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Uber Technology Drives Into Portland

Uber technology and the company’s automobiles are making their way to Portland, OR. The company doesn’t have the best history with the city, but that won’t stop Portland from becoming the first U.S. market where Uber will push a set benchmarks for electrifying its fleet.

For the Portland version of Uber Electric, a program that the company rolled out to London last year, the ride-hailing company will team up with Drive Oregon, a partially state-funded nonprofit that seeks to get more electric vehicles on the road. With a combination of incentives and educational initiatives, Uber aims to make 10 percent of its Oregon fleet electric by 2019, statewide. Right now, the company says that 100 of the 6,000 active Portland Uber drivers use electric vehicles, so it has a lot of work to do.

To reach its 10 percent goal, Uber is pursuing a range of local collaborations. The company will work with Portland’s Black Parent Initiative to expand electric vehicle access to underserved communities, Cynergy E-Bikes to connect UberEATS couriers with electric bikes, and Arcimoto, an Oregon-based EV company. Uber is expected to use its auto-lease subsidiary Xchange Leasing to offer in-house deals to drivers wishing to get behind the wheel of an EV.

Uber stated about its mission in the city, “The City of Portland has also adopted some of the nation’s most aggressive measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Uber Electric will help Portland and the state of Oregon achieve these important clean energy goals.” Uber isn’t the only alternative transportation company going electric in Portland. Late last year, the city became the second market for BMW’s ReachNow, a Zipcar-like service with a focus on electric vehicles, and a previous initiative by Car2Go sprinkled electric smart cars onto its rainy streets all the way back in 2012.

In a world where a quarter of cars could drive themselves by 2030, Uber’s decision to take two years to recruit a few hundred EV drivers is more incremental than revolutionary. Still, it shows that the company is implementing both long and short-term strategies for rethinking transportation, even in the midst of one of the worst PR crises the tech industry has ever known.

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formula e

Manufacturers Ready For The All Electric Race; 2018 Formula E Season

Formula E recently announced the nine manufacturers that will race electric cars in seasons five, six, and seven. You may think it’s that big of a deal, but it is. Beginning in season five, each team will race one car per driver for the entire race, instead of two.

formula e


Because battery technology fell behind series founder Alejandro Agag’s aspiration for all-electric racing, Formula E teams have fielded two drivers with two cars per driver. That meant four cars in the garage. Usually about halfway through the race the driver would have to pull into pit row, climb out of the first car, and jump into a second car with a charged battery.

The new single-car standard will cover seasons five, six, and seven, which begin in fall 2018. The nine manufacturers who have met this standard are: ABT Formel E, BMW AG, DS Automobiles, Jaguar Land Rover, Mahindra Racing, NextEV NIO, Penske Autosport, Renault, and Venturi Automobiles.

There are teams currently racing that are not represented on this list, including Faraday Future Dragon Racing and Techeetah. However, other manufacturers are continuing their commitment to electric open-wheel racing, like Renault, Venturi, NextEV, and Mahindra. Jaguar joined the series for 2016-2017, while MS Amlin Andretti seems to be dropping out before the new standards come into play. Mercedes-Benz had been planning to join the fray in season five, but its name is not on this list published by FIA, the series’ governing body.

There will also be a new Formula E car on the track in 2018; Spark Racing Technology will produce identical bodies for each team to paint and cover in stickers however they would like. The new battery that makes single-car racing possible will be supplied to the teams by McLaren Applied Technologies. The Roborace series should be up and running by that time, too.

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SmartLink Adds Modern Connected Technology To Older Ford Vehicles

Ford’s SmartLink technology comes with a 4G LTE modem on board, letting it act as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 8 devices in the vehicle. It also permits remote start, lock and unlock functions, and can send alerts to a car owner via a companion web and mobile app to let them check on car healthy, and get alerts related to security and service requirements. Brett Wheatley, Executive Director of Ford’s Customer Service Division stated, “We’ve seen the huge interest that we’ve had in SYNC, and now in the modems that we have in our vehicles, and we just talked to a lot of customers and they’re very happy with their current vehicles, but they obviously wanted to have some of the latest connectivity features, too.” said Brett Wheatley, Executive Director of Ford’s Customer Service Division. “We’ve been doing research for many years on it and we just wanted to make sure that we had the right product that would meet all of our security requirements.”


Wheatley said that in the course of creating SmartLink and looking at customer feedback, they also discovered that users wanted different things from a connected car, with some seeking security via theft alerts, others looking for more insight into maintenance issues, and others just wanting ways to offer connectivity for their family devices on the road. SmartLink is a way to address the most frequent requests in terms of connectivity use cases for people who own Ford vehicle. SmartLink is now undergoing pilot trials at a few dealers in the United States, and will be available publicly in the U.S. through dealerships this summer, with final pricing to be announced at that time. SmartLink is definitely an opportunity for dealers, since it gives them a way to potentially enjoy a more profitable post-purchase relationship with clients.

Wheatley stated, “We think it’s a great opportunity for our dealers to stay connected after the time of purchase, to make sure that they’re in regular contact with that customer, keeping their vehicle in great working condition.” Wheatley was asked whether SmartLink might support third-party apps and services eventually, as Ford has done with SYNC 3 in its newer models. He said, “We’ve definitely done that in our new vehicles, so I think that is an opportunity for down the road, to see how we could give the customers in those older vehicles all the great technology that’s in our new vehicles, and all the connectivity features and benefits they have.”

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New Technology: Robots Replacing Human Baristas

Cafe X is stirring up the world of coffee with technology. Opening in San Francisco recently, the startup is choosing a robotic arm to craft your caffeinated beverages instead of the usual human barista. Henry Hu is the founder. He saw baristas spent a lot of time moving cups around while making espresso drinks. So, much like anyone’s natural reaction to that vision, Hu decided to build a fully mechanized coffee shop. Cafe X should now be able to increase margins within the industry while cutting down wait times for customers in a hurry.


Consumers passing by Cafe X’s first location in the US at the AMC Metreon in San Francisco will be able to order espresso drinks with flavorings and milk from kiosks or from the app. Visitors have their choice of beans from Peet’s Coffee, Verve Roasters, and AKA Coffee. The company’s only other location is in Hong Kong. The idea is that each new location can source beans locally.

The entire experiment is backed by a $5 million seed round raised from Silicon Valley Bank, Khosla Ventures, Social Capital, Felicis Ventures, Jason Calacanis, and The Thiel Foundation. The funding highlights a broader trend in the Valley of VCs backing food and beverage startups using robotics to cut costs. Cafe X benefits from popular interest in automation and robotics. It isn’t every day that a business innovation both cuts costs and adds to the marketing budget.

Hu stated, “We still have to work on the supply chain, recipes, maintenance, and customer support.” The startup is looking to build more of its robotic kiosks in the United States in Fremont, California. As many debates for automation go, consumers will be directly benefitting from cheaper prices. Cafe X is asking only $2.25 for an 8 oz drink that typically costs almost $5 in San Francisco.

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    Introducing The Fully Electric Off-Road Mercedes G-Class

    Electric vehicles are typically constructed with a specific client in mind, and usually this envisioned customer is most concerned with getting around in ultimate efficiency. Tesla stirred up this stereotype with its fast sports cars, but the new Kreisel customized Mercedes G 350 d with a fully electric drivetrain adds another dimension to the image of the prospective EV buyer. The plan came together thanks in part to a high-profile stakeholder and design partner, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The former governor of California and actor drives a Mercedes G in the United States, but along with Kreisel, wanted to build a version of his beloved car that also meshed with his priorities and values when it comes to seeking out renewable energy alternatives wherever possible.


    Schwarzenegger said in a press release revealing the vehicle, “To me, with the electric version of this fantastic car, a dream has become true. The initial test drive was a real pleasure. The Kreisel is incredibly sporty and perfectly benefits from the advantages e-mobility has to offer. I really look forward to the following test runs and to the gradual further development in California.” The man who played Harry Tasker is now the official test driver for the first converted Mercedes G, and he is going to be helping with future design and development that will happen stateside in association with Austria-based Kreisel Electric.

    This first prototype was assembled in only two months, and carries a “realistic” maximum range of 300 kilometres, pretty impressive for a vehicle whose frame is not designed for maximum EV efficiency. It is powered by an 80 kWh battery, and the ar also claimed a 3 second faster 0 to 60 mph time of around 5.6 seconds, when compared to its gas-guzzling V6 progenitor. It also supports fast charging, recovering 80% of its capacity in just 25 minutes. It is a very cool retrofit, and hopefully one that consumers can soon pick up as an aftermarket modification. Kreisel is currently building a factory for large-scale production of its electric battery packs for use by automotive OEMs and other customers, so this is more of a side project.

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      Toyota’s Concept-i Gets To Know Its Driver

      A new concept vehicle was revealed by Toyota called the Concept-i at CES. The car was built with the CALTY design research group. We spoke to CALTY Project Design Manager William Chergosky about the process of building the Concept-i. He said it was about discovering a new way to bring the thrill people feel about driving now to a potential future in which the experience is much more exciting.


      Chergosky stated, “We’ve been working on this for approximately two years, and we’re trying to create a futuristic vision for the 2030 automobile that’s really fun to drive. As everyone’s moving towards an autonomous future, what’s Toyota’s vision of that? We had a real fundamental belief in this idea of ‘waku-doki’ getting your heart racing. Is that something that dies with this future? I don’t think it is.”

      According to Chergosky, a large part of accomplishing that comes down to user experience design. That is why the Concept-i pays close attention to how it signals a switch from manual to autonomous mode and how it greets the user. Setting the mood for either method of control, there are LED lights throughout the interior and across the body that cue the driver about their experience.

      Chergosky said, “Our fundamental idea behind it was trying to humanize or warm up the technology, and make it more approachable. The idea of trying to humanize it is to try to narrow that gap between you and the technology.

      They took the concept of “kinetic warmth” as a core protocol in designing the Concept-i, which meant building something that came to life and was technically able. That is why Toyota placed an AI at the center of the in-car experience, nicknaming it ‘Yui.’ This virtual companion is created to get to know you as a person, and as a driver. Yui was also designed to adapt its behavior in order to best provide that driving excitement that Toyota targets

      Communicating with other vehicles and pedestrians are the key areas of focus in this concept. Through Concept-i’s exterior lighting system, Yui can inform others whether it’s in manual or autonomous drive mode and notify drivers behind about upcoming road hazards or turns. It even greets passengers who are approaching the car.

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      Sounds crazy, right? Well, it is very common among employees to splurge on expense accounts because there has not been an incentive to be frugal until now. A new startup named TravelBank designed an application that can predict spending amounts for employees on trips, help with filing their expenses, and offer them cash rewards if they do not spend all their budget. TravelBank has raised a $10 million Series A round led by NEA and joined by Accel. TravelBank was co-founded by Duke Chung, who already created and sold a customer service startup, Parature, to Microsoft for $100 million.

      “The way I look at entrepreneurship is that I like the categories that every company must have” says Chung. “And every company needs an expense product. It’s a basic function, and there’s huge opportunities to create something better.”

      While there have been other products like TravelBank’s, the other company’s such as Concur have focused on designing these applications for Fortune 5000 companies. TravelBank is targeting small to medium businesses. At first TravelBank will be free, though it does have plans to monetize but no concrete plans on how to do this. The ideas that are possibly floating around are charging per-seat or a portion of savings.

      “Expense management has been a very sleepy space. Maybe because it’s boring it doesn’t attract a lot of talent or innovation. It’s not perceived as a sexy category so there’s only a few competitors. I view that as an opportunity” Chung tells TechCrunch.

      A large portion of the $10 million raised will be spent on marketing and sales for the newly launched apps. However, it benefits from the bottom-up distribution process like Dropbox and the fact that the app is starting free.

      By simply taking photos and uploading them onto the app, any employee can sign up and use TravelBank to submit expenses and process their reimbursements. The app will integrate with business software such as QuickBooks, Bill.com, or NetSuite. TravelBank can export expenses as PDFs for easy use with some legacy expense systems.

      One of the coolest features of the app is that if an entire company gets on TravelBank, their employers can trigger a rewards feature that estimates what employees should pay for flights, car rentals, hotels, and meals based on real-time prices. Therefore, if employees are economical, they can receive some of that unused cash as a thank you for saving the company money.

      The second-biggest controllable spending item for companies is travel and entertainment globally. $1.2 trillion is spent on these categories each year.

      “We found that people increasingly become more excessive when it came to business spending” Chung tells me. “When we knew all the employees and they knew us, they were more frugal, with the startup mentality. But as a company grows and you don’t get to know all the employees as well, you see some breakage and it gets worse of over time with abuse and excessive spending. There was no way to regulate that”, so Chung says he was inspired to build TravelBank to enhance management visibility.

      Not to say that spending money to wine and dine a client is not valid and a smart strategy, and therefore the app lets you exempt spending on clients from your budget.

      TravelBank can make employees more efficient. While before employees might have flown up to New York to have a single dinner meeting, now they end up holding breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings with the clients. They do this to exclude those costs which allows them to come in further under budget, and get a bigger reward while squeezing more value out of their trip.

      TravelBank will have to convince small businesses to switch to this standardized app and ditch spreadsheets, emails, and haphazard receipt. It will be hard, but if it can address a business problem that other enterprise developers have not attacked, it could help companies apply their capital to important matters while turning employees from selfish spenders into thrifty team members.

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      Forward-Looking Statements

      This Current Report on Form 8-K and other written and oral statements made from time to time by us may contain so-called “forward-looking statements,” all of which are subject to risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking statements can be identified by the use of words such as “expects,” “plans,” “will,” “forecasts,” “projects,” “intends,” “estimates,” and other words of similar meaning. One can identify them by the fact that they do not relate strictly to historical or current facts. These statements are likely to address our growth strategy, financial results and product and development programs. One must carefully consider any such statement and should understand that many factors could cause actual results to differ from our forward looking statements. These factors may include inaccurate assumptions and a broad variety of other risks and uncertainties, including some that are known and some that are not. No forward looking statement can be guaranteed and actual future results may vary materially.

      Information regarding market and industry statistics contained in this Current Report on Form 8-K is included based on information available to us that we believe is accurate. It is generally based on industry and other publications that are not produced for purposes of securities offerings or economic analysis. We have not reviewed or included data from all sources, and cannot assure investors of the accuracy or completeness of the data included in this Current Report. Forecasts and other forward-looking information obtained from these sources are subject to the same qualifications and the additional uncertainties accompanying any estimates of future market size, revenue and market acceptance of products and services. We do not assume any obligation to update any forward-looking statement. As a result, investors should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements.

      Item 5.02 Departure of Directors or Certain Officers; Election of Directors; Appointment of Certain Officers; Compensatory Arrangements of Certain Officers.

      Effective October 13, 2016, the board of directors of the Company appointed Robert Finigan to serve as President of the Company. Mr. Finigan was granted 3,000,000 stock options on October 13, 2016 as compensation for his service as President, which shall vest as 500,000 shares at the end of the first three months, 500,000 shares at the end of the seventh month, 1,000,000 shares on the one year anniversary of the grant date, and 1,000,000 shares on the eighteen-month anniversary of the grant date.

      Mr. Finigan has served in interim C-Level executive roles and board advisory positions for several start-up and technology companies as Founder of Black Labs Ventures LLC, a strategy consulting firm from 2015 through 2016, in addition to leading product and marketing efforts as Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Branding Officer for Modere LLC, a global health and wellness brand from October 2012 through 2016. Mr. Finigan served as Executive Vice President for Mood Media, a global media and entertainment company from 2002 through 2012, and served as Vice President of New Media at Bank of America from 1999-2002. Mr. Finigan obtained a BFA in Design and Photography from the Rochester Institute of technology, College of Imaging Arts and Sciences in 1997.

      0 27

      THORNTON, CO–(Marketwired – Oct 24, 2016) – Ascent Solar Technologies, Inc. ( OTCQB : ASTI ), a developer and manufacturer of state-of-the-art, flexible thin-film photovoltaic modules integrated into the Company’s EnerPlex™ series of consumer products, announced today that EnerPlex™ has been awarded one Platinum and two Gold MARCOM Awards by the Association of Marketing & Communication Professionals (AMCP).

      EnerPlex was presented the Platinum MARCOM Award in the Catalog category and two Gold MARCOM Awards in the Trade Show Exhibit and Video Categories. The respective pieces of work can be found via the links below:

      MARCOM Award Winners
      EnerPlex 2016 Fall Product Catalog- Platinum
      EnerPlex Spring 2016 Tradeshow Booth- Gold
      EnerPlex Jumpr Pro Product Video- Gold

      Brad Brochocki, Senior Manager of Marketing and Corporate Communications for Ascent Solar, said, “We are extremely excited to receive another set of accolades recognizing the high quality of our work in sharing the story of EnerPlex’s line of products. It’s highly rewarding to be able to showcase our differentiating features through creative mediums that will continue to support our brand’s growth in the consumer marketplace.”

      About Ascent Solar Technologies:
      Ascent Solar Technologies, Inc. is a developer of thin-film photovoltaic modules using flexible plastic substrate materials that are more versatile and rugged than traditional solar panels. Ascent Solar modules, which were named one of TIME Magazine’s 50 best inventions for 2011, can be directly integrated into consumer products and off-grid applications, commercial transportation, automotive solutions, space applications, consumer electronics for portable power and durable off-grid solutions. Ascent Solar is headquartered in Thornton, Colorado. For more information, go to www.ascentsolar.com and www.enerplex.com.

      Forward-Looking Statements:
      Statements in this press release that are not statements of historical or current fact constitute “forward-looking statements.” Such forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other unknown factors that could cause the Company’s actual operating results to be materially different from any historical results or from any future results expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. In addition to statements that explicitly describe these risks and uncertainties, readers are urged to consider statements that contain terms such as “believes,” “belief,” “expects,” “expect,” “intends,” “intend,” “anticipate,” “anticipates,” “plans,” “plan,” to be uncertain and forward-looking. The forward-looking statements contained herein are also subject generally to other risks and uncertainties that are described from time to time in the Company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

      0 16

      Think millenials are dumb? Despite what your feeling is about the younger generation a new study from Pew Research found that younger people are actually finding more interest in reading news rather than watching it.  Conversely, it’s the older generation with a preference for viewing vs reading. Amazing right?

      The contradicts much of what was thought about the “lazy, entitled” generation.  Popular opinion said that to reach the younger generation, marketers and media publishers must invest in short, exciting, engaging content that they can blast across social media sites like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook.  It’s still valid today, however it may not actually impact how young people are preferring to take in their daily dose of news.

      When Pew asked U.S. consumers aged 18 to 29 whether they prefer to watch, listen or read the news, 42 percent responded “read” versus 38 percent who “watch,” and just 19 percent who would rather “listen.” Only 40 percent of those aged 30 to 49 said they prefer to read the news, while only 29 percent of those 50 to 64 said they’d rather read. An even smaller portion – 27 percent – of those 65 or older claimed they’d rather read the news.

      Furthermore, about 81 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds who said that they would rather read the news, said they like best to get their news online. So don’t get too excited if you think nostalgically about the rebirth of newspapers…they’re still fading away. But at the end of the day, this means that younger people are becoming better informed on accident.  Maybe its the distrust of political figures or too many episodes of Scandal; whatever the case may be, this younger generation may accidentally be becoming better informed citizens!

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