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T-Mobile is giving you 36 months to pay off select phones
T-Mobile is giving people more time to pay off their phones. On Friday, the mobile carrier will launch a new 36-month installment plan that will stretch the cost of a smartphone out over the course of three years rather than the standard two-year per...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 17 Oct 2018 | 7:18 pm

GOAT sneaker marketplace partners with NBA player Kyle Kuzma
Online sneaker marketplace GOAT announced that Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma will serve as the company's brand ambassador. Today's announcement marks the first partnership between a sneaker reselling platform and a professional athlete. Durin...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 17 Oct 2018 | 6:26 pm

What's up with the Razer Phone 2? — Technically Speaking
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Tech reporters Jake Krol and Matt Binder talk Techtober and the Razer Phone 2. Read more...

More about Mashable Video, Razer Phone, Technically Speaking, Techtober, and Tech

Source: Mashable | 17 Oct 2018 | 5:43 pm

'Orange Is the New Black' to end next season
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Orange Is the New Black will conclude after its seventh season next year. The prison drama based on Piper Kerman's memoir of the same name was one of Netflix's first original TV shows, premiering in the summer of 2013.

SEE ALSO: 'Orange is the New Black' Season 6 feels like the beginning of the end

Creator Jenji Kohan said in 2017 that she had plans to end the show after seven seasons. Kohan is now an executive producer on Netflix's GLOW, another hyper-specific female narrative that took viewers by storm with its debut.

"I'm going to miss playing on the edge of one of the most groundbreaking, original, and controversial series of this decade," actress Kate Mulgrew said in the farewell announcement video. Read more...

More about Entertainment, Television, Netflix, Orange Is The New Black, and Oitnb

Source: Mashable | 17 Oct 2018 | 5:43 pm

Facebook’s political ad system still allows anonymous advertising
In May, Facebook began requiring political ads in the US to disclose who paid for them and those purchasing political ads to verify their identities. Both moves were meant to address some of the issues highlighted by the 2016 presidential election, d...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 17 Oct 2018 | 5:42 pm

Razer Phone 2, Photoshop for iPad, Netflix's big win: The latest in tech news — Technically Speaking
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This week, on Technically Speaking: Jake Krol and Matt Binder discuss the latest tech headlines, including Techtober, Photoshop coming to the iPad, and Netflix accounting for 15% of the internet's data. Read more...

More about Ipad, Netflix, Mashable Video, Photoshop, and Razer

Source: Mashable | 17 Oct 2018 | 5:31 pm

Student says she gave cookies containing grandfather's ashes to classmates
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A student in Davis, California has claimed that around two weeks ago, she and a co-conspirator gave nine classmates cookies containing her grandfather's ashes.

At least some of the students were aware there were ashes in the cookies before they consumed them, police told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday. Others were apparently unaware and were "horrified" when they found out. 

So far, it is unclear why the student felt motivated to bring desserts with human remains in them to school. Since the cookies have already been eaten, it is also unclear how we can be sure they contained ashes at all — although a classmate of the alleged perpetrator did say he "didn't believe her until she pulled out the urn." Read more...

More about Cookies, Weird News, Culture, and Web Culture

Source: Mashable | 17 Oct 2018 | 5:30 pm

Tesla's Gigafactory plans in China just moved forward in a big way
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Back in July, Tesla announced it had signed a deal in China allowing it to build up to 500,000 vehicles a year there. Now Elon Musk's company has acquired the land to build its manufacturing facility in Shanghai.

The location of the Chinese Gigafactory was set as Shanghai because it has a free-trade zone, which means there's no need to partner with a local Chinese company before manufacturing can begin. As Reuters reports, the Shanghai government sold Tesla a plot of land that's roughly 860,000 square meters (213 acres) in size.

SEE ALSO: iOS 12 review: Finally, the fear of upgrading is over

The cost of the land hasn't been confirmed by Tesla, but the Shanghai Bureau of Planning and Land Resources lists a recent auction for a 864,885 square meter plot of land as costing just over $140.5 million. It seems unlikely two pieces of land of roughly the same size would be sold so close together, so this is probably what Tesla paid. Read more...

More about Tesla, Gigafactory, Tech, Elon Musk, and Big Tech Companies

Source: Mashable | 17 Oct 2018 | 5:25 pm

Hyperloop One says Missouri route is economically viable
Virgin Hyperloop One has announced the results of a feasibility study on a planned route connecting Kansas City, Columbia and St. Louis. The study, which has yet to be published in full, purports that the route between the three cities is commerciall...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 17 Oct 2018 | 5:25 pm

Watch Rihanna vogue to the 'A Star Is Born' soundtrack
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Welcome to the beautiful world of watching Rihanna vogue to various songs on Twitter.

It's pretty straight forward: People have started editing a clip of Rihanna dancing during her ANTI tour to other songs like Azealia Banks' "Anna Wintour" or Lady Gaga's "Judas." Like the "Party Rock Anthem" meme, her choreography matches tons of songs. 

The meme's been around since at least April, but it seems to have recently resurfaced. Shortly after the A Star Is Born premiere earlier this month, Twitter user @slayjoannex tweeted a clip of Rihanna dancing to "Hair Body Face," a song from the film's soundtrack. Obviously it fits perfectly, and has since inspired a few others. Read more...

More about Twitter, Memes, Rihanna, Culture, and Web Culture

Source: Mashable | 17 Oct 2018 | 5:10 pm

Photoshop is coming to the iPad: Here's why we're jazzed — Technically Speaking
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Tech reporters Jake Krol and Matt Binder break down the impact Photoshop could have on the iPad. Read more...

More about Ipad, Mashable Video, Photoshop, Technically Speaking, and Tech

Source: Mashable | 17 Oct 2018 | 5:10 pm

Hulu's night mode comes to the web
Hulu has added a night mode to its website. The feature went live today at 12:30 PM EST, and is limited to watching video in their computer's web browser. The night mode update, which changes the background of Hulu's site from white to black, comes o...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 17 Oct 2018 | 5:07 pm

Building a great startup requires more than genius and a great invention
Shahin Farshchi Contributor
Shahin Farshchi is a partner at Lux Capital.

Many entrepreneurs assume that an invention carries intrinsic value, but that assumption is a fallacy.

Here, the examples of the 19th and 20th century inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla are instructive. Even as aspiring entrepreneurs and inventors lionize Edison for his myriad inventions and business acumen, they conveniently fail to recognize Tesla, despite having far greater contributions to how we generate, move and harness power. Edison is the exception, with the legendary penniless Tesla as the norm.

Universities are the epicenter of pure innovation research. But the reality is that academic research is supported by tax dollars. The zero-sum game of attracting government funding is mastered by selling two concepts: Technical merit, and broader impact toward benefiting society as a whole. These concepts are usually at odds with building a company, which succeeds only by generating and maintaining competitive advantage through barriers to entry.

In rare cases, the transition from intellectual merit to barrier to entry is successful. In most cases, the technology, though cool, doesn’t give a fledgling company the competitive advantage it needs to exist among incumbents and inevitable copycats. Academics, having emphasized technical merit and broader impact to attract support for their research, often fail to solve for competitive advantage, thereby creating great technology in search of a business application.

Of course there are exceptions: Time and time again, whether it’s driven by hype or perceived existential threat, big incumbents will be quick to buy companies purely for technology. Cruise/GM (autonomous cars), DeepMind/Google (AI) and Nervana/Intel (AI chips). But as we move from 0-1 to 1-N in a given field, success is determined by winning talent over winning technology. Technology becomes less interesting; the onus is on the startup to build a real business.

If a startup chooses to take venture capital, it not only needs to build a real business, but one that will be valued in the billions. The question becomes how a startup can create a durable, attractive business, with a transient, short-lived technological advantage.

Most investors understand this stark reality. Unfortunately, while dabbling in technologies which appeared like magic to them during the cleantech boom, many investors were lured back into the innovation fallacy, believing that pure technological advancement would equal value creation. Many of them re-learned this lesson the hard way. As frontier technologies are attracting broader attention, I believe many are falling back into the innovation trap.

Investing in frontier technology is (and isn’t) cleantech all over again

So what should aspiring frontier inventors solve for as they seek to invest capital to translate pure discovery to building billion-dollar companies? How can the technology be cast into an unfair advantage that will yield big margins and growth that underpin billion-dollar businesses?

Talent productivity: In this age of automation, human talent is scarce, and there is incredible value attributed to retaining and maximizing human creativity. Leading companies seek to gain an advantage by attracting the very best talent. If your technology can help you make more scarce talent more productive, or help your customers become more productive, then you are creating an unfair advantage internally, while establishing yourself as the de facto product for your customers.

Great companies such as Tesla and Google have built tools for their own scarce talent, and build products their customers, in their own ways, can’t do without. Microsoft mastered this with its Office products in the 1990s through innovation and acquisition, Autodesk with its creativity tools, and Amazon with its AWS Suite. Supercharging talent yields one of the most valuable sources of competitive advantage: switchover cost.  When teams are empowered with tools they love, they will loathe the notion of migrating to shiny new objects, and stick to what helps them achieve their maximum potential.

Marketing and distribution efficiency: Companies are worth the markets they serve. They are valued for their audience and reach. Even if their products in of themselves don’t unlock the entire value of the market they serve, they will be valued for their potential to, at some point in the future, be able to sell to the customers that have been tee’d up with their brands. AOL leveraged cheap CD-ROMs and the postal system to get families online, and on email.

Dollar Shave Club leveraged social media and an otherwise abandoned demographic to lock down a sales channel that was ultimately valued at a billion dollars. The inventions in these examples were in how efficiently these companies built and accessed markets, which ultimately made them incredibly valuable.

Network effects: Its power has ultimately led to its abuse in startup fundraising pitches. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram generate their network effects through internet and Mobile. Most marketplace companies need to undergo the arduous, expensive process of attracting vendors and customers. Uber identified macro trends (e.g. urban living) and leveraged technology (GPS in cheap smartphones) to yield massive growth in building up supply (drivers) and demand (riders).

Our portfolio company Zoox will benefit from every car benefiting from edge cases every vehicle encounters: akin to the driving population immediately learning from special situations any individual driver encounters. Startups should think about how their inventions can enable network effects where none existed, so that they are able to achieve massive scale and barriers by the time competitors inevitably get access to the same technology.

Offering an end-to-end solution: There isn’t intrinsic value in a piece of technology; it’s offering a complete solution that delivers on an unmet need deep-pocketed customers are begging for. Does your invention, when coupled to a few other products, yield a solution that’s worth far more than the sum of its parts? For example, are you selling a chip, along with design environments, sample neural network frameworks and data sets, that will empower your customers to deliver magical products? Or, in contrast, does it make more sense to offer standard chips, licensing software or tag data?

If the answer is to offer components of the solution, then prepare to enter a commodity, margin-eroding, race-to-the-bottom business. The former, “vertical” approach is characteristic of more nascent technologies, such as operating robots-taxis, quantum computing and launching small payloads into space. As the technology matures and becomes more modular, vendors can sell standard components into standard supply chains, but face the pressure of commoditization.

A simple example is personal computers, where Intel and Microsoft attracted outsized margins while other vendors of disk drives, motherboards, printers and memory faced crushing downward pricing pressure. As technology matures, the earlier vertical players must differentiate with their brands, reach to customers and differentiated product, while leveraging what’s likely going to be an endless number of vendors providing technology into their supply chains.

A magical new technology does not go far beyond the resumes of the founding team.

What gets me excited is how the team will leverage the innovation, and attract more amazing people to establish a dominant position in a market that doesn’t yet exist. Is this team and technology the kernel of a virtuous cycle that will punch above its weight to attract more money, more talent and be recognized for more than it’s product?

Source: TechCrunch | 17 Oct 2018 | 4:45 pm

Give this person who made an 8-bit Mario jack-o'-lantern infinite coins
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Nintendo's icon and star, Mario, just got the best Halloween tribute ever.  

A jack-o'-lantern that was carved in the shape of an 8-bit Mario back in his 2D days has circulated around Reddit. The carving is extremely detailed, and it nails the exact pixelated look of the character.

SEE ALSO: Playing 'Super Mario Party' alone makes me feel sad

Reddittor WobWobRob posted a photo of their jack-o'-lantern on r/gaming where it was praised by the community. Quite honestly, it's a really incredible work of art.

The work that went into carving the pumpkin is nothing to scoff at either. The creator explained that they had used a "pixelated grid" in order to accurately carve the correct amount of depth for certain parts of Mario's body. Read more...

More about Reddit, Halloween, Mario, Culture, and Gaming

Source: Mashable | 17 Oct 2018 | 4:45 pm

This proves that Netflix owns the internet — Technically Speaking
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Tech reporters Jake Krol and Matt Binder dissect a report that highlighted Netflix's role in data usage. Read more...

More about Netflix, Mashable Video, Data, Technically Speaking, and Tech

Source: Mashable | 17 Oct 2018 | 4:45 pm

'The Stanley Parable' rewards you for not playing in five years
If you played The Stanley Parable when it came out on October 17th, 2013, and haven't picked it up since, you have just unlocked a brand new achievement. Today is the first day -- five years after the launch of the game -- that the "Go Outside" achie...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 17 Oct 2018 | 4:43 pm

Silicon Valley hoped the Khashoggi story would go away; instead, it may end an era

It’s amazing how quickly things can change. Exactly a week ago, we wondered if Saudi Arabia’s money might finally become radioactive in light of the disappearance of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Almost no one we reached for comment wanted to participate in the story, though behind the scenes, we heard the same things from different sources who have a vested interest in keeping the peace with the country and its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: There is no proof. We’re waiting to see what happens. You’re naive if you think this is the only regime that both funds Silicon Valley and tortures its own people. I would rather scale my company using Saudi money then cap my opportunity by trying to ensure that my funding sources are pure.

In fairness, Silicon Valley companies are used to getting away with a lot. Outrage over one perceived calamity often dissipates quickly as it’s replaced by another. No doubt a week ago, there was an expectation that the media would move on from the journalist who vanished inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey one October afternoon.

Yet the Khashoggi story has not faded away. In stark contrast, it just became so graphic that to ignore it is no longer an option. Consider: According to a senior Turkish official who earlier today described details from audio recordings to the New York Times, almost immediately after Khashoggi walked into the consulate, Saudi agents seized him and began to beat him and torture him, cutting off his fingers as he screamed, then cutting off his head and dismembering his body. According to this same Turkish official, it was suggested by a doctor of forensics who’d been brought along for the dissection that the agents put on headphones and listened to music as they worked.

That isn’t enough for President Trump, who has defended the crown prince, known as MBS, as having been unfairly accused. However, SoftBank — the Japanese conglomerate that has been shoveling billions of Saudi dollars into tech and other companies — seems to be having second thoughts. According to the Financial Times, SoftBank’s COO Marcelo Claure has said for the first time that there is “no certainty” that SoftBank will launch another Vision Fund, the $93 billion vehicle it is currently investing and that received roughly half of its capital from MBS and company.

SoftBank is “watching developments” to “see where this goes,” Claure added.

If SoftBank or other recipients of Saudi Arabia’s capital are hoping for a surprising turn of events, they should watch what they wish for. If there’s a twist at all, it may well be that a journalist who many in Silicon Valley had never heard of until two weeks ago causes its long economic boom to bust.

It may sound far-fetched; it isn’t. A huge percentage of the money flowing into Silicon Valley in recent years has come from the kingdom. That’s been just fine with founders and investors, who’ve grown fat and happy off that flow of capital. Indeed, while some have suggested these sophisticated businesspeople were somehow tricked by the charming prince, it’s more likely they had a different rationale: that if and when the market turned, it would be Saudi Arabia left holding the bag.

In the meantime, that money has sustained countless startups with round after round of funding. In tandem, round sizes have gone up. The amount of money that VCs manage has gone up. The number of years that it takes venture-backed companies to go public has gone up. In many ways, Saudi Arabia has changed the very nature of the venture industry.

Without those riches — and it’s going to be pretty hard to return to that well anytime soon — startups will have to look elsewhere. Some might try their luck on the public markets. Presumably, others will fail — finally.

It could well be the end of an era, and how strange to think it started when one man entered a consulate to obtain marriage license papers, never to be seen again.

Source: TechCrunch | 17 Oct 2018 | 4:36 pm

Friendly reminder: There are a lot of soothing dog show videos on YouTube
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Hard Refresh is a soothing weekly column where we try to reset your brain and cleanse it of whatever terrible thing you just witnessed on Twitter.

In my opinion, one of the only reasons for YouTube to still exist is animal videos. 

Otherwise a cesspool of screaming vloggers and disturbing children's content, pages like the Sunflower Farm Creamery and the Cincinnati Zoo (home of Fiona the hippo) lend the overstuffed platform a little joy. One of my favorites, though, isn't a page but a genre: dog show clips.

I watch both the Westminster Dog Show and the National Dog Show religiously. Although I'm sure the dog show experience is much different in person, on TV they're tranquil, quiet, structured events featuring pleasant banter in which I do not have to participate — perfect for my anxiety. Plus, they star the most adorable creatures on the planet. Read more...

More about Youtube, Dogs, Hard Refresh, Culture, and Web Culture

Source: Mashable | 17 Oct 2018 | 4:31 pm

You can win a limited edition Xbox One X, but only by eating Taco Bell
Most gamers have had at least one Taco Bell-infused gaming session, but but Microsoft's latest promotion takes things to the extreme. Microsoft is teaming up with the fast food joint to give away limited edition Taco Bell-themed Xbox One X consoles t...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 17 Oct 2018 | 4:20 pm

Gillette partners with Formlabs to 3D print razor handles

3D printing for manufacturing is one of those things that gets talked about a lot, but we’ve yet to see a lot of truly mainstream applications for the technology. A new partnership between Gillette and MIT-born startup Formlabs offers an interesting potential peek into such a future.

Granted, customized razor handles is probably more of a novelty than anything. It’s not exactly as game changing as, say, Invisalign braces, prostheses or even sneakers, but if the tech proves scalable it could add an extra level of customization to a product that’s a part of many of our day to day lives.

For now, Gillette’s 3D-printed razor handle program is just a pilot the shaving giant is offering up in limited quantities. It starts at $19 and goes up to $45, depending on the materials used. Using the Razor Maker site, users can build their own distinct version. The handles are then printed on Formlabs machines at Gillette’s Boston headquarters.

Source: TechCrunch | 17 Oct 2018 | 4:06 pm

Why IGTV should go premium

It’s been four months since Facebook launched IGTV, with the goal of creating a destination for longer-form Instagram videos. Is it shaping up to be a high-profile flop, or could this be the company’s next multi-billion-dollar business?

IGTV, which features videos up to 60 minutes versus Instagram’s normal 60-second limit, hasn’t made much of a splash yet. Since there are no ads yet, it hasn’t made a dollar, either. But, it offers Facebook the opportunity to dominate a new category of premium video, and to develop a subscription business that better aligns with high-quality content.

Facebook worked with numerous media brands and celebrities to shoot high-quality, vertical videos for IGTV’s launch on June 20, as both a dedicated app and a section within the main Instagram app. But IGTV has been quiet since. I’ve heard repeatedly in conversations with media executives that almost no one is creating content specifically for IGTV and that the audience on IGTV remains small relative to the distribution of videos on Snapchat or Facebook. Most videos on it are repurposed from a brand’s or influencer’s Snapchat account (at best) or YouTube channel (more common). Digiday heard the same feedback.

Instagram announced IGTV on June 20 as a way for users to post videos up to 1 hour long in a dedicated section of the app (and separate app)

Facebook’s goal should be to make IGTV a major property in its own right, distinct from the Instagram feed. To do that, the company should follow the concept embodied in the “IGTV” name and re-envision what television shows native to the format of an Instagram user would look like.

Its team should leverage the playbook of top TV streaming services like Netflix and Hulu in developing original series with top talent in Hollywood to anchor their own subscription service, but in it a new format of shows produced specifically for the vertically oriented, distraction-filled screen of a smartphone.

Mobile video is going premium

Of the 6+ hours per day that Americans spend on digital media, the majority on that is now on their phone (most of it on social and entertainment activities) and video viewing has grown with it. In addition to the decline in linear television viewing and rise of “over-the-top” streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, we’ve seen the creation of a whole new category of video: mobile native video.

Starting at its most basic iteration with everyday users’ recordings for Snapchat Stories, Instagram Stories and YouTube vlogs, mobile video is a very different viewing environment with a lot more competition for attention. Mobile video is watched as people are going about their day. They might commit a few minutes at a time, but not hour-long blocks, and there are distracting text messages and push notifications overlaid on the screen as they watch.

“Stories” on the major social apps have advanced vertically oriented, mobile native videos as their own content format

When I spoke recently with Jesús Chavez, CEO of the mobile-focused production company Vertical Networks in Los Angeles, he emphasized that successful episodic videos on mobile aren’t just normal TV clips with changes to the “packaging” (cropped for vertical, thumbnails selected to get clicks, etc.). The way episodes are written and shot has to be completely different to succeed. Chavez put it in terms of the higher “density” of mobile-native videos: packing more activity into a short time window, with faster dialogue, fewer setup shots, split screens and other tactics.

With the growing amount of time people spend watching videos on their social apps each day — and the flood of subpar videos chasing view counts — it makes sense that they would desire a premium content option. We have seen this scenario before as ad-dependent radio gave rise to subscription satellite radio like Sirius XM and ad-dependent network TV gave rise to pay-TV channels like HBO. What that looks like in this context is a trusted service with the same high bar for riveting storytelling of popular films and TV series — and often featuring famous talent from those — but native to the vertical, smartphone environment.

If IGTV pursues this path, it would compete most directly with Quibi, the new venture that Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman are raising $2 billion to launch (and was temporarily called NewTV until their announcement at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit last Wednesday). They are developing a big library of exclusive shows by iconic directors like Guillermo del Toro and Jason Blum crafted specifically for smartphones through their upcoming subscription-based app.

Quibi’s funding is coming from the world’s largest studios (Disney, Fox, Sony, Lionsgate, MGM, NBCU, Viacom, Alibaba, etc.) whose executives see substantial enough opportunity in such a platform — which they could then produce content for — to write nine-figure checks.

TechCrunch’s Josh Constine argued last year Snapchat should go in a similar “HBO of mobile” direction as well, albeit ad-supported rather than a subscription model. The company indeed seems to be stepping further in this direction with last week’s announcement of Snapchat Originals, although it has announced and then canceled original content plans before.

Snapchat announced its Snap Originals last week

Facebook is the best positioned to win

Facebook is the best positioned to seize this opportunity, and IGTV is the vehicle for doing so. Without even considering integrations with the Facebook, Messenger or WhatsApp apps, Facebook is starting with a base of more than 1 billion monthly active users on Instagram alone. That’s an enormous audience to expose these original shows to, and an audience who don’t need to create or sign into a separate account to explore what’s playing on IGTV. Broader distribution is also a selling point for creative talent: They want their shows to be seen by large audiences.

The user data that makes Facebook rivaled only by Google in targeted advertising would give IGTV’s recommendation algorithms a distinct advantage in pushing users to the IGTV shows most relevant to their interests and most popular among their friends.

The social nature of Instagram is an advantage in driving awareness and engagement around IGTV shows: Instagram users could see when someone they follow watches or “likes” a show (pending their privacy settings). An obvious feature would be to allow users to discuss or review a show by sharing it to their main Instagram feed with a comment; their followers would see a clip or trailer, then be able to click-through to the full show in IGTV with one tap.

Developing and acquiring a library of must-see, high-quality original productions is massively capital-intensive — just ask Netflix about the $13 billion it’s spending this year. Targeting premium-quality mobile video will be no different. That’s why Katzenberg and Whitman are raising a $2 billion war chest for Quibi and budgeting production costs of $100,000-150,000 per minute on par with top TV shows. Facebook has $42 billion in cash and equivalents on its balance sheet. It can easily outspend Quibi and Snap in financing and marketing original shows by a mix of newcomers and Hollywood icons.

Snap can’t afford (financially) to compete head-on and doesn’t have the same scale of distribution. It is at 188 million daily active users and no longer growing rapidly (up 8 percent over the last year, but DAUs actually shrunk by 3 million last quarter). Snapchat is also a much more private interface: it doesn’t enable users to see each others’ activity like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Spotify and others do to encourage content discovery. Snap is more likely to create a hub for ad-supported mobile-first shows for teens and early-twentysomethings rather than rival Quibi or IGTV in creating a more broadly popular Netflix or Hulu of mobile-native shows.

It’s time to go freemium

Investing substantial capital upfront is especially necessary for a company launching a subscription tier: consumers must see enough compelling content behind the paywall from the start, and enough new content regularly added, to find an ongoing subscription worthwhile.

There is currently no monetization of IGTV. It is sitting in experimentation mode as Facebook watches how people use it. If any company can drive enough ad revenue solely from short commercials to still profit on high-cost, high-quality episodic shows on mobile, it’s Facebook. But a freemium subscription model makes more sense for IGTV. From a financial standpoint, building IGTV into its own profitable P&L while making substantial content investments likely demands more revenue than ads alone will generate.

Of equal importance is incentive alignment. Subscriptions are defined by “time well spent” rather time spent and clicks made: quality over quantity. This is the environment in which premium content of other formats has thrived too; Sirius XM as the breakout on radio, HBO on linear TV, Netflix in OTT originals. The type of content IGTV will incentivize, and the creative talent they’ll attract, will be much higher quality when the incentives are to create must-see shows that drive new subscribers than when the incentives are to create videos that optimize for views.

Could there be a “Netflix for mobile native video” with shows shot in vertical format specifically for viewing on smartphone?

The optimization for views (to drive ad revenue) have been the model that media companies creating content for Facebook have operated on for the last decade. The toxicity of this has been a top news story over the last year with Facebook acknowledging many of the issues with clickbait and sensationalism and vowing changes.

Over the years, Facebook has dragged media companies up and down with changes to its newsfeed algorithm that forced them to make dramatic changes to their content strategies (often with layoffs and restructuring). It has burned bridges with media companies in the process; especially after last January, how to reduce dependence on Facebook platforms has become a common discussion point among digital content executives. If Facebook wants to get top producers, directors and production companies investing their time and resources in developing a new format of high-quality video series for IGTV, it needs an incentives-aligned business model they can trust to stay consistent.

Imagine a free, ad-supported tier for videos by influencers and media partners (plus select “IGTV Originals”) to draw in Instagram users, then a $3-8/month subscription tier for access to all IGTV Originals and an ad-free viewing experience. (By comparison, Quibi plans to charge a $5/month subscription with ads with the option of $8/month for its ad-free tier.)

Looking at the growth of Netflix in traditional TV streaming, a subscription-based business should be a welcome addition to Facebook’s portfolio of leading content-sharing platforms. This wouldn’t be its first expansion beyond ad revenue: the newest major division of Facebook, Oculus, generates revenue from hardware sales and a 30 percent cut of the revenue to VR apps in the Oculus app store (similar to Apple’s cut of iOS app revenue). Facebook is also testing a dating app which — based on the freemium business model Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, and other leading dating apps have proven to work — would be natural to add a subscription tier to.

Facebook is facing more public scrutiny (and government regulation) on data privacy and its ad targeting than ever before. Incorporating subscriptions and transaction fees as revenue streams benefits the company financially, creates a healthier alignment of incentives with users and eases the public criticism of how Facebook is using people’s data. Facebook is already testing subscriptions to Facebook Groups and has even explored offering a subscription alternative to advertising across its core social platforms. It is quite unlikely to do the latter, but developing revenue streams beyond ads is clearly something the company’s leadership is contemplating.

The path forward

IGTV needs to make product changes if it heads in this direction. Right now videos can’t link together to form a series (i.e. one show with multiple episodes) and discoverability is very weak. Beyond seeing recent videos by those you follow, videos that are trending and a selection of recommendations, you can only search for channels to follow (based on name). There’s no way to search for specific videos or shows, no way to browse channels or videos by topic and no way to see what people you follow are watching.

It would be a missed opportunity not to vie for this. The upside is enormous — owning the Netflix of a new content category — while the downside is fairly minimal for a company with such a large balance sheet.

Source: TechCrunch | 17 Oct 2018 | 4:00 pm

Sidestepping App Stores, Facebook Lite and Groups get Instant Games

HTML5 almost ruined Facebook when baking in the mobile web standard to speed up development slowed down the performance of the social network’s main iOS and Android apps. For a brief moment in 2011, Facebook even tried to build an HTML5 gaming platform codenamed Sparta to escape the taxes of Apple and Google’s mobile operating systems. But at the time, HTML5 wasn’t powerful enough for great gaming. Facebook eventually ditched HTML5, rebuilt the apps natively, and Facebook became one of the most powerful players in mobile.

Now Facebook is giving HTML5 another shot as a way to expand its Instant Games like Pac-Man and Words With Friends to the developing world through Facebook Lite, and to interest communities via Facebook Groups. With improvements to smartphone processing power and the underlying mobile browser app technology, HTML5 can now support snappy, graphically-complex games like Everwing seen below.

Instead of having to download separate apps for each game from the Apple App Store or Google Play, Instant Games launch in a mobile browser. That keeps Facebook Lite’s file size small to the benefit of international users with slow connections or limited data plans. And it lets Instant Games integrate directly into Groups so you can challenge not only friends but like-minded members to compete for high scores.

90 million people each month actively participate in 270,000 Facebook Groups about gaming, and now they’ll see Instant Games in the Groups navigation bar next to the About and Discussion tabs. Facebook is also considering making games an opt-in feature for non-gaming Groups. In Facebook Lite, Instant Games will appear in the More sidebar so they’re not too interruptive.

The expansion demonstrates how serious Facebook is about becoming a gaming company again. Back in its desktop days, the games platform dominated by developers like Zynga racked up tons of usage, virality, and in-game payments revenue for Facebook. That revenue declined for years after mobile usage began to dominate in 2014, but recently stabilized at around $190 million per quarter. Apparently someone is still playing FarmVille.

Facebook launched Instant Games in late-2016 to give people something to do while they’re waiting from friends to reply to their messages. Around the same time, Facebook launched Gameroom — a Steam-like desktop software hub for mid-core gamers, though there’s been less news on that product since. Instant Games rolled out worldwide in mid-2017, and opened to all developers in March of this year. It’s since been expanding monetization options for developers to make building Instant Games a sustainable business. That includes making Instant Games compatible with Facebook’s playable ads that let developers lure in users from the News Feed.

Facebook won’t actually be earning money from in-app purchases on Instant Games on iOS where it doesn’t allow IAP due to Apple’s policies, or on Android since it began forgoing its cut last month. It does take 30 percent on desktop though. But the bigger monetization play is in ads where Facebook is a juggernaut.

With Instant Games on Messenger, Facebook’s desktop site and main mobile app via bookmarks, its new Fb.gg standalone gaming community app, and now Facebook Lite and Groups, the company is prioritizing the space again. That seems wise as gaming becomes more mainstream thanks to players livestreaming their commentary and phenomena like Fortnite. And with Facebook’s expansion into hardware with the Portal smart screen and a forthcoming TV set-top box, it will have more places than ever for people to play or watch others duke it out.

Source: TechCrunch | 17 Oct 2018 | 4:00 pm

Facebook is bringing Instant Games to Groups and the Lite app
Facebook built Instant Games as a cross-platform gaming experience that can run anywhere without the need to download anything extra. Taking the platform's nature into account, it seems pretty obvious that the social network plans to put it anywhere...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 17 Oct 2018 | 4:00 pm

PwC staves off disruption with immersive emerging tech training

The big accounting firms are under pressure from digital disruption just like every industry these days, but PwC is trying a proactive approach with a digital accelerator program designed to train employees for the next generation of jobs.

To do this, PwC is not just providing some additional training resources and calling it a day. They are allowing employees to take 18 months to two years to completely immerse themselves in learning about a new area. This involves spending half their time on training for their new skill development and half putting that new knowledge to work with clients.

PwC’s Sarah McEneaney, digital talent leader at PwC was put in charge of the program. She said that as a consulting organization, it was important to really focus on the providing a new set of skills for the entire group of employees. That would take a serious commitment, concentrating on a set of emerging technologies. They decided to focus on data and analytics, automation and robotics and AI and machine learning.

Ray Wang, who is founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research says this is part of a broader trend around preparing employees inside large organizations for future skills. “Almost every organization around the world is worried about the growing skills gap inside their organizations. Reskilling, continuous learning and hand-on training are back in vogue with the improved economy and war for talent,” he said.

PwC program takes shape

About a year ago the company began designing the program and decided to open it up to everyone in the company from the consulting staff to the support staff with goal of eventually providing a new set of skills across the entire organization of 50,000 employees. As you would expect with a large organization, that started with baby steps.

Graphic: Duncan_Andison/Getty Images

The company designed the new program as a self-nomination process, rather than having management picked candidates. They wanted self starters, and about 3500 applied. McEneaney considered this a good number, especially since PwC tends to be a risk-averse culture and this was asking employees to leave the normal growth track and take a chance with this new program. Out of the 3500 who applied, they did an initial pilot with 1000 people.

She estimates if a majority of the company’s employees eventually opt in to this retraining regimen, it could cost some serious cash, around $100 million. That’s not an insignificant sum, even for a large company like PwC, but McEneaney believes it should pay for itself fairly quickly. As she put it, customers will respect the fact that the company is modernizing and looking at more efficient ways to do the work they are doing today.

Making it happen

Daniel Krogen, a risk assurance associate at PwC decided to go on the data and analytics track. While he welcomed getting new skills from his company, he admits he was nervous going this route at first because of the typical way his industry has worked in the past. “In the accounting industry you come in and have a track and everyone follows the track. I was worried doing something unique could hinder me if I wasn’t following track,” he said.

Graphic: Feodora Chiosea/Getty Images

He says those fears were alleviated by senior management encouraging people to join this program and giving participants assurances that they would not be penalized. “The firm is dedicated to pushing this and having how we differentiate this against the industry, and we want to invest in all of our staff and push everyone through this,” Krogen said.

McEneaney says she’s a partner at the firm, but it took a change management sell to the executive team and really getting them to look at it as a long-term investment in the future of the business. “I would say a critical factor in the early success of the program has been having buy-in from our senior partner, our CEO and all of his team from the very start,” She reports directly to this team and sees their support and backing as critical to the early success of the program.

Getting real

Members of the program are given a 3-day orientation. After that they follow a self-directed course work. They are encouraged to work together with other people in the program, and this is especially important since people will bring a range of skills to the subject matter from absolute beginners to those with more advanced understanding. People can meet in an office if they are in the same area or a coffee shop or in an online meeting as they prefer.

Each member of the program participates in a Udacity nano-degree program, learning a new set of skills related to whatever technology speciality they have chosen. “We have a pretty flexible culture here…and we trust our people to work in ways that work for them and work together in ways that work for them,” McEneaney explained.

The initial program was presented as a 12-18 month digital accelerator tour of duty, Krogen said. “In those 12-18 months, we are dedicated to this program. We could choose another stint or go back to client work and bring those skills to client services that we previously provided.”

While this program is really just getting off the ground, it’s a step toward acknowledging the changing face of business and technology. Companies like PwC need to be proactive in terms of preparing their own employees for the next generation of jobs, and that’s something every organization should be considering.

Source: TechCrunch | 17 Oct 2018 | 3:55 pm

Postmates launches food delivery in 134 additional US cities

Homebodies across the U.S. have reason to celebrate. Postmates — the on-demand food delivery service so popular in major cities that it’s a verb now — just launched in 134 new markets. Those 134 additional cities mean that Postmates has a presence in 550 cities total across the U.S, including places like Lubbock, Texas; Athens, Georgia; Columbia, South Carolina and Albany, New York.

In April, the company announced that it would partner with Walmart on grocery delivery. The move was meant to offset Amazon’s potential dominance in the space given the online retail giant’s acquisition of Whole Foods last year. Postmates was most recently valued at $1.2 billion after a $300 million influx of funding last month.

In July, Postmates added a wave of more than 100 cities, bringing its count up to 385 at the time. Now, Postmates claims coverage of 60 percent of households in the U.S., showing that the company is serious about taking Bay Area-centric on-demand luxuries and its own delivery infrastructure far beyond Silicon Valley.

Postmates raises another $300M, reportedly valued at $1.2B

Source: TechCrunch | 17 Oct 2018 | 3:53 pm

Investors see an opportunity framed in Lensabl’s prescription lens fulfillment business

Lensabl, the company that has built a business putting prescription lenses into any style of glasses frame, has raised $3.7 million in a new round of funding. 

Lensabl makes it easy to put new lenses in a favorite pair of shades or glasses

Based in Los Angeles, Lensabl already has an agreement inked with the city’s latest tech wunderkind, partnering with the spectacles-producing augmented reality luminaries at Snap.

“We are the preferred prescription provider of Snapchat Spectacles,” says Lensabl chief executive Andrew Bilinsky. “[And] we are already talking to and partnering with a variety of brands to start and scale their prescription operations [and] really scale our direct to consumer lens business.”

Powering that effort is the new $3.7 million in funding, which came from a clutch of big name strategic partners, venture firms and individual angel investors. Rogue Venture Partners, the same lead investor behind SightBox, a contact lens subscription business acquired by Johnson & Johnson, led the round. Additional investors, including Birchmere Ventures, Aspect Ventures, Cherry Tree Investments, Amplify, Luma Launch, Watertower Ventures and Crowdsmart (a crowdfunding platform), also participated in the financing.

For Bilinsky, the opportunity in setting up a business exclusively focused on filling prescriptions means reduced prices and better options for the estimated 188.7 million people who wear corrective eyewear or contact lenses in the U.S.

“We’re offering every different type of prescription lens for every different frame brand,” says Bilinsky. “[We’re] mimicking what a customer can do going into a LensCrafters at up to 70 percent cheaper than a traditional provider.”

And given the changing ways in which glasses buyers are shopping for frames, launching a business that caters to providing the right lenses at a lower price makes sense, Bilinsky says.

“With Amazon becoming the largest individual reseller of eyewear in the U.S., every frame that people buy that needs to be re-lensed. It’s a secondary market in the same way that you would put new rims on the car,” says Bilinsky.

Lensabl offers about 400 different permutations of lenses and 20 different tint colors. “It’s a customization platform for your frames,” says Bilinsky.

Source: TechCrunch | 17 Oct 2018 | 3:35 pm

Google details the Pixel 3's custom security chip
Google has bragged about its Pixel 3 phones' custom Titan M security chip, but... what is it doing, exactly? The company is happy to explain. It posted a summary explaining the core of what Titan M does, and it's clear the part is at once a watchdog...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 17 Oct 2018 | 3:22 pm

Essential lays off 30 percent of its workforce
Essential Products, the company behind the Essential Phone, has laid off around a third of its employees. The hardware and sales departments were reportedly hit hardest by the cuts.

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 17 Oct 2018 | 3:01 pm

Essential lays off nearly one-third of its staff

Layoffs are never an easy pill to swallow, but for Essential, it seems the writing was on the wall for a while with this one. After months of reports highlighting its struggles, the Andy Rubin-led smartphone startup has announced some major layoffs.

All told, the company will be losing around 30 percent of its staff.

We’ve since confirmed the news, which was initially noted by Bloomberg. “This has been a difficult decision to make,” a spokesperson for the company told TechCrunch. “We are very sorry for the impact on our colleagues who are leaving the company and are doing everything we can to help them with their future careers. We are confident that our sharpened product focus will help us deliver a truly game changing consumer product.”

The note strikes a similarly hopeful tone as past responses offered up in the wake of ongoing reports. Certainly the company went out of its way to acknowledge precisely how difficult it would be to launch a successful Android startup from the ground up in 2018. Ditto for the company’s plans to launch a smart speaker to compete with the Echo and Google Home — though that device has reportedly been placed on the back burner as the company looks for a way forward.

It’s been over a year since the company launched its first handset. That device got off to a rocky start, according to analysts, and in the meantime, the company has been fairly quiet on the hardware front, aside from a couple of accessories and a handful of deep discounts on the phone.

Hardware is hard — even when you’ve got the talent and experience to back it up.

Source: TechCrunch | 17 Oct 2018 | 2:54 pm

Tesla inks deal for Gigafactory 3 in China

Tesla has secured the rights to about 210 acres of land in Lingang, Shanghai, the site of the electric automaker’s planned factory and its first outside of the U.S.

Tesla executives and leaders of the Shanghai Economics and Information Committee, Shanghai Lingang Area Development Administration and Shanghai Lingang Group witnessed the agreement-signing ceremony in China on Wednesday.

“Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy not only through all-electric vehicles, but also scalable clean energy generation and storage products,” Robin Ren, Tesla’s vice president of Worldwide Sales said in a statement. “Securing this site in Shanghai, Tesla’s first Gigafactory outside of the United States, is an important milestone for what will be our next advanced, sustainably developed manufacturing site.”

The land transfer marks an important step for Tesla, which recently said rising costs had prompted the company to accelerate construction of its so-called Gigafactory 3. Tesla warned in its production and delivery report in early October that tariffs, combined with the cost of shipping its vehicles via ocean carrier and the lack of access to cash incentives available to locally produced electric vehicles, has put the company at a disadvantage in China.

Tesla reasserted those statements Wednesday, noting that it expects the project to be a “capital efficient and rapid buildout, using many lessons learned from the Model 3 ramp in North America.”

Tesla reached a deal in July with the Shanghai government to build a factory that it says will be capable of producing 500,000 electric vehicles a year. Once construction begins, it will take about two years until Tesla can produce vehicles. It will be another “two to three years before the factory is fully ramped up to produce around 500,000 vehicles per year for Chinese customers,” a Tesla spokesman said at the time.

The Shanghai factory deal marks a shift within the Chinese government to allow foreign companies to build and operate wholly owned facilities there. Foreign companies have historically had to form a 50-50 joint venture with a local partner to build a factory in China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said the country will phase out joint-venture rules for foreign automakers by 2022. Tesla is one of the first beneficiaries of this rule change.

The agreement allows Tesla to construct and operate a wholly owned factory in Lingang. The new factory will carry out research and development, manufacturing and sales operations.

The Chinese government will still be involved, however. Under a cooperation agreement, the Shanghai government and Tesla will jointly promote electric vehicle technology and industry development. The city of Shanghai said it will provide support for Gigafactory 3, although details are thin as to what that might mean.

Source: TechCrunch | 17 Oct 2018 | 2:47 pm

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
shutterstock_434588023

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.

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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.

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Source: ReadWrite | 13 Dec 2016 | 6:30 pm