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DoorDash will finally fix its controversial tipping structure
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Food delivery service DoorDash has been under fire over revelations that customers' tips were going to DoorDash itself, not to the delivery partners actually bringing users their burritos and kung pao chicken — effectively subsiding Dashers' pay instead of adding to it, as tippers intended.

Now they've revealed a new tip structure, promising every tipped dollar will go straight into Dashers' pockets, on top of their guaranteed base rate and bonuses. The new model is currently being tested and will roll out to all Dashers over the next month.

While the existing scheme wasn't a secret, in July a New York Times reporter spent 27 hours as a Dasher and explained the structure in plain detail: Read more...

More about Food Delivery Services, Doordash, Tipping, Gig Economy, and Tech

Source: Mashable | 23 Aug 2019 | 2:43 am

17 times Anthony Hopkins' Twitter feed was the most wholesome place on the internet
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There aren't many places on the internet that can be classified as "unequivocally wholesome".

Sir Anthony Hopkins' Twitter feed, however, firmly fits the bill.

The legendary Welsh actor joined Twitter back in 2016, and wasted absolutely no time in making the social network an infinitely better place.

From cheerful holiday messages to feline-assisted piano sessions, here are some of his best tweets so far...

1. This delightful Sunday video.

2. This glorious photo.

Beautiful day in Santa Ynez, California pic.twitter.com/MzfrEV7SLg

— Anthony Hopkins (@AnthonyHopkins) January 25, 2019 Read more...

3. The time he played the piano with his furry BFF.

More about Uk, Anthony Hopkins, Culture, and Celebrities

Source: Mashable | 23 Aug 2019 | 2:30 am

Silicone 3D printing startup Spectroplast spins out of ETHZ with $1.5M

3D printing has become commonplace in the hardware industry, but because few materials can be used for it easily, the process rarely results in final products. A Swiss startup called Spectroplast hopes to change that with a technique for printing using silicone, opening up all kinds of applications in medicine, robotics and beyond.

Silicone is not very bioreactive, and of course can be made into just about any shape while retaining strength and flexibility. But the process for doing so is generally injection molding, great for mass-producing lots of identical items but not so great when you need a custom job.

And it’s custom jobs that ETH Zurich’s Manuel Schaffner and Petar Stefanov have in mind. Hearts, for instance, are largely similar but the details differ, and if you were going to get a valve replaced, you’d probably prefer yours made to order rather than straight off the shelf.

“Replacement valves currently used are circular, but do not exactly match the shape of the aorta, which is different for each patient,” said Schaffner in a university news release. Not only that, but they may be a mixture of materials, some of which the body may reject.

But with a precise MRI the researchers can create a digital model of the heart under consideration and, using their proprietary 3D printing technique, produce a valve that’s exactly tailored to it — all in a couple of hours.

ethz siliconeprinting 1

A 3D-printed silicone heart valve from Spectroplast.

Although they have created these valves and done some initial testing, it’ll be years before anyone gets one installed — this is the kind of medical technique that takes a decade to test. So in the meantime they are working on “life-improving” rather than life-saving applications.

One such case is adjacent to perhaps the most well-known surgical application of silicone: breast augmentation. In Spectroplast’s case, however, they’d be working with women who have undergone mastectomies and would like to have a breast prosthesis that matches the other perfectly.

Another possibility would be anything that needs to fit perfectly to a person’s biology, like a custom hearing aid, the end of a prosthetic leg or some other form of reconstructive surgery. And of course, robots and industry could use one-off silicone parts as well.

ethz siliconeprinting 2

There’s plenty of room to grow, it seems, and although Spectroplast is just starting out, it already has some 200 customers. The main limitation is the speed at which the products can be printed, a process that has to be overseen by the founders, who work in shifts.

Until very recently Schaffner and Stefanov were working on this under a grant from the ETH Pioneer Fellowship and a Swiss national innovation grant. But in deciding to depart from the ETH umbrella they attracted a 1.5 million Swiss franc (about the same as dollars just now) seed round from AM Ventures Holding in Germany. The founders plan to use the money to hire new staff to crew the printers.

Right now Spectroplast is doing all the printing itself, but in the next couple of years it may sell the printers or modifications necessary to adapt existing setups.

You can read the team’s paper showing their process for creating artificial heart valves here.

Source: TechCrunch | 22 Aug 2019 | 7:29 pm

This Thiel Fellow thinks he can help scooters, drones and delivery robots charge themselves with sunlight

From the time he was a high school student, Rohit Kalyanpur thought it was peculiar that although it’s possible to create energy from a solar panel, the panels have long been used almost exclusively on rooftops and as part of industrial-scale solar grids. “I hadn’t seen [anything solar-powered] in the things people use every day other than calculators and lawn lights,” he tells us from him home in Chicago — though he’s moving to the Bay Area next month.

It wasn’t just a passing thought for Kalyanpur. Through research positions in high school, he continued to learn about energy and work on a solar charging prototype — initially to charge his iPhone — while continuing to wonder what other materials might be powered spontaneously just by shining light on it.

What he quickly discovered, he says, is there were no developer tools to build a self-charging project. Unlike with hardware projects, where developers can turn to the open-source electronic prototyping platform Arduino, and to Raspberry Pi, a tiny computer the size of a credit card and was created in 2012 to help students understand how computers work, there was “nothing you could use to optimize a solar product,” he says.

Fast-forward, and Kalyanpur says there is now — and he helped build it.

It’s been several years in the making. After attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for two years and befriending a fellow student, Paul Couston, who helped manage and invest the university’s $10 million green fund, the pair dropped out of school to start their now four-person company, Optivolt Labs. Entry into the accelerator program Techstars Chicago was the impetus they needed, and they’ve been gaining momentum since. In fact, Kalyanpur, now 21, was recently given a Thiel Fellowship, a two-year-long program that includes a $100,000 grant to young people who want to build new things, along with a lot of mentorships and key introductions.

Now, the company has closed on a separate $1.75 million round of seed funding from a long list of notable individual investors, including Eventbrite co-founders Kevin & Julia Hartz; TJ Parker, who is the founder and CEO of PillPack (now an Amazon subsidiary); Pinterest COO Francoise Brougher: and Jeff Lutz, a former Google SVP.

What they’re buying into exactly is the promise of a scalable technology stack for solar integration. Though still nascent, Optivolt has already figured out a way to provide efficient power transfer systems, solar developer and simulation tools and cloud-based API’s to enable fleets of machines to self charge in ambient light, says Kalyanpur. Think e-scooters, EVs, drones, sensors and other connected devices.

Asked how it all works on a more granular level, Kalyanpur declines to dive into specifics, but he says the company will begin testing its technology soon with a number of “enterprise fleets” that have already signed on to work with Optivolt in pilot programs.

If it works as planned, it sounds like a pretty big opportunity. Though some companies have begun making smaller solar-powered vehicles, there are presumably many outfits that would prefer to find a way to retrofit the hardware they already have in the world, which Kalyanpur says will be possible.

He says they can use their existing batteries, too — that the solar won’t just power the devices or vehicles in real time but allow them to store some of that energy, too. Optivolt’s technology “seamlessly integrates into everyday products, so you don’t have to change the product design meaningfully,” he insists.

We’ll be curious to see if see if it does what he thinks it can. It sounds like we aren’t the only ones, either.

Asked about Optivolt’s road map, Kalynapur suggests that one is coming together. The company’s top priority, however — beyond hiring more engineering talent with its brand new round — it to see first how it works in the field.

Source: TechCrunch | 22 Aug 2019 | 7:02 pm

5 tweets for Black Women's Equal Pay Day that will inspire you to fight for equality
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Today is Black Women's Equal Pay Day, which marks the occasion when black women finally earn as much as white men do in a single calendar year. Twitter recognized the occasion with the hashtags #BlackWomensEqualPay and #BlackWomenCantWait, which spread awareness of the pay gap. 

Research shows that black women who are employed in full-time, year-round positions make 61 cents for every dollar that white, non-Hispanic men earn. Since we are nearly nine months into 2019, that means it's taken black women nearly 20 months to earn what white men make in 12 months. 

Black women are overrepresented in low-wage jobs and underrepresented in higher-wage jobs, but no matter which group they belong to, they still experience a wage gap. That's partly because of discrimination, workplace harassment, and policies that don't support family caregivers who are also employed, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families.  Read more...

More about Twitter, Gender Pay Gap, Equal Pay Day, Social Good, and Identities

Source: Mashable | 22 Aug 2019 | 6:42 pm

DoorDash reveals details of its new tipping model

DoorDash announced last month that it would be changing its controversial tipping model. Today it’s revealing the basics of how the new system will work.

Under the past model, Dashers (DoorDash drivers and other delivery people) were guaranteed a minimum payment per delivery, with DoorDash paying a $1 base, then providing an additional payment boost when a customer’s tip wasn’t enough to meet the minimum — a system that made it seem like tips were being used to subsidize DoorDash payments.

Under the new system, DoorDash will pay a base between $2 and $10 (the amount will depend on things like delivery distance and duration), with additional bonuses from DoorDash.

Most crucially, as CEO Tony Xu put it in a blog post, “Every dollar customers tip will be an extra dollar in their Dasher’s pocket.”

Now, you might think that’s how tips are always supposed to work, but Xu said the old system was developed “in direct response to feedback from Dashers,” while the new one will result in “greater variability in total earnings from order to order” (that variability is one of several reasons why tipping is a flawed compensation model in general).

So why change?

“We thought we were doing the right thing for Dashers by making them whole if a customer left no tip, but the feedback we’ve received recently made clear that some of our customers who were leaving tips felt like their tips didn’t matter,” Xu said. “We realized that we couldn’t continue to do right by Dashers if some customers felt we weren’t also doing right by them. To ensure that all of our users have a great experience on DoorDash, we needed to strike a better balance.”

Plus, he said, “Dashers will [now] earn more money on average — both from DoorDash and overall.”

The company plans to roll out these changes to all Dashers next month.

DoorDash will change controversial tipping model

Source: TechCrunch | 22 Aug 2019 | 6:38 pm

Workplace digital assistant startup Capacity raises $13.2M from Midwestern VCs

Solving information scatter inside enterprises seems to be the founding idea behind dozens of enterprise software startups. Capacity, which recently rebranded from Jane.ai, is raising new cash to tackle the issue with its corporate data search platform.

The company just closed a $13.2 million Series B, funded entirely by Midwestern private investors and angels.

Jane.ai raises $8.4M to bring a digital assistant into your office software

The St. Louis workplace startup helps its customers pull all of their organizational data together into a platform that makes company information more accessible to people inside the company. It’s all done through a chat interface and directory that employees can use to search for information. There’s a pretty high degree of flexibility in customizing how questions are answered and when a line of questioning gets routed to a person onsite.

Alongside Capacity’s name change, the company opened its platform to let developers connect apps to the Capacity network so that more information can be integrated.

asset management hero

“We got to this point where we realized that we’re never going to be the experts in building out every one of these tailored apps, so opening up our developer platform has been crucial to helping expand the number of apps that we’ll be able to connect to,” CEO David Karandish told TechCrunch.

These automated chat bots aren’t silver bullets, but the fact is a lot of this content is usually found in disparate places, and tools that can crawl through documents and pull out the key context solve a pretty clear pain point for companies.

Source: TechCrunch | 22 Aug 2019 | 6:18 pm

Fox gets weed wrong again, says homeless people 'shoot up' marijuana
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A Fox News guest said that San Francisco should be focused on solving its homelessness crisis instead of trying to improve the language used in its justice system — specifically, they should focus on those on the streets who "just shot up marijuana."  

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors adopted new "person first" guidelines to refer to people with criminal records. Instead of calling someone a convicted felon, for example, the city would refer to them as a "formerly incarcerated person" or a "justice-involved" person, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Repeat offenders would be called "returning residents." Minors will be referred to as "young person with justice system involvement" or "young person impacted by the juvenile justice system" instead of juvenile delinquents, and drug addicts will be called people "with a history of substance use."  Read more...

More about Marijuana, Fox News, Weed, Culture, and Web Culture

Source: Mashable | 22 Aug 2019 | 6:11 pm

Christmas comes early with Taylor Swift's dreamy 'Lover' music video
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Time to pack in those You Need To Calm Down pool floats — it's Christmastime in Taylor Nation.

Ahead of the Friday debut of Taylor Swift's Lover, the pop singer has released the music video for the album's title track. Starring Swift's longtime friend and backup dancer Christian Owens, the romantic video imagines the magical life of a couple in love, living year-round in a sparkly snow globe. 

Per Swift's pre-release livestream, the dreamy ballad was inspired by a lyric from "You Are In Love" off her album 1989 "You two are dancing in a snow globe ’round and ’round" — as well as seeing two of her close friends fall in love. Read more...

More about Taylor Swift, Music Video, Lover, Entertainment, and Music

Source: Mashable | 22 Aug 2019 | 6:10 pm

Inside the Porsche Taycan’s minimalist, 911-inspired interior

Porsche has taken the wraps off the interior of the all-new, all-electric Porsche Taycan ahead of its world debut September 4. Gone are the buttons and the clutter. This is a sleek interior for the modern digital age.

Porsche released several images of the interior on Thursday. Earlier this week, TechCrunch was among numerous media outlets that got an up-close view of the interior (along with some other things we can’t talk about) and a chance to play around with the infotainment system.

Porsche didn’t just slap a bunch of screens in and call it a day. Here are the details and what stood out.

911 design lines

At first glance, the dashboard might give viewers a twinge of déjà vu. And they wouldn’t be wrong.

Designers used the dashboard from the 1963 Porsche 911 as inspiration. And that’s evident in the images below.

The 911 DNA in this interior is apparent. But this isn’t some throwback. This is a modern vehicle with its own design story, which includes horizontal digital screens that are sandwiched between the upper and lower dash lines and stretch all the way over to the passenger seat.Taycan Interior 2

The elevated center console stretches down from the horizontal central screen to two air vents that are not the mechanically operated louvres found in most vehicles today. Instead, the direction of the airflow is controlled digitally via an 8.4-inch touch panel located just below the central screen. This touch panel houses the climate control system and includes a track pad with haptic feedback. The trackpad can also be used for quick address inputs.

Tucked under the touch panel is a small flat space to place a wallet or phone. Two cups holders and a storage unit, which is equipped with wireless charging and two USB ports, completes the center console.

Porsche’s design team repeatedly talked to TechCrunch about the emphasis on the driver. And that shows. (The design team worked on the interface alone for 3.5 years.) Although, there are plenty of passenger features here, as well. From the driver’s seat, everything is in reach and without constantly looking over to the center display. Natural voice integration courtesy of Nuance is activated by a “Hey Porsche” trigger or simply pressing the voice button on the central display or dedicated button on the steering wheel.

The minimalist design continues to the all-digital instrument cluster. This free-standing panel, which houses the instrument cluster, has a slight curve to it. Interestingly, it doesn’t have the standard cowl or lip that is often used to prevent reflection. Instead, Porsche used glass coated with a vapor-deposited polarizing filter.

Porsche-Taycan-Interior-instrument

The digital instrument cluster is the highest point of the dashboard in the Porsche Taycan

The instrument cluster

Inside the 16.8-inch cluster display, the driver will see three round instruments that display information. Drivers can customize what each of these instruments displays. Drivers also can remove the information for a more streamlined look in “pure mode.”

This pure mode displays only essential information, such as speed, navigation or traffic sign recognition (so you know what the speed limit is). Pure mode, which manages to give the interior an even more minimalist look, could be a handy and fun feature for a Taycan owner on track day.

Perhaps one of the most functional features is the map mode. The map replaces the central power meter in this mode. But it really becomes useful when “full map mode” is turned on, which extends the map across the full display. TechCrunch wasn’t allowed to take photos of the interior during its visit to Porsche North America headquarters, so readers will have to imagine a digital map taking up most of the instrument cluster.

Finally, just to the left and right of the main instrument cluster, drivers will see small, touch-control fields at the edges of the screen for operating the light and chassis functions. One of these buttons is a trigger key, which lets drivers customize what it operates.

A piece of a Porsche 918

Scanning the interior, it becomes quickly obvious that the classic transmission shift selector lever is not in the center console. Looking to the right of the steering wheel and in the instrument cluster is a compact transmission shift switch — the same used in the Porsche 918.

All the screens

The Porsche Taycan has several screens. Oh, so many screens. Beyond the digital instrument cluster is a horizontal 10.9-inch central display. Directly below this is a tilted screen that houses climate control as well as a digital track pad that gives haptic feedback.

From the central screen and moving to the right is a display for the passenger. The passenger display cannot be turned on if the driver is the only one in the vehicle, according to Oliver Fritz, director of driver experience at Porsche.

Porsche is experimenting with streaming video on the passenger display. This likely won’t be available when Porsche begins delivery before the end of the year, but could be rolled out in future over-the-air software updates. For now, the company is testing technology that would prevent the driver from being able to view the screen. Fritz emphasized that this idea was still in testing and Porsche won’t roll out streaming video unless it’s sure the driver cannot see the screen.

Dark mode

Porsche designers have made “dark mode” the default in the instrument cluster and the rest of the infotainment system. That can be changed to a white background, Porsche said. TechCrunch doesn’t recommend that though. The dark mode, and the ability to turn off the central 10.9-inch infotainment display and optional passenger one, should let drivers enjoy the road and escape the annoying “blue light” that emanates from so many vehicles these days.

Interior colors and leather-free options

Porsche will offer a number of color combinations in the interior, including an all-black matte look, which TechCrunch viewed. The company’s design team didn’t reveal the total number of interior color combinations, but they did list a few. There will be four exclusive interior colors for the Taycan: a black-lime beige, blackberry, Atacama beige and Meranti brown. An optional interior accent package will include black matte, dark silver or neodyme, which is like a champagne gold color.

The doors and center consoles can have wood trim, matte carbon, embossed aluminum or fabric.

The company is also offering a leather-free trim interior, which includes the steering wheel. One such material is called “Race-Tex,” a microfiber material partially consisting of recycled polyester fibers. The floor covering uses the recycled fiber “Econyl,” which is made from recycled fishing nets, among other things, Porsche said.

Porsche designer Thorsten Klein was careful not to call it vegan. He told TechCrunch that even synthetic materials can be treated using animal products. Porsche is pushing to source materials that don’t use these processes, but until then, the company won’t use the vegan term.

Today, Porsche uses a process called “OLEA” for tanning the leather used in the Taycan. This process uses olive leaves.

Apple Music and more

Earlier this week, Porsche announced it will integrate Apple Music into the Taycan, the first time the music streaming service has been offered as a standalone app within a vehicle.

But Apple Music is just one of the many features in the infotainment system. The user interface is laid out to always show three main buttons: home, vehicle and messages. The messages feature lists notifications coming into the vehicle. The voice feature can also be used to read these messages out loud.

Other buttons on the central screen include navigation, phone, settings, climate, news, calendar, charging information, weather and Homelink, which can be used to open the owner’s garage door.

Source: TechCrunch | 22 Aug 2019 | 6:06 pm

Who gets to own your digital identity?
Christoffer O. Hernæs Contributor
Christoffer O. Hernæs is chief digital officer of Sbanken, Norway's first digital-only bank and leading challenger bank.

“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog,” was stated in the legendary New York Times cartoon that captured the spirit of privacy and anonymity in the early days of the internet. Even though anonymity is still a hot topic and sought after in the online world, times have changed. With the rise of online banking, social media, e-commerce and peer-to-peer services, a verified digital identity is a crucial ingredient in making any digital platform succeed.

Banking is one of the areas where the ability to verify one’s identity in a secure and compliant manner is a prerequisite to access basic services. Looking at the unbanked population of the world today, it is estimated that as many as 1.5 billion people lack access to everyday banking services due to their inability to prove their identity through a valid birth certificate, passport, proof of residency through utility bill or some other means to fulfill traditional KYC procedures.

In addition to accessing digital banking, most of us also have verified our identity through a plethora of services like Google, Facebook, Blizzard and the list goes on, through various means of identity verification that make up an interlinked web of interdependencies, where one of your identities vouch for your eligibility to access another service. Two-factor authentication or biometric identification often rely on your mobile phone, and when you choose to log in with Facebook, you authorize Facebook to represent you online. While this is often convenient for easy and quick access to the latest mobile app you want to try out, you are paying a price by allowing Facebook to share and sell not only your data but also your digital identity.

However, your digital identity is more than your login credentials. This is merely the authentication that connects you with the digital you. Your digital identity consists of thousands of data points that make up a profile of who you are and your preferences. Today, your digital identity is scattered all over the internet, where Facebook owns our social identity, retailers own our shopping patterns, credit agencies hold our creditworthiness, Google knows what we have been curious of since the dawn of the internet and your bank owns your payment history. As a result, we are all analyzed in detail to predict our future behavior and monetize our digital identities.

A verified digital identity is a crucial ingredient in making any digital platform succeed.

Not only do we lack ownership of our own data, but our fragmented digital identities where various third parties own bits and pieces only gives part of the picture, and also proposes vulnerabilities for those third parties. As an example, fraudsters have started to take advantage of this in countries with no national identifier by creating synthetic digital identities by signing up digital services and applying for credit. Even though the initial credit application is rejected, a credit file is automatically created, thus creating a digital paper trail for a non-existing person. With approximately 10 million new consumer credit files generated in the U.S. each year, synthetic identities can be very difficult to detect. Over time, these synthetic identities gain access to credit, and bank losses due to synthetic fraud are estimated to amount for somewhere between $1 billion and $2 billion each year.

In the wake of numerous exposures of how our data is exploited, with Cambridge Analytica as the most notable example, privacy becomes an increasing concern for the public, as well. Apple seeks to leverage this attention to digital privacy by taking a radically different approach than their counterparts with “sign in with Apple,” where privacy is the main selling point for using their service instead of Google and Facebook.

Blockchain is often proposed as the silver bullet to solve all our digital identity needs, something that has caught the attention of Mark Zuckerberg that addresses what he sees as the pros and cons of a decentralized approach to digital identity. As Facebook represents a quintessential man in the middle, losing ownership of all our identities is most likely the biggest con of a decentralized approach to digital identity in the eyes of Zuckerberg.

With the upcoming launch of Facebook’s cryptocurrency, Libra, the company has the potential to further strengthen its position as a leading provider of a global digital identity solution. Often overlooked with most of the attention directed toward the cryptocurrency, many point to the decentralized identity associated with Libra as the most interesting aspect of Facebook’s plans. A passage hidden away near the bottom of the documentation states: “An additional goal of the association is to develop and promote an open identity standard. We believe that decentralized and portable digital identity is a prerequisite to financial inclusion and competition.”

There is too much at stake when it comes to our digital identities to remain unvigilant.

A consolidated and verified digital identity would be beneficial to both users and providers of digital services. However, allowing Facebook or The Libra Association to be the custodian of our consolidated digital identity is a sinister trail for the future of both privacy and democracy.

On the other hand, the Holy Grail of decentralized identity, often named a self-sovereign identity, has its weaknesses, namely ourselves as human beings. We tend to be forgetful, and sometimes downright unreliable. Letting users keep the only key to access their digital identities is a recipe for disaster the moment someone forgets their password or pass away. There is nobody to call and no Forgot Password button to reclaim the ownership of the identity.

It is difficult to envision a future of digital identity without relying on some kind of identity custodian that maintains a verified connection between your physical and digital self, ensures that no data is used without consent, monitors malicious behavior and provides user support in case of a lost key. This is far from an easy solution and should be provided by a regulated entity. One thing is for sure, such a solution relies on trust and must give the end user full ownership of their own data, similar to data portability under GDPR.

There is too much at stake when it comes to our digital identities to remain unvigilant of what is going on, as shown numerous times through both data breaches where our personal data is compromised and manipulation of public opinion through social media.

No matter which technology or appointed custodian we deploy to solve this, our identities should belong to we the people rather than one corporation or consortium of corporations that seek to exploit our data for profit.

Source: TechCrunch | 22 Aug 2019 | 6:00 pm

Herschel’s Retreat brings classical simplicity to the laptop backpack

It’s finally Bag Week again! The most wonderful week of the year at TechCrunch. Just in time for back to school, we’re bringing you reviews of bags of all varieties: from backpacks to rollers to messengers to fanny packs.

I’ve been meaning to check out a Herschel bag for a while now, just to see what all the fuss is about. The Vancouver-based company has really exploded on the scene here in New York City over the past few years. The packs seemed to go from virtually non-existent to every backpack over night.

With Bag Week rapidly approaching, I asked Herschel to send along whichever laptop backpack they recommended, and received the Retreat in the mail. I’ll be honest, the bag is a bit of a 180 from my usual. Doing what I do for a living, I’ve adopted a bit of a more is more approach when it comes to backpacks — more pockets, more slots. I’ve got something for all of them.

CMB 7976

The Retreat presents a far more stripped-down approach. There’s the primary compartment with a slightly padded and fleece-lined laptop sleeve, and a medium-sized pocket on the outside with no zipper or snap. I appreciate the stripped-down approach — perhaps loosing some of my cables and gadgets could go a ways toward clearing my head. For now, however, it’s a bit too minimalistic for my day to day commuter backpack needs.

CMB 7972

I have, however, found a spot for it in my life as a handy gym bag. There’s not a ton of volume here, but it’s plenty sufficient for gym clothes and a pair of running shoes. It’s solid, too, for those days when you’re feeling liberated enough to leave the house with little more than your laptop. I need to get better than that, and reckon the Retreat could help.

The build is solid. Herschel completely eschews zippers here. Instead, the mountaineering-style pack has a top flap that closes with magnetic snaps at the end of long leather straps. There’s also a drawstring to better close the top compartment. That should keep things in, though I probably wouldn’t recommend getting caught in a downpour with a laptop inside.

CMB 7975

It’s nice to look at as well — the only drawback here being that you’re bound to see a lot of fellow travelers sporting the same model. Or heck, maybe that’s even more motivation to pick one up — you do you. The black and brown (though there are a full 38 color options from which to choose) is offset nicely by the red and white interior lining.

At $80 (and less, depending on where you buy), the price is also right for what amounts to a solid — if simple — bag.

Source: TechCrunch | 22 Aug 2019 | 5:52 pm

Google says China used YouTube to meddle in Hong Kong protests

Google has disabled 210 YouTube accounts after it said China used the video platform to sow discord among protesters in Hong Kong.

The search giant, which owns YouTube, followed in the footsteps of Twitter and Facebook, which earlier this week said China had used their social media sites to spread misinformation and discord among the protesters, who have spent weeks taking to the streets to demand China stops interfering with the semi-autonomous region’s affairs.

In a brief blog post, Google’s Shane Huntley said the company took action after it detected activity which “behaved in a coordinated manner while uploading videos related to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.”

“This discovery was consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter,” said Huntley.

Earlier this week Twitter said China was using its service to “sow discord” through fake accounts as part of “a coordinated state-backed operation.”

In line with Twitter and Facebook’s findings, Google said it detected the use of virtual private networks — or VPNs — which can be used to tunnel through China’s censorship system, known as the Great Firewall. Facebook, Twitter and Google are all banned in China. But Google said little more about the accounts, what they shared or whether it would disclose its findings to researchers.

When reached, a Google spokesperson only referred back to the blog post and did not comment further.

More than a million protesters took to the streets this weekend to peacefully demonstrate against the Chinese regime, which took over rule from the United Kingdom in 1997. Protests erupted earlier this year after a bid by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to push through a highly controversial bill that would allow criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China for trial. The bill was suspended, effectively killing it from reaching the law books, but protests have continued, pushing back at claims that China is trying to meddle in Hong Kong’s affairs.

Twitter says accounts linked to China tried to ‘sow political discord’ in Hong Kong

Source: TechCrunch | 22 Aug 2019 | 5:28 pm

The 'Is your child texting about' meme is back and still hilarious
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It's a tale as old as time: Parents are dying to know what their kids are texting about.

When cellphones and instant messaging accounts became popular back in the day, texting acronyms and online abbreviations were invented to make communication easier and secretly curse and chat with friends in a way that parents wouldn't be able to understand.

Eventually, helpful shorthand lists were created to teach clueless parents that "LOL" meant "laughing out loud" and "WTF" stood for "what the fuck." Now those lists have inspired a delightfully evergreen meme.

The "Is your child texting about" meme presents a specific topic, such as Edgar Allan Poe, Elizabeth Warren, or Little Women, and imagines what the related text acronyms would be. Usually "NVM" means "never mind,"  but in the case of Poe, for example, it obviously means "nevermore." Read more...

More about Twitter, Memes, Culture, and Web Culture

Source: Mashable | 22 Aug 2019 | 5:23 pm

Forget range anxiety, this couple drove across the country in a Tesla
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Vivianna and Peter Van Deerlin became something of Tesla evangelists after buying a Model S in 2012. 

They loved the car, its message, and the community around it so much they started volunteering at a "boot camp" for new and prospective Tesla owners near their home in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. 

Later when they bought Tesla's newest Model 3, they decided to drive to Northern California to give the Tesla to their son. The couple, both 55 years old and physicians, would also be celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. 

Their journey shows how electric vehicles are changing how we think about the "all-American road trip." The Van Deerlins traveled 3,180 miles without filling up at a gas station once. And they didn’t worry about running out of juice. Read more...

More about Tesla, Road Trip, Electric Vehicles, Tech, and Transportation

Source: Mashable | 22 Aug 2019 | 5:12 pm

Stephen King’s ‘The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon’ to become the next film adaptation
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The book was one of a few books that the author hadn't had adapted to a film. But not anymore. Read more...

More about Entertainment, Movies, Books, Mashable Video, and Stephen King

Source: Mashable | 22 Aug 2019 | 5:05 pm

Oracle directors give blessing to shareholder lawsuit against Larry Ellison and Safra Catz

Three years after closing a $9.3 billion deal to acquire NetSuite, several Oracle board members have written an extraordinary letter to the Delaware Court, approving a shareholder lawsuit against company executives Larry Ellison and Safra Catz over the 2016 deal. Reuters broke this story.

According to Reuters’ Alison Frankel, three board members, including former U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, sent a letter on August 15th to Sam Glasscock III, vice chancellor for the Court of the Chancery in Georgetown, Delaware, approving the suit as members of a special board of directors entity known as the Special Litigation Committee.

The lawsuit is what is called in legal parlance a derivative suit. According to the site Justia, this type of suit is filed in cases like this. “Since shareholders are generally allowed to file a lawsuit in the event that a corporation has refused to file one on its own behalf, many derivative suits are brought against a particular officer or director of the corporation for breach of contract or breach of fiduciary duty,” the Justia site explained.

The letter went on to say there was an attempt to settle this suit, which was originally launched in 2017, through negotiation outside of court, but when that attempt failed, the directors wrote this letter to the court stating that the suit should be allowed to proceed.

As Frankel wrote in her article, the lawsuit, which was originally filed by the Firemen’s Retirement System of St. Louis, could be worth billions:

One of the lead lawyers for the Firemen’s fund, Joel Friedlander of Friedlander & Gorris, said at a hearing in June that shareholders believe the breach-of-duty claims against Oracle and NetSuite executives are worth billions of dollars. So in last week’s letter, Oracle’s board effectively unleashed plaintiffs’ lawyers to seek ten-figure damages against its own members.

It’s worth pointing out, as we reported at the time of the NetSuite acquisition, that Larry Ellison was involved in setting up NetSuite in the late 1990s and was a major shareholder at the time of the deal.

Oracle was struggling to find its cloud footing in 2016, and it was believed that by buying an established SaaS player like NetSuite, it could begin to build out its cloud business much faster than trying to develop something like it internally. A June Synergy Research SaaS marketshare report, while admitting the market was fragmented, still showed Oracle was far behind the pack in spite of that deal three years ago.

SaaS Q119 1

While there have been bigger deals in tech M&A history, including Salesforce’s acquisition of Tableau for $15.7 billion earlier this year, it’s still stands with some of the largest.

We reached out to Oracle regarding this story, but it declined to comment.

Oracle takes the cloud revenue fast track with $9.3 billion Netsuite deal

 

 

Source: TechCrunch | 22 Aug 2019 | 4:58 pm

VMware acquires Carbon Black for $2.1B and Pivotal for $2.7 billion

VMware today announced that it is acquiring Carbon Black, a publicly traded security company that focuses on securing modern cloud-native workloads. The price of the acquisition is about $2.1 billion.

In addition, VMware also confirmed the acquisition of Pivotal, which will have a value of about $2.7 billion. VMware’s revenue for the last quarter was $2.44 billion. That’s a big day for VMware.

“Building on another solid quarter, we are thrilled about announcing our intent to acquire Pivotal and Carbon Black,” said VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger in today’s announcement. “These acquisitions address two critical technology VMware, Inc. priorities of all businesses today — building modern, enterprise-grade applications and protecting enterprise workloads and clients. With these actions we meaningfully accelerate our subscription and SaaS offerings and expand our ability to enable our customers’ digital transformation.”

Indeed, these are two very different companies, but both Carbon Black and Pivotal focus on modern workloads. Pivotal focuses on building modern applications, thanks to its Cloud Foundry heritage and recently added support for Kubernetes, while Carbon Black provides the security features necessary to secure modern applications and infrastructures.

The two moves follow the company’s acquisition of Bitnami earlier this year, completing this triquetra of acquisitions that all aim to bring VMware’s technology into a future where VMs are only part of the equation.

Carbon Black was founded in 2002 and went public in early 2018. At the time of the IPO, its valuation was about $1.25 billion. Its stock traded as low as less than $13 earlier this year, but it has since recovered to over $21. VMware will pay $26 per share in cash for the company and expects the deal to close by the end of January 2020.

“Today marks an exciting milestone for Carbon Black, VMware and the entire cybersecurity industry,” said Patrick Morley, CEO, Carbon Black, in the announcement. “We now have the opportunity to seamlessly integrate Carbon Black’s cloud-native endpoint protection platform into all of VMware’s control points. This type of bold move is exactly what the IT and security industries have been looking to see for a very long time. We look forward to working with the VMware team to continue delivering a modern security cloud platform to customers around the world. Additionally, we’re pleased that today’s transaction provides Carbon Black’s shareholders with immediate and substantial value.”

The acquisition of Pivotal, which was originally incubated at VMware and EMC Corporation, brings a new developer platform into VMware that makes it easier for developers to write, test and deploy their applications. It’s a smart move that helps VMware complete its story, which has typically focused on providing infrastructure over actual development tools.

“Kubernetes is emerging as the de facto standard for multi-cloud modern apps. We are excited to combine Pivotal’s development platform, tools and services with VMware’s infrastructure capabilities to deliver a comprehensive Kubernetes portfolio to build, run and manage modern applications,” said Gelsinger.  “Importantly, adding Pivotal to our platform accelerates our broader Any Cloud, Any App, Any Device vision and reinforces our leadership position in modern multi-cloud IT infrastructure.”

You can read more about the Pivotal acquisition here.

VMware says it’s looking to acquire Pivotal

Source: TechCrunch | 22 Aug 2019 | 4:55 pm

Your phone case may be hurting your phone’s 5G performance
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Based on the description for two Samsung Galaxy Note 10 phones, it may have an impact on your phone's 5G. Read more...

More about Tech, Mashable Video, Samsung Galaxy, 5g, and Note 10

Source: Mashable | 22 Aug 2019 | 4:47 pm

Walmart sues Tesla’s SolarCity as solar panels cause fires
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Walmart is claiming the tech company's solar panel is behind the millions of dollars in fire damage the store chain suffered. Read more...

More about Mashable Video, Tesla, Culture, Walmart, and Solar Panels

Source: Mashable | 22 Aug 2019 | 4:30 pm

Google Flights will refund the difference if prices drop unexpectedly
Just after shutting down its Trips travel-planning app, Google has announced a raft of travel-related features for other products, including a flight price guarantee. For a limited time, when it tells you prices won't drop on a trip you book through...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 11:54 am

iHeartMedia is returning podcasts to their radio roots
If you own a radio network, how do you promote your podcasts? By calling back to the roots of podcass and airing them on the radio, of course. iHeartMedia has unveiled a Sunday Night Podcasts initiative that will air podcasts on 270 of its radio st...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 11:42 am

The best desktops for back-to-school season
Please enjoy this guide to the best desktops for students, just one part of our larger 2019 back-to-school series. In addition to top picks in 11 categories -- everything from laptops to smartphones to gaming and dorm gear -- we went big on tips and...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 11:31 am

How would you rate Apple's newest AirPods?
The original Airpods from 2016 had issues with sound quality and fit, but the second generation packed in a few upgrades, including a H1 chipset that bolstered Bluetooth connection speeds and a wireless charging case. In his review Senior Editor Chri...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 11:30 am

Human Things' Switch charger is also a portable TV dock
If you're looking for a portable way to play Nintendo Switch games on a big screen, a new Kickstarter project from accessory maker Human Things, creators of a Switch Bluetooth audio dongle, might be just what you need.

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 11:00 am

Peer-to-peer 8Chan mirror makes users responsible for its child porn
It's been a few days since Cloudflare stopped providing security protections to 8Chan, which led to the notorious site going offline. While 8Chan's leaders are still trying unsuccessfully to bring the site back, some of its users have found a way to...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 10:14 am

Facebook tests paid video subscriptions, starting with CollegeHumor
Facebook is testing a new video subscription service in Watch. You'd be forgiven for confusing this news with the announcement of "fan subscriptions," which Facebook made last month, but no, video subscriptions is an entirely separate thing.

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 10:00 am

From indie development to Guerrilla Games: The 'Gravity Ghost' story
Erin Robinson Swink knows when someone has actually finished her game, the hand-painted physics-based adventure called Gravity Ghost. "I can usually tell if they played it until the end based on the way they say that to me," she said. "Like, 'Yeah I...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 9:15 am

Google puts playable podcast episodes in Search
Google continues its push into the world of podcasts, not only through its own podcast app but also by adding a new podcast feature to search.

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 9:00 am

Project Athena gets its own version of the 'Intel Inside' badge
Intel teased Project Athena at CES at the start of this year, then in May the company revealed what the program really hopes to achieve: super long battery life, fast charging and 5G all packaged neatly into ultra slim, lightweight devices aimed at t...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 8 Aug 2019 | 9:00 am

This smart grid program could save millions of tons of CO2 annually
smart-grid-energy

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.

See Also: Will autonomous microgrids drive IoT in smart cities?

“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

3 benefits a smart city can gain from smart infrastructure
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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 secures federal funding to develop peel-and-stick sensors
parc-xerox-sensors

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.

See also: Xerox beacon technology brings retail to commuters

“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

Get My Parking launches smart city pilot in India
Get My Parking

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.”

See also: Greek startup Sammy guides boats to shore — and parking

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.

The post Get My Parking launches smart city pilot in India appeared first on ReadWrite.

Source: ReadWrite | 14 Dec 2016 | 7:27 pm

Do fitness wearables need an affordability upgrade?
tomtom-wearable-bluetooth-headset

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.”

See also: How to use your wearable’s VO2 max feature in your fitness routine

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

Using IoT to help farmers to protect livestock from fires
Nare IoT

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.

See Also: How Honeywell and the post office are making Christmas bright

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

Google’s Waymo to put big car firms in the robot car driver’s seat
waymo

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.

See also: Google self-driving project set to graduate from labs

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

Aye! Smart city projects squirrel away $31m in Scotland
Mountain view point over Edinburgh city.

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

5 futuristic connected car technologies that are here now — or will be soon
city-cars-road-traffic (1)

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

Tech world aims to tackle the mental health issue next
shutterstock_emailstress

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.”

See also: New mental health technology tells your doctor what you won’t.

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