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L.A. gets more moolah, thanks to Calibrate Ventures and its new, $80 million fund

Two years ago, a couple of VCs from Shea Ventures, a 50-year-old, L.A. -based investment firm, banded together to create a Pasadena, Ca.-based early stage venture firm called Calibrate Ventures.

Investors clearly like what they’re building. Firm founders Kevin Dunlap and Jason Schoettler are today announcing that they have closed their debut effort with $80 million in capital commitments, including from Shea Ventures itself and from Foundry Group, the Boulder, Co.-based venture outfit that began dedicated a portion of its own capital to investing in other early-stage venture funds in 2016. (Both Foundry and the Bay Area-based venture firm True Ventures have been frequent syndicate partners of both Dunlap and Schoettler, including during the 15 years the two spent with Shea.)

So what is Calibrate funding, exactly? Well, it has five portfolio companies so far. Three of these are bets on robotics companies, including the Bedford, Ma.-based flexible robot company Soft Robotics. It has also written checks to two software startups, including Broadly, an Oakland, Ca.-based mobile-first chat platform for local businesses. Dunlap says both fit into the firm’s mission of funding companies that augment today’s labor markets, or that enhance human productivity, or that simply offer cheaper, better services, like Dollar Shave Club, which he had backed while at Shea, or the home security company Ring, on whose board Dunlap had sat until the company sold for $1 billion to Amazon earlier this year.

As for the company’s obvious interest in robotics companies specifically, Dunlap says it’s far from a new area of fascination. In fact, Dunlap spent a year as an engineer with Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. He and Schoettler have also been making related bets for years, including investing in Sphero (in their capacity as investors at Shea) and, more recently, under the Calibrate banner, Built Robotics, which retrofits construction equipment with the same sensor technology used in autonomous vehicles. As for what interests them specifically, says Dunlap, a company has to have a “subscription or service component to it. We don’t want to be investing in toy robot or a single-use robot and hoping that someone will want to buy version two or three later on.”

Either way, don’t expect to see the firm write too many checks. As Dunlap explains it, the firm, which is investing across the U.S., only plans to make 15 investments altogether with this new fund, investing between $3 million and $6 million into companies that are already seeing early revenue and that might be raising Series A rounds of between $10 million and $20 million.

“It’s important that the two of us do the work and spend time with all the times, and it’s important for us to do the work afterward, too,” Dunlap says, including referring Calibrate’s portfolio companies to potential future investors.

Thankfully, he says, unlike in years long past, that’s not the problem it once was for an L.A.-based firm. “Things have really matured here over the last five or six years,” he says. “Talent has been more of an issue in recent years than funding.” And nature seems to be solving for this, too. “You’re definitely starting to see more people moving here for the better weather and the cost of living. You’re also starting to see people leaving Dollar Shave Club and Snap and Honest Company and, over time, Ring.”

The duo area also bringing plenty of lessons learned to the table, they say, including the importance of “alignment, ad not just with founders but with other investment partners,” says Dunlap. It helps startups navigate around having “too much structure” involved in their financing rounds. It also keeps valuations “appropriate,” he says.

By the way, asked if he is seeing valuations soften at all with the zigs and zags of the public market, Dunlap says he isn’t, not in his part of the world, anyway. “When you’re talking about seed rounds around a concept or an idea, valuations can creep up, and those valuations may be coming down a bit right now.” When you’re instead “having a discussion with a company that has early revenue and metrics that you can point to, I’m not seeing any difference at all.”

Pictured, left to right: Kevin Dunlap and Jason Schoettler. Courtesy of Calibrate Ventures.

Source: TechCrunch | 11 Dec 2018 | 8:31 pm

102-year-old woman may just be the oldest skydiver ever
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This badass lady didn't let her age stand in the way of a thrill. 

Irene O'Shea became what seems to be the oldest person to skydive at 102 years old and 194 days. The previous oldest skydiver, according to news reports, was Kenneth Meyer, who landed a jump in 2017 at 102 years and 172 days. 

On Sunday, O'Shea bundled up, boarded a helicopter, and while strapped to her instructor, she jumped out at 14,000 feet — all for a good cause.

SEE ALSO: These old and obsolete tech products actually make great gifts

After her daughter died of motor neuron disease — a degenerative disorder also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease — 10 years ago, O'Shea began raising awareness and funds for research. This is her third dive for the Motor Neurone Disease Association of South Australia. Her first was on her 100th birthday in 2016.  Read more...

More about Viral Videos, Fundraising, Skydiving, Culture, and Web Culture

Source: Mashable | 11 Dec 2018 | 8:04 pm

Huawei CFO freed on bail ahead of extradition
Tensions remain high over the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou for alleged Iran sanction violations, but Canada just offered a tiny olive branch. A British Columbia Supreme Court justice has granted Meng bail after her attorney and family made a ca...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 11 Dec 2018 | 7:31 pm

Facebook is still trying to find new places to put ads
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It might seem like there's already tons of ads on Facebook, but the company is still searching for new places to put more of them. 

The latest method that's materializing is in search results, where Facebook is now experimenting with ads, the company confirmed. 

SEE ALSO: 'Highly confidential' documents reveal Facebook used VPN app to track
competitors

“We're running a small test to place ads in Facebook search results, and we'll be evaluating whether these ads are beneficial for people and businesses before deciding whether to expand it,” Facebook product manager Zoheb Hajiyani said in a statement.  Read more...

More about Tech, Facebook, Social Media Companies, Tech, and Social Media Companies

Source: Mashable | 11 Dec 2018 | 6:59 pm

Cosmonauts brought a knife to a spacewalk
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Let's be honest, spacewalks, as a whole, can be pretty boring to watch. 

Yes, it's one of the most dangerous things an astronaut or cosmonaut can do in space: floating out into the void with just a relatively thin spacesuit to protect them.

But at the end of the day, these spacewalks usually amount to some pretty tedious tasks performed in the name of routine maintenance on the International Space Station.

However, this week, things got a little more interesting.

On Tuesday, Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev ventured outside of the station to perform a little rocket surgery.  Read more...

More about Space, Science, Russia, International Space Station, and Astronauts

Source: Mashable | 11 Dec 2018 | 6:51 pm

Huawei CFO accused of fraud is granted $7.5M bail

The Canadian government has granted bail to Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, 10 days after her arrest in Vancouver. The decision concludes a three-day court hearing in which the judge and the public prosecutor debated whether Wanzhou would breach her bail conditions.

Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, has been accused of fraud with a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. She was arrested by Canadian officials at the request of the U.S. government on December 1 while changing planes on her way to Mexico. As part of her bail conditions, the court has ordered her to pay C$10 million — about $7.5 million — and await U.S. extradition from her Vancouver home. According to reports, Wanzhou must relinquish her passport, wear an ankle bracelet and remain at home between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The U.S. Department of Justice alleges Wanzhou misled American financial institutions and allowed an unofficial Huawei subsidiary, called SkyCom, to do business in Iran despite U.S. sanctions.

Huawei didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

President Donald Trump, in an interview with Reuters, said he would be willing to intervene in the Justice Department’s case, citing national security concerns.

“If I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security – I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary,” Trump said.

Chinese stocks plummet as Huawei CFO arrest raises trade fears

Source: TechCrunch | 11 Dec 2018 | 6:33 pm

Puma is reissuing a 1986 fitness-tracking 'smart shoe'
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The nostalgia carousel keeps going round and round, and brands have happily hopped on for the ride.

Puma announced Monday that it would reissue a little-known shoe with a technical twist from 1986: the RS-Computer Shoe. The shoe, then and now, looks like a running shoe with a plastic protuberance on the back — which is where the shoe tracks your movement and activity. 

SEE ALSO: Bose Frames are augmented reality audio sunglasses

Chunky and retro fabulous? Yep, sounds like a very on-trend shoe to us. Plus, Puma is only releasing 86 of these babies (as in the year the shoe was released). So the hype beasts might really line up for this one. Read more...

More about Fitness, Puma, Fitness Trackers, Tech, and Consumer Tech

Source: Mashable | 11 Dec 2018 | 6:16 pm

Wix launches a new suite of products for support, sales and marketing

Wix is taking a big step beyond website building today with the launch of a suite of products called Ascend.

PR Manager Matt Rosenberg explained that just as Wix was founded with the aim of “demystifying and democratizing how you get online,” Ascend has a similar mission: “You don’t have to be a developer and designer to bring the same thing to business management and marketing.”

Other website builders like Squarespace and Weebly (now owned by Square) have also introduced marketing tools, but Ascend seems like a particularly ambitious expansion, encompassing 20 products in areas like chat, memberships, email marketing and search engine optimization (in some cases, these are existing Wix products being brought under the Ascend umbrella).

For example, Nitzan Achsaf, the company’s vice president and general manager of customer experience, demonstrated how a (fictional) tennis instructor could use the various Ascend products to answer questions from and offer discounts to one customer interested in purchasing a tennis racket, while also interacting with and providing official price quotes to someone else looking to book a birthday party for their child.

“What we’re proud of is, there’s no juggling of vendors or of third-party platforms,” Rosenberg added.

Inbox - Ascend

In fact, all of a business’ interactions with a customer, regardless of channel, are routed into a single inbox, which can be accessed on any device — in the case of the tennis instructor, Achsaf said, “The whole conversation is [conducted via mobile phone] on the court, probably in-between sessions.”

Wix is also developing a workflow editor, so that a business’ website and other channels can respond automatically depending on how customers behave.

Ascend by Wix is available as a separate subscription, with pricing ranging from $9 to $45 per month. Technically, you could use it even if you don’t have a Wix subscription, but Achsaf said, “The tight integration into a Wix website is a very big advantage for our users.”

Source: TechCrunch | 11 Dec 2018 | 6:08 pm

Proof of use: A new crowdfunding threshold for passionate users
Galen Moore Contributor
Galen Moore is director of Business Development at New Alchemy.

Right now, most participants in U.S. private placements must be “accredited” investors, meaning $200,000 annual income over multiple years or $1 million in net worth, not including your primary residence. These numbers have not changed since 1982, though inflation in the intervening decades has more than halved the real wealth they represent.

This means your mother, who owns a vacation home on Cape Cod, may be getting phone calls from boiler room broker-dealers. The wealth standard means your mother is considered qualified to evaluate such offers; a more sophisticated, but less wealthy individual is not.

Pending legislation addresses that. The Fair Investment Opportunities for Professional Experts Act is a revision to the 2014 JOBS Act. If you have a financial services license or are determined by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to have qualifying education or experience, it would allow you to invest, regardless of your wealth.

Proof of use versus proof of knowledge

The proof of knowledge approach is problematic. The advantage of the wealth-based standard for accreditation is it’s clear and straightforward.  A knowledge-based standard is more subjective, leading to potential disputes. Such a subjective standard may or may not open investment opportunities for people otherwise excluded by the wealth-based standard, but it’s sure to bring more revenue for lawyers.

Instead of a standard based on education or experience, the SEC ought to adopt a standard based on use — i.e. their contributions of time and talent that precede the investment. Call it “proof of use.”

The early growth of Facebook and internet protocols like HTML are analogies often used in crowdfunding and in crypto assets. If the volunteer developers who built the open-source internet protocols had been able to invest in them, they would be today’s internet moguls, alongside Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg. Meanwhile, early adopters, sellers and evangelists contributed tremendous value to Facebook and Amazon. If they had been able to invest, they’d have participated materially, too.

So-called “gig economy” platforms Airbnb and Uber have made similar recommendations to the SEC. Airbnb did so in a September letter to the SEC, advocating an update to rules governing equity-based employee compensation, which would allow them to distribute stock to hosts that use its platform without running up against the public-reporting limit of 1,999 shareholders. Uber had conversations in 2017 with the regulator, advocating similar changes for granting stock to its drivers. (In other venues, Uber has successfully argued its drivers are nothing like employees.)

I’m suggesting something a little different. If we are going to re-imagine a next generation of Facebooks that grow without information silos and monopolistic ambitions, network users must be able to contribute capital. Regulators could make this possible if they open the door for users who have been active with a product for a significant period of time to actually buy its stock.

Long-term, active use is a more objective standard than knowledge. Picking stocks based on individual experience as a professional or a consumer is also a time-honored principle, going back to one of Peter Lynch’s often-repeated mantras: “Invest in what you know.”

Civil’s failure

I’m not the first to suggest this. A journalism project called Civil used “proof of use” to describe how it would quiz would-be investors about journalism and their project, before allowing a purchase of the CVL token offered in an initial coin offering that sought to raise $24 million in a two-week crowdsale. The quiz and the other steps involved did not make it easy, even for veteran journalists.

Before selling any of their stock, Civil’s crowd-investors would have to take some action using the token. Voting on funding for a journalism project was one example offered (though this probably makes Civil’s token more like a security, not less). In this way, Civil hoped to be perhaps the first token crowdsale to legitimately demonstrate a so-called “utility token” exclusion from potentially applicable securities laws.

Civil’s crowdsale didn’t fail because of its self-imposed sophistication standard, or because the idea of a “utility token” is naïve in any business other than Chuck E. Cheese’s. It failed because it was trying to raise $24 million in two weeks for a community journalism project. It did raise $350,000, which to this former journalist sounds like a smashing success.

Real proof of use would be putting Civil’s $5 million seed round to work, demonstrating user traction — then opening its offering to its crowd of passionate users.

Proof of use = proof of users

Proof of use would have the added benefit of limiting the crowdfunding option only to companies that can actually attract users. Proof of that traction would be financed by wealthy investors who can bear the risk; for the growing company, proof of use would open a new financing option and a better path to reward its early adopters.

Right now, there is so much private money chasing deals, the best have no need to resort to crowdfunding. Broadening the accreditation standard only creates opportunities for bottom-tier deals or much less knowledgeable investors, or allows venture capitalists to front-run the entire crowd. This they already often do in crypto issuance, allowing their name on the deal to pump interest among retail investors who don’t realize they’re buying the opportunity at a higher price.

Proof of use would provide an additional fundraising avenue for products and services that are showing traction with users — one that would carry the added benefit of motivating the user base, besides the capital it brings. Right now, despite the billions raised by ICOs, users are scarce — only about 24,000 are active daily, across more than 2,000 decentralized applications, or Dapps.

I can think of three projects that have approached us at New Alchemy that would benefit from a reform like this. It would be a miracle if U.S. legislators and regulators were able to pull it through in time for their fundraises — which means they will likely exclude U.S. investors, again. I hope there will be better options for the next few that come along.

Source: TechCrunch | 11 Dec 2018 | 6:00 pm

Patent describes how Lyft’s self-driving cars might communicate
Safety is a major concern when it comes to autonomous vehicles, for both the people they're transporting as well as those who are nearby. And it's not yet clear how or even if self-driving cars will communicate with the people around them. But Lyft h...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 11 Dec 2018 | 5:53 pm

At the Google hearing, Congress proves they still have no idea how the internet works
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Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s long-awaited Congressional hearing took place on Tuesday.

Pichai testified before Congress on Google+ data breaches, the controversial Chinese-censorship friendly search product, and perceived anti-conservative bias. But, there was one more pressing concern that took center stage to those watching the hearing: Several members of Congress, at least on the House Judiciary Committee, have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to technology.

At the #GoogleHearing, Rep. Smith is bringing up debunked claims that have been pushed by President Trump. Here, @LamarSmithTX21: "No, 96% of Google news stories on Trump AREN'T from left-wing outlets." https://t.co/bRHn5zPPjR

— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) December 11, 2018 Read more...

More about Google, Conservative, Google Search, Sundar Pichai, and Congressional Hearing

Source: Mashable | 11 Dec 2018 | 5:35 pm

With $15M, The Riveter plans to open 100 new female-focused co-working spaces

In a disappointing year for female-founded startups — at least those looking to raise venture capital — The Riveter not only closed its first institutional funding round, but it’s today announcing a $15 million Series A funding, bringing its total backing to $20.5 million.

The Seattle-based co-working startup, led by co-founder and chief executive Amy Nelson (pictured), has raised the capital from lead investor Alpha Edison, with support from Madrona Venture Group, New America president and CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter, fashion designer Liz Lange and TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie .

Female founders have brought in just 2.2% of US VC this year (yes, again)

As of November, startups founded by all-female teams had closed 391 deals worth $2.3 billion, an increase from the $2 billion invested in 2017, though still just 2.2 percent of all VC invested this year.

Nelson, an advocate for female entrepreneurs who’s spoken publicly about women’s struggles in the workplace, the difficulties of launching a business in a man’s world and raising venture dollars as a solo female founder, started The Riveter in 2016 after a decade-long career as a lawyer. Today, the startup operates five locations in the U.S., with ambitious plans to open another 100 female-focused co-working spaces by 2022.

“I want The Riveter to be the place people think of when they think of women and work,” Nelson told TechCrunch.

The Riveter has 2,000 members throughout its locations in Seattle, Bellevue, Wash. and Los Angeles. Its expansion plans include new spots in Texas, Colorado and Portland.

The spaces are built with women in mind but are not exclusive to one gender. Nelson tells us The Riveter’s membership is 25 percent male, setting it apart from spaces like The Wing, which is only available to female-identifying people.

A look inside one of The Riveter’s Seattle co-working spaces

“I don’t think the future is female, I think the future is fluid,” she said. “Gender is becoming an outdated idea but at the same time, it’s important to think of women when we build these spaces … There is a lot of value to women’s only spaces but our take on it is we want to redefine the future of work for women and we want everyone to be part of it.”

The Riveter provides space to work and collaborate; a digital network, currently in beta, for its members to connect; and programming ranging from office hours with venture capitalists to “self-care Saturday.”

Other investors in the startup include Brilliant Ventures, The Helm and X Factor Ventures.

Jane VC, a new fund for female entrepreneurs, wants founders to cold email them

Source: TechCrunch | 11 Dec 2018 | 5:31 pm

Podcast industry aims to better track listeners through new analytics tech called RAD

Internet users are already being tracked to death, with ads that follow us around, search histories that are collected and stored, emails that report back to senders when they’ve been read, websites that know where you scrolled and what you clicked and much more. So naturally, the growing podcast industry wanted to find a way to collect more data of its own, too.

Yes, that’s right. Podcasts will now track detailed user behavior, too.

Today, NPR announced RAD, a new, open-sourced podcast analytics technology that was developed in partnership with nearly 30 companies from the podcasting industry. The technology aims to help publishers collect more comprehensive and standardized listening metrics from across platforms.

Specifically, the technology gives publishers — and therefore their advertisers, as well — access to a wide range of listener metrics, including downloads, starts and stops, completed ad or credit listens, partial ad or credit listens, ad or credit skips and content quartiles, the RAD website explains.

However, the technology stops short of offering detailed user profiles, and cannot be used to re-target or track listeners, the site notes. It’s still anonymized, aggregated statistics.

It’s worth pointing out that RAD is not the first time podcasters have been able to track engagement. Major platforms, including Apple’s Podcast Analytics, today offer granular and anonymized data, including listens.But NPR says that data requires “a great deal of manual analysis” as the stats aren’t standardized nor as complete as they could be. RAD is an attempt to change that, by offering a tracking mechanism everyone can use.

Already, RAD has a lot of support. In addition to being integrated into NPR’s own NPR One app, it has commitments from several others that will introduce the technology into their own products in 2019, including Acast, AdsWizz, ART19, Awesound, Blubrry Podcasting, Panoply, Omny Studio, Podtrac, PRI/PRX, RadioPublic, Triton Digital and WideOrbit.

Other companies that supported RAD and participated in its development include Cadence13, Edison Research, ESPN, Google, iHeartMedia, Libsyn, The New York Times, New York Public Radio and Wondery.

NPR says the NPR One app on Android supports RAD as of now, and its iOS app will do the same in 2019.

“Over the course of the past year, we have been refining these concepts and the technology in collaboration with some of the smartest people in podcasting from around the world,” said Joel Sucherman, vice president, New Platform Partnerships at NPR, in an announcement. “We needed to take painstaking care to prove out our commitment to the privacy of listeners, while providing a standard that the industry could rally around in our collective efforts to continue to evolve the podcasting space,” he said.

To use RAD technology, publishers will mark within their audio files certain points — like quartiles or some time markers, interview spots, sponsorship messages or ads — with RAD tags and indicate an analytics URL. A mobile app is configured to read the RAD tags and then, when listeners hit that spot in the file, that information is sent to the URL in an anonymized format.

The end result is that podcasters know just what parts of the audio file their listeners heard, and is able to track this at scale across platforms. (RAD is offering both Android and iOS SDKs.)

While there’s value in podcast data that goes beyond the download, not all are sold on technology.

Most notably, the developer behind the popular iOS podcast player app Overcast, Marco Arment, today publicly stated his app will not support any listener-tracking specs.

Yes. I understand why huge podcast companies want more listener data, but there are zero advantages for listeners or app-makers.

I won’t be supporting any listener-behavior tracking specs in Overcast. Podcasters get enough data from your IP address when you download episodes. https://t.co/mplhnrmCsc

— Marco Arment (@marcoarment) December 11, 2018

“I understand why huge podcast companies want more listener data, but there are zero advantages for listeners or app-makers,” Arment wrote in a tweet. “Podcasters get enough data from your IP address when you download episodes,” he said.

The developer also pointed out this sort of data collection required more work on the podcasters’ part and could become a GDPR liability, as well. (NPR tells us GDPR compliance is up to the mobile apps and analytics servers, as noted in the specs here.)

In addition to NPR’s use of RAD today, Podtrac has also now launched a beta program to show RAD data, which is open to interested publishers.

Source: TechCrunch | 11 Dec 2018 | 5:27 pm

Airbnb settles disputes with big property landlord

Almost one year after a California judge dismissed Apartment Investment & Management Company’s lawsuit against Airbnb, both companies have agreed to settle all of their disputes.

Aimco, which owns or manages 50,000 properties, had filed lawsuits in both California and Florida state courts, seeking monetary damages as well as court orders to stop Airbnb from enabling people to breach their leases. Aimco’s stated issue with Airbnb was that its platform brings inside their buildings people with “unvetted personal histories” with “no vested interest in maintaining a peaceful community atmosphere.”

In a joint statement today, Aimco and Airbnb announced they had settled all of their disputes, and dismissed all litigation between them.

The parties believe the settlement is in both sides’ best interests,” they wrote in a joint statement. “Aimco believes that the parties’ agreement provides Aimco with the ability to control short-term rental activity consistent with its contract and property rights. As part of the settlement, Aimco and Airbnb have agreed to meet to discuss opportunities in the multifamily housing industry.”

It’s not clear if there were any financial elements involved in the settlement. Airbnb said it could not share anything beyond the joint statement, with the exception of the following:

“Airbnb is committed to building mutually beneficial partnerships with building owners and landlords through initiatives like our Friendly Building program,” Airbnb spokesperson Christopher Nulty said in a statement to TechCrunch. “We believe that by working together, home sharing can bring economic benefits to both landlords and tenants.”

Source: TechCrunch | 11 Dec 2018 | 5:19 pm

Bees with tiny sensor backpacks could help farmers track crops
Farmers can use drones to monitor their fields, but they have their limits when they can rarely fly for more than 20 to 30 minutes at a time. University of Washington researchers might have a smarter way: recruit some insect friends. They've develope...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 11 Dec 2018 | 5:17 pm

Dell’s long game is in hybrid and private clouds

When Dell voted to buy back the VMware tracking stock and go public again this morning, you had to be wondering what exactly the strategy was behind these moves. While it’s clearly about gaining financial flexibility, the $67 billion EMC deal has always been about setting up the company for a hybrid and private cloud future.

The hybrid cloud involves managing workloads on premises and in the cloud, while private clouds are ones that companies run themselves, either in their own data centers or on dedicated hardware in the public cloud.

Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insight & Strategy, says this approach takes a longer investment timeline, and that required the changes we saw this morning. “I believe Dell Technologies can better invest in its hybrid world with longer-term investors as the investment will be longer term, at least five years,” he said. Part of that, he said, is due to the fact that many more on-prem to public connectors services need to be built.

Dell could be the company that helps build some of those missing pieces. It has always been at its heart a hardware company, and as such either of these approaches could play to its strengths. When the company paid $67 billion for EMC in 2016, it had to have a long-term plan in mind. Michael Dell’s parents didn’t raise no fool, and he saw an opportunity with that move to push his company in a new direction.

It was probably never about EMC’s core storage offerings, although a storage component was an essential ingredient in this vision. Dell and his investor’s eyes probably were more focused on other pieces inside the federation — the loosely coupled set of companies inside the broader EMC Corporation.

The VMware bridge

The crown jewel in that group was of course VMware, the company that introduced the enterprise to server virtualization. Today, it has taken residency in the hybrid world between the on-premises data center and the cloud. Armed with broad agreements with AWS, VMware finagled its way to be a key bridge between on prem and the monstrously popular Amazon cloud. IT pros used to working with VMware would certainly be comfortable using it as a cloud control panel as they shifted their workloads to AWS cloud virtual machines.

In fact, speaking at a press conference at AWS re:Invent earlier this month, AWS CEO Andy Jassy said the partnership with VMware has been really transformational for his company on a lot of different levels. “Most of the world is virtualized on top of VMware and VMware is at the core of most enterprises. When you start trying to solve people’s problems between being on premises and in the cloud, having the partnership we have with VMware allows us to find ways for customers to use the tools they’ve been using and be able to use them on top of our platform the way they want,” Jassy told the press conference.

The two companies also announced an extension of the partnership with the new AWS Outposts servers, which bring the AWS cloud on prem where customers can choose between using VMware or AWS to manage the workloads, whether they live in the cloud or on premises. It’s unclear whether AWS will extend this to other companies’ hardware, but if they do you can be sure Dell would want to be a part of that.

Pivotal’s key role

But it’s not just VMware that Dell had its sights on when it bought EMC, it was Pivotal too. This is another company, much like VMware, that is publicly traded and operates independently of Dell, even while living inside the Dell family of products. While VMware handles managing the server side of the house, Pivotal is about building software products.

When the company went public earlier this year, CEO Rob Mee told TechCrunch that Dell recognizes that Pivotal works better as an independent entity. “From the time Dell acquired EMC, Michael was clear with me: You run the company. I’m just here to help. Dell is our largest shareholder, but we run independently. There have been opportunities to test that [since the acquisition] and it has held true,” Mee said at the time.

Virtustream could also be a key piece providing a link to run traditional enterprise applications on multi-tenant clouds. EMC bought this company in 2015 for $1.2 billion, then later spun it out as a jointly owned venture of EMC and VMware later that year. The company provides another link between applications like SAP that once only ran on prem.

Surely it had to take all the pieces to get the ones it wanted most. It might have been a big price to pay for transformation, especially since you could argue that some of the pieces were probably past their freshness dates (although even older products bring with them plenty of legacy licensing and maintenance revenue).

Even though the long-term trend is shifting toward moving to the cloud, there will be workloads that stay on premises for some time to come. It seems that Dell is trying to position itself as the hybrid/private cloud vendor and all that entails to serve those who won’t be all cloud, all the time. Whether this strategy will work long term remains to be seen, but Dell appears to be betting the house on this approach, and today’s moves only solidified that.

Source: TechCrunch | 11 Dec 2018 | 5:03 pm

Elon Musk’s plans for 2019 might include a Tesla pickup truck prototype

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has floated the idea for an all-electric pickup truck numerous times in the past two years. Now, he’s back at it, this time with a teaser that Tesla might have a prototype to unveil in 2019.

Musk mentioned on Twitter the desire to produce a pickup truck way back in April 2017, before the first Model 3 sedans had been handed over to customers and the CEO had entered production hell. At the time, Musk tweeted that a pickup truck would be unveiled in 18 to 24 months. That timeline is in sync Musk’s latest tweet.

I’m dying to make a pickup truck so bad … we might have a prototype to unveil next year

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 11, 2018

Musk brought up the pickup truck on Twitter again in June 2018, a move some described as a diversionary tactic as the company tried to hit an important production target for the Model 3.

What would you love to see in a Tesla pickup truck? I have a few things in mind, but what do you think are small, but important nuances & what would be seriously next level?

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 26, 2018

Of course, it should be noted that a prototype isn’t the same as a production vehicle nor does it provide any clues as to when such a truck would make it into customers’ hands. A prototype would raise other questions too, specifically where Tesla would develop and assemble these trucks. Tesla’s Fremont, California plant, where the Model S, Model X and Model 3 are produced, doesn’t have the room to take on a fourth vehicle. The company is building out other facilities, but it’s unclear if there’s space for the kind of tooling and assembly lines needed for mass production.

The automaker would face competition from the gas-powered trucks of the world, which are among the best-selling vehicles in North America, as well as newcomer Rivian. Rivian, which unveiled an all-electric pickup and SUV at the LA Auto Show in November, is expected to start production of their pickup and SUV in 2020.

Source: TechCrunch | 11 Dec 2018 | 5:03 pm

Apple patent filing has us excited about the new AirPods design
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Apple's recent patent filing hints at noise-canceling, expandable foam, and biometric sensors. Read more...

More about Apple, Mashable Video, Airpods, 2020, and Tech

Source: Mashable | 11 Dec 2018 | 4:56 pm

Instagram will offer special features to influencers with new 'creator accounts'
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Instagram is taking new steps to woo some of its highest profile users. 

The app is testing "creator accounts," which would add new analytics and messaging features geared toward influencers and other power users of the photo-sharing app.

SEE ALSO: These viral Instagram workout videos have gone too far

The update is currently being tested and will roll out more broadly next year, according to The Hollywood Reporter.  It will offer influencers an alternative to Instagram business profiles, which the company introduced in 2016, Instagram wrote in a statement.

"Increasingly, creators rely on Instagram to connect with followers and grow their personal brands, however the tools that are currently available to businesses today make it difficult for them to track their growth and engagement over time. We're building the new Creator Account to help solve some of those challenges and make it easier for creators to grow their personal brands on Instagram,” the announcement reads. Read more...

More about Tech, Facebook, Instagram, Tech, and Social Media Companies

Source: Mashable | 11 Dec 2018 | 4:44 pm

You can play 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate' with banana controllers
The GameCube controller for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate might be sold out all over the place, but you don't need it to dominate the competition with your favorite fighter. All you need, it turns out, is a bunch of bananas. A Twitch streamer going by t...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 11 Dec 2018 | 4:42 pm

Bumblebees bearing high-tech backpacks act as a living data collection platform

There’s lots of research going into tiny drones, but one of the many hard parts is keeping them in the air for any real amount of time. Why not hitch a ride on something that already flies all day? That’s the idea behind this project that equips bumblebees with sensor-filled backpacks that charge wirelessly and collect data on the fields they visit.

A hive full of these cyber-bees could help monitor the health of a field by checking temperature and humidity, as well as watching for signs of rot or distress in the crops. A lot of this is done manually now, and of course drones are being set to work doing it, but if the bees are already there, why not get them to help out?

The “Living IoT” backpack, a tiny wafer loaded with electronics and a small battery, was designed by University of Washington engineers led by Shyam Gollakotta. He’s quick to note that although the research does to a certain extent take advantage of these clumsy, fuzzy creatures, they were careful to “follow best methods for care and handling.”

Part of that is minimizing the mass of the pack; other experiments have put RFID antennas and such on the backs of bees and other insects, but this is much more sophisticated.

[gallery ids="1757459,1757477,1757479,1757480,1757481,1757482"]

The chip has sensors and an integrated battery that lets it run for seven hours straight, yet weighs just 102 milligrams. A full-grown bumblebee, for comparison, could weigh anywhere from two to six times that.

They’re strong fliers, if not graceful ones, and can carry three-quarters of their body weight in pollen and nectar when returning to the hive. So the backpack, while far from unnoticeable, is still well within their capabilities; the team checked with biologists in the know first, of course.

“We showed for the first time that it’s possible to actually do all this computation and sensing using insects in lieu of drones,” explained Gollakotta in a UW news release. “We decided to use bumblebees because they’re large enough to carry a tiny battery that can power our system, and they return to a hive every night where we could wirelessly recharge the batteries.”

The backpacks can track location passively by monitoring the varying strengths of signals from nearby antennas, up to a range of about 80 meters. The data they collect is transferred while they’re in the hive via an energy-efficient backscatter method that Gollakotta has used in other projects.

Technique to beam HD video with 99 percent less power could sharpen the eyes of smart homes

The applications are many and various, though obviously limited to what can be observed while the bees go about their normal business. It could even help keep the bees themselves healthy.

“It would be interesting to see if the bees prefer one region of the farm and visit other areas less often,” said co-author Sawyer Fuller. “Alternatively, if you want to know what’s happening in a particular area, you could also program the backpack to say: ‘Hey bees, if you visit this location, take a temperature reading.’ ”

It is of course just in prototype form right now, but one can easily imagine the tech being deployed by farmers in the near future, or perhaps in a more sinister way by three-letter agencies wanting to put a bee on the wall near important conversations. The team plans to present their work (PDF) at the ACM MobiCom conference next year.

Source: TechCrunch | 11 Dec 2018 | 4:35 pm

NASA responds to moon landing truther Steph Curry
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NASA wants Steph Curry to know that yes, the moon landing was real, and they're even inviting him to check out some space rocks to prove it.

During an interview on the podcast "Winging It," the Golden State Warriors star revealed that he doesn't believe the United States has been to the moon. 

About 46 minutes into the episode, he abruptly changed the conversation topic from what sounds dinosaurs made to space exploration.

SEE ALSO: Steph Curry responds to 9-year-old's letter about offering his shoes in sizes for girls

"We ever been to the moon?" Curry asked. 

The group, including Atlanta Hawks players Vince Carter and Kent Bazemore, and Curry's teammate Andre Iguodala, concluded with a unanimous "Nope."  Read more...

More about Nasa, Steph Curry, Conspiracy Theories, Science, and Web Culture

Source: Mashable | 11 Dec 2018 | 3:47 pm

Mall of America debuts helpful holographic elf for the holidays
How would you keep a shopping mall lively in an era when more and more people are buying their holiday gifts online? The Mall of America has a one-word answer: holograms. It's partnering with mixed reality firm VNTANA on what's billed as the "first-e...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 11 Dec 2018 | 3:47 pm

New study finds female-led films perform better at box office. Your move, Hollywood.
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Movie audiences love women. 

According to a study by Creative Arts Agency and shift7, films with women in leading roles earn more than their male counterparts at the box office, a finding which should lead to a major paradigm shift in show business.

“The perception that it’s not good business to have female leads is not true,” CAA agent Christy Haubegger told The New York Times. “They’re a marketing asset.”

SEE ALSO: We have a lot to learn from Megan Fox's #MeToo comments

CAA and shift7 examined 350 top box office films from 2014 to 2017, defining "lead actor" as the first performer credited in official press materials (also of note: most of these films passed the Bechdel test). 105 of these were women. In every category broken down by budget, films with women in the lead outperformed those starring men.  Read more...

More about Entertainment, Movies, Study, Diversity, and Research

Source: Mashable | 11 Dec 2018 | 3:28 pm

Save $700 on an Acer gaming laptop on Amazon and take powerful gaming on the go
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Some people have a hard time staying in one place. For PC gamers, this has long been a challenge. Since desktop setups were the gold standard for so long, the more powerful rigs have often required that PC gamers stay in one spot — or else lug a heavy tower, monitor, and more with them.

The good news? The latest crop of gaming laptops make it possible to play wherever you are, as they easily rival desktops in both power and performance. If you're shopping for a gamer this holiday season, it's an important point to consider. Are they the kind to stay in one place and build out their setup? Or do they like to easily pick up and go? Read more...

More about Gaming, Acer, Laptops, Mashable Shopping, and Shopping Amazon

Source: Mashable | 11 Dec 2018 | 3:19 pm

The Pixel 3 has 2018’s best smartphone camera
Let's be honest. We're a generation obsessed with taking and sharing photos. In recent years, our phone cameras have become so capable they've essentially killed point-and-shoots. This year, Huawei released a phone with four cameras on its rear, forc...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 11 Dec 2018 | 3:15 pm

You can try on the latest Adidas sneaker drop on Snapchat
Adidas is dropping its all new Ultraboost 19 running shoes later this week, but you won't have to wait in line to get a look at them. The company is partnering with Snapchat to offer an augmented reality-powered preview. Sneakerheads will be able to...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 11 Dec 2018 | 2:32 pm

Instagram plans to give influencers DM filters and follower stats
Instagram is testing a new type of account for high-profile users (such as celebrities, artists and influencers) that should give them more control over how they use the platform. The so-called "creator accounts" give users direct message filters and...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 11 Dec 2018 | 2:04 pm

Congress grills Google CEO over Chinese search engine plans
If you were hoping that Google chief Sundar Pichai would shed more light on his company's potential censored search engine for China... well, you'll mostly be disappointed. Rhode Island Representative David Cicilline grilled Pichai on the recently a...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 11 Dec 2018 | 1:15 pm

How Rivian is building the longest lasting batteries in the EV business
The Rivian R1T "adventure vehicle" made headlines and dropped jaws when it was revealed at the 2018 LA Auto Show last month, namely because nobody has ever really tried to make an all-electric pickup for the US market before. Much less one with more...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 11 Dec 2018 | 1:00 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
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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
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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?
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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