the opportunity to mash up the fast prototyping of the community into one space to get people to play. It isn’t just VR. There’s also new forms of play and arcades that are possible and interactive audience participation for content creation.”
Even with the wow-factor of the experience, it may not be enough to buck industry trends. IMAX was one of the first companies to carve out immersive virtual reality spaces in its theaters, but given its woeful performance in the first quarter of 2018, those efforts are now on hold, according to it chief executive Richard Gelfond.
“At this time, we do not anticipate opening additional VR centers, or making a meaningful future investments in the initiative,” he told analysts during the company’s first quarter earnings call.
It’s a dramatic change for a company that was touting its entrance into the location based market just a year earlier.
IMAX’s stumble belies the international success of location-based gaming. In this, Asia leads the way with virtual reality outposts like the Viveland theme park in China. An existing infrastructure of internet cafes meant that Asian gaming hubs could just throw virtual reality hardware into their mix of offerings and continue to attract an audience.
Meanwhile, companies in the U.S. need to depend on purpose built spaces for virtual reality gaming thanks to the dominance of in-home gaming consoles (which overtook arcade gaming at least a decade ago). The lack of similar out-of-home spaces led to IMAX deciding to set up their own experiences — and other movie theaters and amusement parks following suit.
And there’s still the chance that in-home virtual reality will be able to pick up the pace and boost adoption more quickly than the market expects.
Analysts for the industry tracker Canalys forecast that the industry will sell nearly 10 million units in 2021, on par with the (shrinking) console market. Standalone virtual reality headsets are expected to push the market to 7.6 million units sold by the end of 2018, according to Canalys.
Still, for the immediate future, for those looking to get the full benefit of a virtual reality experience, their best bet is to find the nearest Void experience and battle some storm troopers, check out an arcade, or wait for the unveiling of Two Bit Circus’ first facility later this year.
Source: TechCrunch | 26 May 2018 | 10:08 pm
Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 26 May 2018 | 9:29 pm
Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 26 May 2018 | 8:02 pm
Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 26 May 2018 | 6:31 pm
Nowadays, it takes a lot for Americans to become incensed about Trump's tweets. We need at least one World War threat or nuclear weapon tangent to wake up and realize we're seconds away from doomsday.
The President still has that magical ability to completely eviscerate our joy. Take Saturday's tweet, where Trump — in one of his worst lies yet — had the audacity to complain that Democrats were responsible for separating parents from their children at the border.
"Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there parents once they cross the Border into the U.S. Catch and Release, Lottery and Chain must also go with it and we MUST continue building the WALL! DEMOCRATS ARE PROTECTING MS-13 THUGS," Trump wrote. Read more...More about Watercooler, Immigration, Trump Tweets, Culture, and Politics
Source: Mashable | 26 May 2018 | 6:22 pm
Folarin Falana, better known as the Nigerian rapper Falz, did something with Childish Gambino's incisive "This Is America" music video that no one else has managed: He deconstructed it and rebuilt it for his home audience.
"This Is America" presents a picture of life in modern-day black America, with a heavy lean toward symbolism and subtext. As a piece of music, it's fine; as a short film casting a spotlight on what oppression looks like in 2018, it's a brilliant, essential work.
I can't personally speak to what daily life in Nigeria looks like, but Falz's lyrics offer a starting point for further reading. As OkayAfrica points out, he touches on "everything from the government's sluggish response to the missing Chibok Girls, the drug epidemic affecting Nigerian youth, widespread consumerism, the country's infamous Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), internet fraud, crooked pastors, Fulani herdsmen and even Big Brother Nigeria." Read more...More about Entertainment, Music, Nigeria, Childish Gambino, and This Is America
Source: Mashable | 26 May 2018 | 5:58 pm
Starbucks is planning to have multiple special guests appear in a racial bias training video on Tuesday, among them celebrated socially conscious rapper Common.
The chain will be shutting down 8,000 stores on May 29th for an anti-bias training.
Common is described in a video preview of the day's events as one of Starbucks' "guides." He explains that he'll be participating — where and how isn't clear — in order to help people "see each other fully, completely, respectfully."
Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP; as well as Heather McGhee, a representative from liberal thinktank Demos; and Brian Stevenson, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Foundation, have all consulted on the day's curricula. Read more...More about Watercooler, Starbucks, Bias, Culture, and Activism
Source: Mashable | 26 May 2018 | 5:27 pm
Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 26 May 2018 | 4:59 pm
A few years ago, every movie studio wanted the next Bridesmaids. Last year they chased the success of Rough Night and Girls Trip. Netflix's Ibiza will be compared to all three, but it also reveals the secret: There will never be enough of these movies.
Directed by Alex Richanbach, Ibiza is a welcome newbie in this movie tradition, ostensibly with nothing new to bring to the table. But three excellent leads with effortless chemistry and a hilarious script make it the perfect friend-caper-slash-rom-com to start your summer.Entertainment, Movies, Netflix, Comedy, and Phoebe Robinson
Source: Mashable | 26 May 2018 | 4:42 pm
After an outcry among fans following Syfy’s discontinuation of the series on its network, The Expanse will be getting a fourth season on Amazon Prime after an announcement from Jeff Bezos.
Bezos revealed the news at the International Space Development Conference where members of the show’s cast were amongst those in the audience.
— Cas Anvar (@Casanvar) May 26, 2018
The show based on the book series by James S.A. Corey is currently in its third season on the Syfy network. The critically-acclaimed political conspiracy series set in a colonized solar system of the future has been heralded as one of the network’s best but it couldn’t find high ratings on Syfy, leaving Alcon Entertainment to begin shopping the show around to different networks earlier this month to find a home for the fourth season.
Amazon will certainly bring a wider audience to the show, and with Amazon still trailing Netflix in terms of original content, bringing over a big fanbase is beneficial to the company’s video streaming platform as well.
Source: TechCrunch | 26 May 2018 | 3:39 pm
Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 26 May 2018 | 3:30 pm
Recently, celebrities accused of sexual misconduct have started to issue a new kind of defense: at least they didn't commit sexual assault.
Morgan Freeman adopted that reasoning for his second apology this weekend, after eight women accused him of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior, according to a CNN investigation. Freeman has additionally bemoaned the effect the allegations would have on his "80 year career."
"All victims of assault and harassment deserve to be heard. And we need to listen to them. But it is not right to equate horrific incidents of sexual assault with misplaced compliments or humor," Freeman wrote in his statement. Read more...More about Watercooler, Sexual Harassment, Morgan Freeman, Culture, and Celebrities
Source: Mashable | 26 May 2018 | 2:54 pm
Did Elon Musk secretly make this video game?
A simple, new browser game from called MTA Country (from Everyday Arcade) offers a very pro-business solution for fixing New York City's beleaguered subway system: Hand its management over to private interests.
The game, which plays like a subway-themed, side-scrolling endless runner, quite literally spells that out as you play. As you guide a single subway car along on a length of track, you collect old, now defunct subway tokens as well as a series of letters that, together, spell out "PRIVATIZE." Read more...More about Entertainment, Gaming, New York City, New York City Subways, and Mta Country
Source: Mashable | 26 May 2018 | 2:46 pm
Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 26 May 2018 | 1:58 pm
CEOs of funded startups tend to be a well-educated bunch, at least when it comes to university degrees.
Yes, it’s true college dropouts like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates can still do well. But Crunchbase data shows that most startup chief executives have an advanced degree, commonly from a well-known and prestigious university.
Earlier this month, Crunchbase News looked at U.S. universities with strong track records for graduating future CEOs of funded companies. This unearthed some findings that, while interesting, were not especially surprising. Stanford and Harvard topped the list, and graduates of top-ranked business schools were particularly well-represented.
In this next installment of our CEO series, we narrowed the data set. Specifically, we looked at CEOs of U.S. companies funded in the past three years that have raised at least $100 million in total venture financing. Our intent was to see whether educational backgrounds of unicorn and near-unicorn leaders differ markedly from the broad startup CEO population.
Sort of, but not really
Here’s the broad takeaway of our analysis: Most CEOs of well-funded startups do have degrees from prestigious universities, and there are a lot of Harvard and Stanford grads. However, chief executives of the companies in our current data set are, educationally speaking, a pretty diverse bunch with degrees from multiple continents and all regions of the U.S.
In total, our data set includes 193 private U.S. companies that raised $100 million or more and closed a VC round in the past three years. In the chart below, we look at the universities most commonly attended by their CEOs:1
The rankings aren’t hugely different from the broader population of funded U.S. startups. In that data set, we also found Harvard and Stanford vying for the top slots, followed mostly by Ivy League schools and major research universities.
For heavily funded startups, we also found a high proportion of business school degrees. All of the University of Pennsylvania alum on the list attended its Wharton School of Business. More than half of Harvard-affiliated grads attended its business school. MBAs were a popular credential among other schools on the list that offer the degree.
Where the most heavily funded startup CEOs studied
When it comes to the most heavily funded startups, the degree mix gets quirkier. That makes sense, given that we looked at just 20 companies.
In the chart below, we look at alumni affiliations for CEOs of these companies, all of which have raised hundreds of millions or billions in venture and growth financing:
One surprise finding from the U.S. startup data set was the prevalence of Canadian university grads. Three CEOs on the list are alums of the University of Waterloo . Others attended multiple well-known universities. The list also offers fresh proof that it’s not necessary to graduate from college to raise billions. WeWork CEO Adam Neumann just finished his degree last year, 15 years after he started. That didn’t stop the co-working giant from securing more than $7 billion in venture and growth financing.
- Several CEOs attended more than one university on the list.
Source: TechCrunch | 26 May 2018 | 1:10 pm
Another day, another streaming service swooping in to rescue a TV series that couldn't cut it on cable.
For weeks, fans of Syfy's The Expanse have been held in suspense over the show's abrupt cancellation and subsequent hints of a pickup, a la Brooklyn Nine-Nine. That suspense is now at an end, thanks to Jeff Bezos.
The Amazon founder and CEO summed up the situation succinctly during an appearance at the International Space Development Conference: "The Expanse is saved." The watching crowd, which included multiple members of the show's cast, erupted with cheers immediately. Read more...More about Entertainment, Tv, Amazon, Jeff Bezos, and Syfy
Source: Mashable | 26 May 2018 | 1:10 pm
Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 26 May 2018 | 12:30 pm
It’s been a long night at VivaTech. The building hosted a very special competition — the very first TechCrunch Hackathon in Paris.
Hundreds of engineers and designers got together to come up with something cool, something neat, something awesome. The only condition was that they only had 24 hours to work on their projects. Some of them were participating in our event for the first time, while others were regulars. Some of them slept on the floor in a corner, while others drank too much Red Bull.
We could all feel the excitement in the air when the 64 teams took the stage to present a one-minute demo to impress fellow coders and our judges. But only one team could take home the grand prize and €5,000. So, without further ado, meet the TechCrunch Hackathon winner.
Runner-Up #1: AID
Runner-Up #2: EV Range Meter
Nicolas Bacca, CTO, Ledger
Nicolas worked on card systems for 5 years at Oberthur, a leader in embedded digital security, ultimately as R&D Solution Architect. He left Oberthur to launch his company, Ubinity, which was developing smartcard operating systems.
He finally co-founded BT Chip to develop an open standard, secure element based hardware wallet which eventually became the first version of the Ledger wallet.
Charles Gorintin, co-founder & CTO, Alan
Charles Gorintin is a French data science and engineering leader. He is a cofounder and CTO of Alan. Alan’s mission is to make it easy for people to be in great health.
Prior to co-founding Alan, Charles Gorintin was a data science leader at fast-growing social networks, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, where he worked on anti-fraud, growth, and social psychology.
Gorintin holds a Master’s degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from Ecole des Ponts ParisTech, a Master’s degree in Machine Learning from ENS Paris-Saclay, and a Masters of Financial Engineering from UC Berkeley – Haas School of Business.
Samantha Jérusalmy, Partner, Elaia Partners
Samantha joined Elaia Partners in 2008. She began her career as a consultant at Eurogroup, a consulting firm specialized in organisation and strategy, within the Bank and Finance division. She then joined Clipperton Finance, a corporate finance firm dedicated to high-tech growth companies, before moving to Elaia Partners in 2008. She became an Investment Manager in 2011 then a Partner in 2014.
Laure Némée, CTO, Leetchi
Laure has spent her career in software development in various startups since 2000 after an engineer’s degree in computer science. She joined Leetchi at the very beginning in 2010 and has been Leetchi Group CTO since. She now works mainly on MANGOPAY, the payment service for sharing economy sites that was created by Leetchi.
Benjamin Netter, CTO, Lendix
Benjamin is the CTO of Lendix, the leading SME lending platform in continental Europe. Learning to code at 8, he has been since then experimenting ways to rethink fashion, travel or finance using technology. In 2009, in parallel with his studies at EPITECH, he created one of the first French applications on Facebook (Questions entre amis), which was used by more than half a million users. In 2011, he won the Foursquare Global Hackathon by reinventing the travel guide with Tripovore. In 2014, he launched Somewhere, an Instagram travel experiment acclaimed by the press. He is today reinventing with Lendix the way European companies get faster and simpler financing.
And finally here were our hackmasters that guided our hackers to success:
Emily Atkinson, Software Engineer / MD, DevelopHer UK
Emily is a Software Engineer at Condé Nast Britain, and co-founder & Managing Director of women in tech network DevelopHer UK. Her technical role involves back-end services, infrastructure ops and tooling, site reliability and back-end product. Entering tech as an MSc Computer Science grad, she spent six years at online print startup MOO – working across the platform, including mobile web and product. As an advocate for diversity and inclusion in STEM & digital in 2016 Atkinson launched DevelopHer, a volunteer-run non-profit community aimed at increasing diversity in tech by empowering members to develop their career and skills through events, workshops, networking and mentoring.
Romain Dillet, Senior Writer, TechCrunch
Romain attended EMLYON Business School, a leading French business school specialized in entrepreneurship. He covers many things from mobile apps with great design to fashion, Apple, AI and complex tech achievements. He also speaks at major tech conferences. He likes pop culture more than anything in the world.
Source: TechCrunch | 26 May 2018 | 11:40 am
Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 26 May 2018 | 11:00 am
Although top senators, including Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican Marco Rubio, are urging the administration not to bend on ZTE, President Trump is planning to ease penalties on the Chinese telecommunications giant for violating sanctions against Iran and North Korea.
But what Mr. Trump may not realize is that ZTE is also one of the world’s most notorious intellectual property thieves — perhaps even the most notorious of all. And since stopping Chinese theft of U.S intellectual property is supposed to be one of the President’s top trade objectives, he should not ease up on ZTE until it stops its high-tech banditry and starts playing by the rules in intellectual property (IP) matters.
To get a sense of just how egregious ZTE’s behavior truly is, we need only to consult PACER, the national index of federal court cases. A search of PACER reveals that in the U.S. alone, ZTE has been sued for patent infringement an astonishing 126 times just in the last five years. This number is even more shocking when you consider that only a subset of companies who believe their IP rights have been violated by ZTE has the means or the will to spend the millions of dollars needed to wage a multi-year lawsuit in federal courts.
But ZTE’s IP thievery is not confined just to the United States. According to one Chinese tech publication, ZTE has also been sued for patent infringement an additional 100 times in China, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, India, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and other countries. As an intellectual property renegade, ZTE certainly gets around.
Even when it’s not being sued, ZTE thumbs its nose at the traditional rules of fair play in intellectual proper matters, commonly engaging in delay, misrepresentation, and hold out when dealing with patent owners. While ZTE is more than happy to accept royalty payments for the use of its own intellectual property, it rarely if ever pays for the use of others’ IP.
Consider ZTE’s treatment of San Francisco-based Via Licensing Corp, a Swiss-neutral operator of patent pools covering wireless, digital audio, and other building-block components of complex products. Patent pools offer one-stop shopping for product makers to acquire licenses to patents from multiple innovative companies at once. Pools are generally a more efficient, and less litigious, way for product makers to acquire the IP rights they need at reasonable prices.
In 2012, ZTE joined Via’s LTE wireless patent pool, whose members also include Google, AT&T, Verizon, Siemens, China Mobile, and another Chinese tech powerhouse, Lenovo, maker of Motorola-branded smartphones. It helped set the royalty pricing of the pool’s aggregated patent rights, and even received payments from other product makers for their use of ZTE’s own patents within the pool.
But in 2017, precisely when it was ZTE’s turn to pay for its use of other members’ patents in Via’s LTE pool, it suddenly and without ceremony quit the patent pool. Via and its member companies are still trying to get ZTE to pay for its use of their intellectual property — and to abide by the very rules it helped establish in the first place.
Even among much-criticized Chinese companies, ZTE’s behavior is completely outside the norm. Despite what you may hear, some Chinese companies are actually good IP citizens — Lenovo for one. In fact, Via’s various patent pools include more than two dozen Chinese companies who play by the rules.
But ZTE is not one of them. It is a blatant serial IP violator who gives other Chinese companies a bad name. And our government should not reward such behavior.
Ease sanctions on ZTE only when it finally starts respecting intellectual property rights.
Source: TechCrunch | 26 May 2018 | 9:30 am
U.S. President Donald Trump has claimed that Chinese telecom firm ZTE will pay a $1.3 billion fine and undergo a significant overhaul of its management team in order to remain operational in North America.
ZTE looked to be in dire straits when it ceased its business in the U.S. earlier this month after a Department of Commerce order banned U.S. partners from selling components to the company in response to it flouting trade bans in Iran and North Korea.
The company has since been reprised — a strategy move within the U.S.-China trade stand-off — but Trump said today that its new life comes at a cost. That’s apparently a $1.3 billion fine, a new management team and board, and “high-level security guarantees.”
Senator Schumer and Obama Administration let phone company ZTE flourish with no security checks. I closed it down then let it reopen with high level security guarantees, change of management and board, must purchase U.S. parts and pay a $1.3 Billion fine. Dems do nothing….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 25, 2018
Trump previously took to Twitter to break news of ZTE’s reprieve and today, while aiming to score political points, he gave insight into why ZTE is being given another chance.
ZTE has over 70,000 employees, it grossed more than $17 billion in annual revenue and it maintains close ties to the Chinese government. As I wrote earlier this month, a company of its global scale brings significant revenue to U.S. businesses which, beyond more obvious consumer-facing companies, includes component-level partners like Qualcomm, who would be impacted if ZTE were to disappear tomorrow.
Trump’s claim that ZTE “must purchase U.S. parts,” while as yet unconfirmed, suggests the deal is important for ZTE’s U.S. business partners as well as being a key card in working out his administration’s complicated relationship with China.
Still, despite these apparent conditions, the decision to allow ZTE to continue is hugely controversial. Most companies don’t get a second chance for the kind of activities that the Chinese firm has carried out.
The company flouted trade bans to Iran and North Korea, then it lied about them and tried to cover its tracks before finally admitting its guilt. Speaking in April, Trump’s own Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, said:
“ZTE made false statements to the U.S. Government when they were originally caught and put on the Entity List, made false statements during the reprieve it was given, and made false statements again during its probation. ZTE misled the Department of Commerce. Instead of reprimanding ZTE staff and senior management, ZTE rewarded them. This egregious behavior cannot be ignored.”
Beyond that, the firm’s close links to the Chinese government have long troubled U.S. security agencies concerned that ZTE equipment was being used by American telecom firms and security agencies.
Here’s what FBI Director Chris Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee in February:
“We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing a company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks.”
Source: TechCrunch | 26 May 2018 | 2:27 am
Ahead of 2018 U.S. midterm elections, Twitter is taking a visible step to combat the spread of misinformation on its famously chaotic platform. In a blog post this week, the company explained how it would be adding “election labels” to the profiles of candidates running for political office.
“Twitter has become the first place voters go to seek accurate information, resources, and breaking news from journalists, political candidates, and elected officials,” the company wrote in its announcement. “We understand the significance of this responsibility and our teams are building new ways for people who use Twitter to identify original sources and authentic information.”
These labels feature a small government building icon and text identifying the position a candidate is running for and the state or district where the race is taking place. The label information included in the profile will also appear elsewhere on Twitter, even when tweets are embedded off-site.
The labels will start popping up after May 30 and will apply to candidates in state governor races as well as those campaigning for a seat in the Senate or the House of Representatives.
Twitter will partner with nonpartisan political nonprofit Ballotpedia to create the candidate labels. In a statement announcing its partnership, Ballotpedia explains how that process will work:
Ballotpedia covers all candidates in every upcoming election occurring within the 100 most-populated cities in the U.S., plus all federal and statewide elections, including ballot measures. After each state primary, Ballotpedia will provide Twitter with information on gubernatorial and Congressional candidates who will appear on the November ballot. After receiving consent from each candidate, Twitter will apply the labels to each candidate profile.
The decision to create a dedicated process to verify political profiles is a step in the right direction for Twitter. With major social platforms still in upheaval over revelations around foreign misinformation campaigns during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Twitter and Facebook need to take decisive action now if they intend to inoculate their users against a repeat threat in 2018.
Source: TechCrunch | 25 May 2018 | 7:13 pm
Apple’s set to up the ante with its transparency report. The same day it dropped the latest version of the twice-yearly document, the company committed to including in future updates government takedown requests for the App Store. The report covering July 1 through December 31 of this year, which is due out in 2019, should be the first to detail that information.
The information should prove a valuable insight into both Apple’s activities and the asks of governments around the world. Future reports will detail the specific government that issued the request, along with whether or not the company ultimately complied.
No word yet on whether the company will detail the specific apps. That would certainly prove even more informative, as far as the motivation behind said request. In the Government and Private Party Requests portion of this most recent document, Apple briefly notes that it, “will report on Government requests to take down Apps from the App Store in instances related to alleged violations of legal and/or policy provisions.”
For this report, the company notes broader government requests, saying it received in excess of 16,000 national security requests, marking a 20 percent increase during the same time frame a year prior. As Reuters notes, the company is hardly alone on this one — both Facebook and Google have been hit with a substantial increase in requests.
As governments around the world take increasing interest in the tech world, that number seems likely to increase further.
Source: TechCrunch | 25 May 2018 | 6:07 pm
Five years ago, Alexia Bonatsos, née Tsotsis, was co-editor of TechCrunch, a job that made her renowned in startup circles and familiar with a wide number of startups and their founders. What she really longed to do, in fact, was invest in some of them.
“I was among the first people to write about Pinterest and Wish — when it was known as ContextLogic — and Uber and Instagram and WhatsApp,” says Bonatsos. “I started to wonder if I was in the right place at the right time — so, luck — or if I’m in the right information flows. I was curious: What if I’d been writing checks?”
She talked occasionally with venture firms, but the right job didn’t materialize. So she set to work on creating her own dream job. Her first move was to step down from her post at TechCrunch in 2015 to enter into an accelerated, one-year master’s degree program at Stanford University’s business school. (“I wanted to be able to communicate in the same language” as other VCs, she says with a shrug.) All the while, and in the year afterward, she was talking with founders about how to tell their story and shape their editorial and convince people with large followings that they are worth tracking — skills Bonatsos had herself honed as a reporter.
She wasn’t building out her network merely to stay connected; she was also slowly piecing together checks from individual investors for a debut venture fund. Toward that end, last December, she registered her San Francisco-based firm, Dream Machine, with the SEC, listing the target amount at $25 million.
If she has reached or is nearing that number, she won’t say out of an abundance of caution around securities regulations. (This is what happens when business journalists become VCs.) Still, when we caught up with her recently, she disclosed that she has already made seven investments, including as part of one token sale. She also shared a bit about what they have in common, which seemingly centers on two things: they involve the ever-growing sharing economy, and they take advantage of an overarching trend toward decentralization.
One of those bets, for example, is TruStory, which we’d written about earlier this week. Founded recently by an alumna of both Coinbase and Andreessen Horowitz, TruStory is creating a platform for users to research and validate claims that people make online, whether in a blog post, whitepaper, website or social media post. It’s creating a “real system of information hierarchy with the blockchain,” says Bonatsos, whose co-investors in the company include True Ventures and Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam, among others.
Another of Dream Machine’s checks has gone to Omni, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based on-demand storage company that’s making every possession in one’s home rentable — giving members an opportunity to make money from their underused items in the process. By way of example, Bonatsos recently rented a dress that a fellow investor had worn once and stored away. Omni photographs each item and allows users to designate friends who can rent them. Users can also rent their belongings to strangers if they choose.
A third investment, in Fable Studios, perhaps best underscores Bonatsos’s ambition to invest in “founders who turn science fiction into non-fiction.” The startup — created by former members of the Oculus Story Studio team — took the wraps off what is essentially a studio for augmented and virtual reality content this year at Sundance, where it premiered one of its first projects: an animated three-part series called “Wolves in the Walls.” (You can check out the trailer here.)
The company hasn’t disclosed how much it has raised to date, but others of its investors include Shasta Ventures and founder-investor Joe Lonsdale.
Asked how she’s drumming up deal flow, Bonatsos suggests she isn’t shy about networking like a maniac. (We spied her at an industry event last night, in fact.)
She also points to the small but growing number of people who are similarly raising and managing funds as solo general partners, and who are forming collaborations and sharing lessons in the process.
Some of these include Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover, who is currently managing Weekend Fund, a $3 million fund that has backed roughly 10 startups since last year; Niv Dror, an early Product Hunt employee who is now investing $3 million through a vehicle called Shrug Capital; and Boom Capital, which is a pre-seed fund for “deeply technical, under-networked founders” founded by Cee Cee Schnugg, who previously spent 4.5 years with Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors fund.
Yet a fourth new, seed-stage fund is 22nd Street Ventures, launched earlier this year by Katey Nilan, who’d spent the previous six years in a variety of marketing and public relations roles.
Whether all of these seed-stage funds, including Dream Machine, can survive, let alone thrive, remains an open question, of course. As a VC at a well-regarded seed-stage fund told us just yesterday, seed-stage funding is “insanity” right now, with so much capital in the ecosystem — between established seed funds, accelerator programs and so many burgeoning funds — that it’s growing harder by the day to obtain a meaningful stake in a promising new startup.
Bonatsos, who expects most of her initial checks to average around $300,000 and is willing to invest in both first-time and serial founders, doesn’t sound concerned.
She has her intuition, a vast network of founder contacts and support from fellow seed investors. She also argues that she’s prepared to invest much earlier than many others.
“I can suspend disbelief and get on board with a wild vision,” she says. As she knows, having been immersed in the startup universe for many years, “Non-obvious deals are where you make returns.”
Source: TechCrunch | 25 May 2018 | 4:19 pm
Wi-Fi password sticker on your router? Snap. Cute sweater in a store’s window display? Snap. Party invitation? Snap. Cool gift idea for mom? Snap. If any of this sounds familiar to you, then you probably also use your iPhone’s camera to take photos of the things you want to remember – maybe even more often than you use Notes to write things down. If your mental notes are more visual in nature, then you may want give the new app Collections a go instead of relying only on your Camera Roll.
I know, I know…isn’t visual bookmarking already handled by Pinterest?
Well, okay, sure. You can go that route.
But using Pinterest feels heavy. There’s a vast collection of images to explore and search. A Home feed of new stuff to look at. (Why, Pinterest, are you showing me spider tattoos? Why?). People to follow. A feed of notifications to check in on. (Where I get to write back to people things like, “hi, you’re messaging the wrong Sarah Perez. I don’t know you.” Ugh, too often. Stupid common name.)
Collections is just a little app for you to use.
It’s not overwrought. Its simple interface just helps you to better organize those photos you’ve snapped for inspiration, ideas, mental notes, or whatever else you may need to refer back to – like clothes you like, restaurants you passed by and want to try later, art or design ideas, the best photos of your dog, events you want to go to, screenshots, gift ideas, travel inspiration, or really anything else you could think of.
But unlike saving these things to the Camera Roll, where they quickly get lost into a feed of photos, Collections lets you write down little details – like the vendor or price, or your notes. For example, “Great gift for mom. Shop owner says it also comes in blue. Having a summer sale in 2 weeks.”
While your collections are largely meant just for you, if you ever want to share them, you can use iCloud to do so – friends and family won’t have to sign up for a new service to view your shares, just download the app. You can also share them to social media, iMessage, email, messaging apps, and elsewhere, if you choose.
If you prefer to keep your collections private, you can turn off iCloud syncing during setup to keep them saved to local storage only.
On iPad, the app is even better because it supports drag-and-drop – meaning you drag images from other apps to your collections.
The app was designed by a team of two indie developers, Emile Bennett and Dave Roberts, based in Chamonix, France and Liverpool, U.K., respectively. Bennett had previously launched a budgeting app called Pennies, but built Collections because it’s something he wanted for himself.
“I often find myself in clothes shops just ‘window shopping’. I’ll find a shirt, or a pair of shoes, or yet another over-priced GoreTex outdoor jacket – I’ve got a bit of a thing about them…I have too many! – and I think “yeah I like this, but I’m not going to buy it now, I’ll pick it up another time,'” he tells TechCrunch.
“So I’d take a few photos, the item, the tag, maybe me wearing it and also maybe the shop front so I remember where it is. I’d always think ‘it’s in my photo stream, I’ll remember it later.’ But, of course, that doesn’t happen as the photos just get lost down in your stream, and even if I did find and remember the photos, there’s no context around them,” he says.
He tried Evernote and Notes to keep tracking of these things, but found Evernote was too bloated and Notes was too text-centric. He also feels Pinterest is too focused on discovery and public sharing to be used for collecting your own private inspirations.
One of the best things about Collections, in my opinion, is that there’s no sign-up. Radical idea, right? Bennett is sick of it, too.
“I’m really passionate about not forcing people to sign up to my apps – I want your data to be yours, I don’t want you to have to sign up to a new service just to use this app,” he says. “I think we’re all getting a bit of ’sign-up fatigue’ these days. Most apps do it because it’s the way they make their money – they give you the app for free, make you sign up to use it, collect your data, and then use that data to make their money. That’s really against my ethos,” says Bennett.
Instead, Collections is a $2.99 download.
Hey people, this is the kind of app development we should be encouraging.
Bennett gave me a few promo codes to try out the app with friends, but I forgot about that, and purchased it.
So here you go, first come, first served:
Source: TechCrunch | 25 May 2018 | 3:58 pm
Ofgem, the U.K. government’s regulator for gas and electricity, has revealed that projects trialled under the Low Carbon Networks Fund (LCNF) could save 215 tonnes of CO2.
The program ran for six years, ending in 2015, with the aim of helping Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) develop cost effective and energy efficient solutions for the smart grid of the future.
Implementation of some of the smart grid projects could see benefits of between $6 billion to $10 billion, according to the Ofgem review.
“Today’s review has found that network companies have improved their innovation, which is significant progress,” said Jonathan Brearley, a senior partner for networks at Ofgem.
“However, there is great potential to go further. Our challenge to the companies is to build on this progress and become high-level innovators, while delivering more for less. Involving third parties in the projects will help network companies take this next step,” he added.
Looking out for a new energy grid
The LCNF provided $750 million over the six years to companies large and small that were developing innovative solutions for the energy grid.
“It is important that companies take this opportunity. We need a more innovative grid which will allow consumers to get the most out of their smart meters which are being rolled out across the UK,” said Brearley.
Ofgem will now run a Network Innovation Competition (NIC) each year, a successor to the LNCF, which will provide £70 million per year for innovative projects.
Several reports have said that Britain will not be able to achieve the goals set out at the Paris Agreement earlier this year, if it continues to pollute the Earth with the same amount of carbon as its using currently. This fund could be one way to reduce the country’s usage, without effecting the consumer in any way.
The post This smart grid program could save millions of tons of CO2 annually appeared first on ReadWrite.
Source: ReadWrite | 14 Dec 2016 | 10:00 pm
The Internet of Things is sweeping across the globe at breakneck speeds, and before we know it, our entire lives will be facilitated by connected technology.
We’re already seeing the IoT make an incredible impact on how the industrial world operates, and we’re seeing it seep into household goods to bring convenience and efficiency to consumers’ lives.
However, one less-explored (but fast-growing) area where connected technology is poised to make a big splash lies in the public sector: Specifically, how municipalities incorporate smart technology into their environments to save money, enhance the lives of their constituents, and entice the best and brightest businesses to set up shop within their borders.
Living in a Smart City
Imagine using a digital voice assistant like Siri to buy tickets for a big concert. Then, as your autonomous vehicle chauffeurs you to the venue, the streetlights lining the road form a cocoon around you, turning on as you approach and turning off soon after you pass. City-sponsored drones zip around overhead, looking out for any traffic bottlenecks that might impact your journey.
Then, when you pull up to the municipal garage outside the arena, a kiosk tells you exactly where the nearest vacant parking spot is, making the experience a stress-free breeze.
This is just a small sampling of what life will be like in a smart city. But even in this simple example, several key details went into creating the smooth experience. Among them: The streetlights must respond to the presence of a vehicle, the drones flying overhead must know how to identify and report traffic patterns, the municipal parking lot must be able to track each spot’s occupancy, and so forth.
Coordination is key
Too often, city departments dive headfirst into the realm of connected technology without coordinating their efforts. For example, the utilities department will deploy one network for its smart meters, while the department of transportation uses a different one for its energy-efficient streetlights. Ultimately, this results in a variety of compatibility issues that leave cities with headaches and high costs.
On top of that, with this uncoordinated approach, key day-to-day data ends up siloed off within departments. This makes it difficult for city leaders to fully capitalize on the treasure trove of insights made possible by the IoT. Unnecessary resources must be devoted to connect this siloed information, which results in a slower analysis process and could lead to accuracy issues.
Also, due to the fact that network longevity concerns have plagued the IoT throughout its existence, a city utilizing more networks than necessary is only making things more difficult (and costly) for itself once the next sunset comes around. Therefore, city departments must work in tandem when deploying IoT technologies, keep network longevity in mind, and strive to keep things as streamlined as possible.
The perks of a cohesive Smart City
When properly built, smart cities reap countless benefits that include:
1. Sustainability. Cities that embrace IoT technology can optimize their use of resources, including water, fuel, energy, and even waste. The city of Los Angeles, for example, installed LED bulbs in its streetlights and successfully cut its energy use by 60 percent. The Dutch city of Eindhoven took things even further by installing streetlights similar to the ones I described earlier — they turn on and off depending on how busy the street is.
Aside from saving the environment, smart cities save big bucks thanks to their IoT initiatives. Los Angeles’ LED bulbs save the city $8 million per year, and the city of Barcelona saved more than 75 million euros in 2014 by adopting IoT-driven smart water, lighting, and more.
2. Community. A city that illustrates a commitment to improvement through smart initiatives is more likely to build strong, well-informed, and healthy communities.
For example, by creating an autonomous smart bus network and offering free citywide Wi-Fi, Barcelona has effectively encouraged its residents to drive less, walk more, and get out and explore the area. As a result, pollution levels have decreased, obesity rates have dropped, and residents feel engaged with their hometown.
In America, Atlantic City, N.J., is embracing smart technology by installing LED streetlights that feature charging stations and display screens that keep citizens informed of current events and emergency announcements.
3. Growth. Smart cities don’t just save municipalities money and improve the lives of current residents; they also attract new residents. Who wouldn’t want to live and work in a city with great air quality, low utility costs, reliable public transit, and free-flowing Wi-Fi?
Businesses in particular flock to cities that take care of their smart infrastructure because it lowers operating costs. One study predicts the global business community will spend more than $18 billion incorporating smart technology into buildings in 2017 — which far surpasses the $5.5 billion it spent back in 2012.
The energy savings in smart buildings make the move worthwhile, typically paying for itself on an enterprise level within a year or two. Smart windows alone can save up to 26 percent on cooling and 67 percent on lighting costs.
In order for a smart city to truly bring its IoT-driven features to life and see long-term value in its investment, it must create a cohesive and holistic smart infrastructure. Every department must be involved and understand how IoT-driven solutions can benefit them, and they must work together to create a seamless, streamlined experience that optimizes life for its current (and future) residents.
When smart cities operate in harmony, their citizens, industries, and environments all thrive.
John Horn joined Ingenu after serving as president of RacoWireless, a leading provider of machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity solutions. He led the company to record growth and multiple awards for its accomplishments, including recognition as the “Most Innovative Company” and “Entrepreneurial Company of the Year.” Before joining RacoWireless, Horn was a leader at T-Mobile for more than nine years.
The post 3 benefits a smart city can gain from smart infrastructure appeared first on ReadWrite.
Source: ReadWrite | 14 Dec 2016 | 9:15 pm
PARC, the research and development arm of Xerox, announced on Tuesday that it has secured part of $19 million in federal funding from the Energy Department to develop peel-and-stick sensors for homes, businesses, and other buildings.
The peel-and-stick sensors will be able to detect air quality, temperature, humidity, occupancy, and more, according to PARC. Instead of using batteries, which are hard to recycle, the sensors will be powered using RF energy.
“Sensors need to be low-cost, easily deployed, require little or no maintenance, and be able to store enough energy to do their job. PARC’s flexible, printed and hybrid electronics enable the unique peel-and-stick form factor, provide affordable, plug-and-play installation, and allow for remote radio frequency power delivery,” said David Schwartz, project lead and manager of Energy Devices and Systems at PARC.
PARC thinks that the peel-and-stick functionality will give the sensors compatibility in all scenarios, since it removes the hard installation process and provides more a deeper and more accurate understanding of the building environment.
PARC sensors could be adopted to other markets
The peel-and-stick sensors could be adopted in other markets, including building efficiency applications, smart cities, industrial and resident safety, and wearables.
“Distributed, networked sensing and data collection is the basis of the IoT. PARC is poised to provide a variety of the IoT sensors given our deep and rich history in printed electronics,” said Schwartz.
PARC is one of 18 selected projects by the U.S. Department of Energy to improve the efficiency of America’s buildings. Earlier this year, the Energy Department revealed the annual energy bill for the entire country was $430 billion.
“Improving the efficiency of our nation’s buildings presents one of our best opportunities for cutting Americans’ energy bills and slashing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. “These innovative technologies will make our buildings smarter, healthier, and more efficient, driving us toward our goal of reducing the energy use intensity of the U.S. buildings sector by 30 percent by 2030.”
The post PARC secures federal funding to develop peel-and-stick sensors appeared first on ReadWrite.
Source: ReadWrite | 14 Dec 2016 | 8:30 pm
Studies of traffic congestion regularly point much blame at cars circling for parking. To tackle this perennial problem, Get My Parking is joining a smart city initiative to launch a smart parking pilot in India.
As reported in Firstpost, the Delhi-based startup’s technology is being tested in government smart city initiatives.
“We are getting a lot of traction from various municipal corporations,” said Get My Parking CEO Chirag Jain. “We have started a pilot project in Jaipur.”
Jain describes his company as providing a technological solution that allows the smart location of free parking spots through a smartphone app. The technology was the brainchild of alumni from IIT Madras and FMS Delhi.
He explained that the need for his company’s solution came from examination of how chaotic parking systems lead to many vehicles driving slower than the normal flow of traffic as they seek a spot to leave their cars.
“Just imagine when hundreds of cars are doing that at the same time,” said Jain.
Get My Parking received recent kudos from senior government figures including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The praise came from the successful use of the startup’s technology that helped ease traffic chaos during Kumbh Mela, the mass Hindu pilgrimage where members of the faith travel to bathe in a sacred river.
Get My Parking attracting investor interest
The company is also attracting the attention of investors. Recently the startup drew a first funding round from Chennai Angles and is hoping to close its second round of financing soon.
One of the areas that Jain says is of key importance is ensuring the parking technology integrates into smart city infrastructure in a secure way to keep citizens safe.
“Security is of prime concern as we work with a lot of consumer data,” he said. “The security is taken care of accordance to utmost privacy for our consumers.”
The interest in developing such smart city technology comes as India is expanding its internet infrastructure to facilitate growth in Internet of Things technology.
Source: ReadWrite | 14 Dec 2016 | 7:27 pm
According to a recent Gartner survey, almost a third of fitness tracker or smartwatch owners end up ditching them. The survey studied about 9,000 users from the U.S., Australia and the U.K. Reasons for the dropped tech use vary from wearables breaking, to just becoming bored of them.
“Dropout from device usage is a serious problem for the industry,” said Angela McIntyre, Gartner research director. “The abandonment rate is quite high relative to the usage rate.”
According to McIntyre, it is time for wearable devices to get creative and offer consumers something they cannot typically find on their IPhones or Android handsets.
“To offer a compelling enough value proposition, the uses for wearable devices need to be distinct from what smartphones typically provide. Wearables makers need to engage users with incentives and gamification,” she explained.
As it stands, the smartwatch adoption rate is only 10 percent. However, fitness wearables have reached the early mainstream categorization, sitting at 19 percent. Virtual reality headsets like the Oculus rift are currently at 8 percent.
Most owners of fitness trackers and smartwatches tend to buy their own. Thirty-four percent of fitness wearables are given as gifts, and only 26 percent of smartwatches, such as Apple Watches, are gifted.
Most users wear their health tracking devices all day, yet not all enjoy putting them on. Fitbits and other health monitoring gadgets are also more popular in the U.S. than in Australia. They are a bit more popular in Australia than they are in the U.K.
And looks could also be part of the problem
Of those surveyed by Gartner, 29 percent believe fitness trackers are ugly. Finding one that looks nice can be costly, said Mikako Kitagawa, principal research analyst at Gartner. “Fitness tracker cases and wristbands designed by fashion brands are sold as higher-priced upgrades, which may be a barrier to purchase,” she explained.
The U.S. currently is the leader in actual smartwatch purchase rates, followed by the U.K and then Australia. A majority of owners are 44 years of age or younger, and more than half use their smartwatches on a daily basis.
The post Do fitness wearables need an affordability upgrade? appeared first on ReadWrite.
Source: ReadWrite | 14 Dec 2016 | 3:00 pm
An increasing number of farm fires are being caused by electrical arc faults, a high-power discharge of electricity between two or more conductors. Nare IoT Labs, a South Korean startup, has developed a cost effective solution to prevent and warn farmers of any faults, before the fire starts.
The system, called “Prevention System for Electrical Arc Fires,” is bundled into a small Internet of Things (IoT) module that can recognize the difference between a harmless arc and a dangerous one that could spiral into a fire.
With that knowledge, Nare IoT is able to send warnings to a farmer’s smartphone and let the farmer turn off a power grid near the electrical arc to avoid further damage. Inside the module is an alarm, which goes off when a dangerous electrical arc happens.
“The rise Internet of Things was an opportunity for us. Affordable modules and network fees allow vendors like us to create more sophisticated systems cheaply,” said CEO Choi Seoung Wook, the founder of Nare IoT Labs.
Started with farm security cameras
Choi has previously built security cameras for farmers to spot robbers and report them to the police, a crime that was become more commonplace in South Korea. The startup sells a bundle for farmers to receive the complete security package, but Nare’s technology can also be bought al-a-carte if farmers only want a certain module.
Nare IoT is only available in South Korea at the moment, though there are plans to bring it to Japan as an OEM. Choi said to ZDNet that he plans to export the system to European and Asian markets, albeit with different marketing and sales practices.
This is another example of IoT providing meaningful solutions to customers that do not have large budgets. The system has already been installed in 500 farms in South Korea, and is already reducing insurance costs for farmers.
The post Using IoT to help farmers to protect livestock from fires appeared first on ReadWrite.
Source: ReadWrite | 14 Dec 2016 | 2:13 pm
A new report says Google has spun out its self-driving unit — now called Waymo — and is undertaking a major pivot away from making its own autonomous vehicles, instead moving to become a provider of self-driving car tech for major automakers.
These Google car revelations revealed in a lengthy report on tech site The Information.
If the suggestions prove true, Google and its parent company Alphabet are undergoing a major shift away from developing their own self-driving cars. The Google cars were eventually to get rid of traditional user control mechanisms like foot pedals and steering wheels.
“Google Car executives had long made clear the company’s true mission of building a car that didn’t have a steering wheel or pedals, and the two-person prototypes in fact had what were considered to be temporary gear given that a safety driver is required to test self-driving tech,” recounted the USA Today article.
Instead, the tech giant is now reportedly refocusing its efforts on developing self-driving vehicle technology that can be incorporated into traditional cars.
This would represent a major scaling-back of Alphabet’s ambitious eight-year project to develop autonomous vehicles requiring no traditional user control mechanisms.
Furthering the speculation of Google’s change in focus is The Information’s news that the “Chauffeur” self-driving car team is being moved out of Google X’s future technology focused “moonshot” division.
The Information suggested increasing competition in the self-driving car space prompted Google Co-Founder Larry Page to reconsider the autonomous vehicle program focus.
Self-driving field is getting crowded
In recent years, many new players have rushed into the self-driving car field, including startups like Drive.ai and processor-maker Nvidia. As well, traditional carmakers are also diving deep into the technology to develop new versions of their vehicles.
This apparently sparked Google’s fear of being left behind in an increasingly aggressive race to commercialize the new car technology. And hence the move to become a technology provider for traditional car manufacturers became the preferred option.
Industry experts suggest that the goal for both car makers and technology firm is to develop autonomous transportation for ride-sharing services rather than individual consumers. Ride-sharing based business models include increased profit potential from the vehicles being in constant service unlike private robotic cars.
As evidence, drive-sharing colossus Uber has recently proven to be among the most aggressive companies in the race to develop self-driving cars.
The post Google’s Waymo to put big car firms in the robot car driver’s seat appeared first on ReadWrite.
Source: ReadWrite | 13 Dec 2016 | 9:30 pm
Scotland’s seven major cities are teaming up to develop a number of smart city projects, backed by a $31 million war chest.
According to Scottish Construction Now, the seven cities will springboard off the funding to collaboratively develop themselves into future-capable digital hubs.
See also: Outdated thinking on wireless could doom UK smart cities
The smart cities program is under the mantle of the Scottish Cities Alliance, which includes Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth and Stirling along with the Scottish government.
European Regional Development Funding will contribute $13 million to smart cities initiatives, with another $18 million chipped in by the seven cities.
“By working together Scotland’s cities are utilizing economies of scale to learn individually and share that knowledge collectively, to be at the cutting edge of Smart City technology and the benefits that brings,” said Andrew Burns, Chair of the Scottish Cities Alliance. “Our inter-city approach to developing Smart City solutions has been praised publicly by the European Commission and we have attracted the attention of other nations who are looking to emulate our collaborative model.”
A variety of smart city programs have already been given the green light to begin development in Scotland.
Intelligent Street Lighting projects are being piloted in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Perth and Stirling. The lighting technology will incorporate LED bulbs and connected sensors, and is expected to provide energy savings and improved safety for the public and drivers.
Now the bins are smart, too
Smart waste management services will be developed in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Stirling and Perth. The waste projects will incorporate smart bin technology that improve efficiency by alerting workers to empty the garbage cans only when full.
Besides these infrastructure-related projects, Scottish cities will see the development open data initiatives under the smart city programme. The cities will build data publication platforms that incorporate data analytics capabilities.
The cities expect to the open data projects sparking better decision-making on urban issues which will improve services and efficiencies.
The Scottish initiatives come amidst a global rush to develop smart city programs. However, experts suggest that early stage smart cities often struggle to develop clearly defined entry points.
The post Aye! Smart city projects squirrel away $31m in Scotland appeared first on ReadWrite.
Source: ReadWrite | 13 Dec 2016 | 8:30 pm
With trends like ride sharing, autonomous vehicles, and the connected car, the auto industry is increasingly in the spotlight. As drivers contemplate letting computers take over control of the wheel for them, it brings up some important questions. What will cars of the future look like? What things will drivers be able to accomplish on their rides to work? And most importantly, what cool features will they be able to enjoy now that their attention doesn’t have to be on the road?
1. No parking skills? No need to fret
Parking sucks, especially the dreaded parallel. It’s often tricky in congested areas, it sometimes leads to smashed alloy wheels and it’s deeply embarrassing when not done correctly, which is why most are happy to hand over valet duties to a robot. Ford, Renault and many premium brands already own a system that will hunt down parallel and reverse parking spots and then use sensors and cameras to correctly steer the vehicle into the space, only calling upon a human for throttle inputs.
But things are about to get a whole lot easier, as BMW and Mercedes-Benz now boast tech that simply requires a prod of a smartphone for perfect parking results. BMW’s Remote Control Parking is already on the 7 Series — and due to be rolled out on more models next year — and sees the car autonomously reverse into and pull out of spaces, while Mercedes’ Remote Parking Pilot does a similar thing but also caters for perpendicular parking. The latter will appear on the new E-Class, which is due out late this year or early 2017.
2. Connected from the road to the kitchen
When your car knows to open the garage door and turn the AC on as you head down the road, you know you’ve hit peak connectivity. The ease of access for drivers as cars become a tool to become your personal assistant is rapidly advancing. The latest multimedia systems allow for emails to be read and sent, hands-free calls to be made and Twitter to be updated on the move by some of the largest car manufacturers like Nissan. Some even know to power themselves!
The cars of the future will be an extension of your home. As the auto industry combines to meld with the IoT revolution, we’ll see connectivity that we’ve never had before. Wouldn’t it be great to record your favorite television show when you’re running late by communicating with your vehicle? The cars of the future and you will end up being quite the team. Can’t wait or don’t want to buy a new car? Adapters from companies like Autobrain, Automatic and Vinli will turn your car (as long as it’s built after 1996) into the 4G connected, Wi-Fi enabled, connected car of the future.
3. A mobile living room
When car owners are no longer required to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel because computers are in the driver’s seat, the journey will be just as important as the destination. To the discerning 21 century mediaphile, this means HD screens, on-demand content streaming and one-kick ass, next-generation audio system to experience it with, just like one might in their living room but with the bonus of a smaller space and killer surround sound. Companies such as Auro-3D have partnered with companies like Porsche to introduce three-dimensional spatial sound patterns that replicate real-life sound experiences that are reminiscent of the best concert halls, but all in the comfort of your own car. This set up delivers the best-possible music playback to make every trip a new driving experience, not just a ride.
4. Goodbye dials, hello gestures
Why touch, when you can wave? Rear-view mirrors, radios, and more are moving away from the antiquated dial system to understand hand gestures through infrared cameras. Touch screens are increasingly becoming the easiest way to communicate with your vehicle over fumbling with dial switches. But the cars of the futures don’t want to have you even deal with potential smudges to that chrome finish. Thanks to leadership from Audi and Volvo, in efforts to de-clutter the dashboard to make you safer and more efficient, we’re going to see even touch screens get the boot as swipes and gestures will be the simplest and safest way to control functionality. Wave goodbye to those dials.
5. Never lose your keys again
We’ve seen in recent years the shift from key to keyless entry but next-generation cars take this one step further by completely removing them altogether. In the future, drivers will be able to unlock and start their cars using a fingerprint, retina scan or voice activation—similarly to how we access our smartphones today. And with how much time drivers save by not tearing the house apart looking for lost keys, they might be able to finish that book or learn a new language—or not. Plus, you’ll never have to worry about your teenager taking your car out without permission ever again. “Open the driver door, Tesla!” “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that.”
With all the cool new car technology on the horizon, it’s enough to make anyone want to give up public transit to commute in bumper-to-bumper traffic to catch up on shows, listen to the hottest new album release or just hang out with friends.
The post 5 futuristic connected car technologies that are here now — or will be soon appeared first on ReadWrite.
Source: ReadWrite | 13 Dec 2016 | 7:30 pm
Several months ago, CCS Insight surveyed 2,000 people in the US and UK about what they would most like to have tracked about themselves, and a large portion of them answered with, “stress levels.” It looks as though their requests are being answered. Mental health is a big focus in the tech industry right now.
According to George Jijiashvili, an analyst at CCS Insight who focuses on wearable tech, “It has been suggested that by using galvanic skin response (GSR) technology, a user’s stress levels can be determined.”
Interestingly enough, computer vision is 82% accurate at reading human emotions, which is better than humans themselves. So it is no wonder that what are coming next in the tech world are wearables that read exactly what is going on in a person’s emotional health, not just physical, and align it with what is going on in the individual’s life.
One way to look at what is in store for sensing emotions is to break it down into analysis and algorithms, input and output in the form of apps. Some innovations have already been looked at, like temporary tech tattoos that can read facial expressions, but there is more interest in practical emotion sensing gadgets that could easily go mainstream and assist in monitoring mental health.
“Jawbone and Basis have previously used GSR technology in their wearables to determine perspiration levels and heart rate, but I believe that its potential hasn’t been fully explored yet. I continue to believe that next year Fitbit and other major players in the wearables space will start expanding the capabilities of their device by adding additional sensors,” says Jijiashvili.
Several million users have been added to the mobile app, Headspace, over the past few months. Several others have started using manual mood-watching Apple Watch apps, such as Thriveport. Pebble is a company that has users enter their mood levels throughout the day via its Happiness app. However, the fate of the Pebble Happiness study is in questions, after the Fitbit buyout. Apparently, Fitbit is interested in the software, and it might just show up in future Fitbit trackers.
How emotion tracking works
The most difficult parts of emotion tracking are the algorithms behind how biometric sensors and manual mood diaries work to provide insights given based on breathing and changing lifestyle habits. Any company focused on this will probably not be interested in sharing their algorithms, but a couple of companies such as Vinaya and its upcoming Zenta, along with the makers of the Feel wristband, have discussed the basics of their science.
Zenta is a biometric bracelet that measures galvanic skin response, along with heart rate and heart rate variability, and combines this with a person’s digital life — calendar, social media — to construct a picture of his or her emotional life. Vinaya’s algorithms match physiological signals to emotions like affection, anger and melancholy based on an academic model.
“What technology can enable us to do today is truly amazing. But as we let our devices and virtual realities distract us from the present and negatively impact our wellbeing, we should recognize that this is an unbalanced relationship,” says Kate Unsworth, Vinaya’s co-founder. “We’ve built a lab in London, where our team conducts research and experiments into things like stress, anxiety, sleep, happiness, peace and fulfillment.”
There are some other pretty interesting things being offered in this new world of mental health tracking. Intel and British-Cypriot fashion designer, Hussein Chalayan, have collaborated to turn emotions into art. They use brainwaves, heart rate and breathing tracking “smart glasses” to gather data on emotions such as nerves, stress and attraction. Then they analyze them and turn them into videos. In each case, the visualizations change as respiration or heart rates change in real time. This project will be featured in the Design Museum in London until April.
It looks as though 2017 is set to be a big year for wearable tech that focuses more on our mental health. Monitoring health can play a big part in preventing many diseases. Our emotional wellbeing is critical, and the tech world is noticing.
The post Tech world aims to tackle the mental health issue next appeared first on ReadWrite.
Source: ReadWrite | 13 Dec 2016 | 6:30 pm