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tech stocks

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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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Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence Goes Corporate

Artificial Intelligence / A Cambridge, Massachusetts startup, Talla, wants to help companies to ease into artificial intelligence, and they have come up with a new service assistant bot that gives companies whatever degree of intelligence-fueled power they are looking for. The tool, called ServiceAssistant, works as an IT or HR help desk inside of Slack or Microsoft Teams and gives customers a few options on how to use it. First of all, you can run it like a conventional service desk. The user sends requests through ServiceAssistant where it gets processed and answered by a human.

Artificial Intelligence

In the second scenario, the customer eases into automation where the ServiceAssistant provides an automated answer, which gets checked by a human before being sent through to the questioner, or at the highest level of automation the system simply sends an answer when the confidence threshold is above a certain level set by the customer. Rob May, CEO and co-founder, says the company deliberately used an in-house service model instead of live customers because after reviewing the technology, he felt that the current Natural Language Processing technology was better suited to this approach.

The Talla ServiceAssistant looks like any user on Slack or Microsoft Teams. As with any Slack or Teams bot, employees can interact with it by asking questions. If it’s tuned to be an HR assistant, for example, an employee might ask, “Do we have Labor Day off?” If the system has been configured to answer automatically, it’s the kind of question that it can answer with a high degree of certainty and can simply tell the employee yes or no. In an IT Help Desk approach, the questions could get trickier such as, “How I get access to QuickBooks?” In this case, the system might find multiple matches, and if it were set for automated responses, it could ask the questioner to choose the most relevant one, or it could ask if they want to open a help desk ticket to move to the question to a human for processing.

The system is tuned to ask questions when it doesn’t understand and to learn from the responses. Since people ask questions in non-standard ways, the system can also learn that “Are we open Labor Day?” is the same as “Do we have Labor Day off?” or “Is the office closed on Labor Day?” May says even in companies where there are high usage rates for Slack or Teams, there could be as many as 20% of employees not using that tool, so they’ve also built a Web App and allow email, but the ultimate goal is to get people into the conversational tools to ask the questions; and do it in an automated way as possible.

The company wants to be more than a conversational bot, however. It wants to be a central place for processing IT and HR requests. That means having a ticket system, a knowledge base, and the ability to broadcast to employees, for example, when the system is going down for maintenance or the office is closed for a holiday. May says among his customers Slack is definitely the more popular of the two offerings today, but he believes it’s important to look at the different conversational tools and continually assess where that market is going as it’s still being established.

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technology SkyX Ltd

Technology Breakthrough with SkyOne Drone

SkyX Ltd. recently arrived to share details about its unique industrial drone technology designs. The company’s SkyOne drones take off and land like a helicopter, but fly more like an airplane, with a range of up to 65 miles per charge. For drone industry nerds, this means they have both VTOL and fixed-wing elements.

Cameras and sensors on board enable SkyOne drones to gather data about infrastructure below and send it back to cloud-based applications for analysis. The drones also launch from and land on proprietary charging stations, called xStations, which close a kind of shell over the UAVs when they are not moving, protecting them from theft. The charging stations do not remove and replace the batteries within the drones, but charge them directly, then send the drones on their way.

technology SkyX Ltd

Other companies land their unmanned aerial vehicles on charging stations where their batteries are swapped out for fresh ones. Positioning charging stations along a route can give drones a virtually unlimited range. It’s a design idea we should expect to see until battery tech and other power systems advance significantly.

SkyX founder and CEO Didi Horn spent his earlier career flying for the Israel Air Force. Horn stated, “I always knew I wanted to develop something around drones and aviation for commercial use when I got out. But in consumer there were already great products. There was nothing great for long-range, but that’s where I knew there would be demand. There are millions of kilometers of oil and gas pipelines already built in the world today and they are all at risk of leaks, or terror attacks, you name it.”

The technology company is first focusing on the energy industry, as its drones and charging stations can be configured to cover long distances between pumping stations along oil and gas pipelines. The drones also can be used to cover acres of solar panels installed on vast farms, or wind turbines installed along roads, even in remote areas, Horn explained. The xStations can plug into a typical electric outlet. Or they can be connected to solar panels or other freestanding generators, he noted.

Though SkyX did not have permission to disclose the names of its earliest customers, it is working with several energy companies on safety tests and pilot projects today in the Americas, Horn said. The drones fly autonomously, and the company also has to secure permission in different markets to fly beyond the line of sight of human observers or pilots on the ground.

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Artificial Intelligence

Brain Enhancement To Accelerate Development Of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence : Elon Musk has another new company that is focused on developing the capabilities of the brain through AI. Neuralink, the new endeavor, officially came to light thanks to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, though it has been known for some time that Musk was working on brain-computer interface technology as a means to help ensure humans can keep pace with the accelerating development of artificial intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence

At Code Conference last year, Musk brought up the prospect of a “neural lace” that would be surgically connected to a human brain and permit a user to interact with a computer without the bandwidth challenges that come with current input methods, including keyboards, mice, and trackpads. He’s since tweeted that he has made progress on his own exploration of the technology, and more recently rumors emerged that he was planning to create another company with this project as its focus.

According to the Wall Street Journal report, the medical conditions being studied could include epilepsy and severe depressive disorder. These efforts could build on existing therapies that use electrodes in the brain to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s, giving Neuralink a starting point with established science and an easier path to approval for human use. Clearing that lower hurdle would then set up the company for its longer-term goal of human augmentation.

It may sound far-fetched, but in fact this is basically the Musk standard playbook for building new companies based on big ideas. Both SpaceX and Tesla used the same model, starting with near-term products that weren’t nearly as ambitious as later efforts in order to crest a sustainable path to grand designs, like landing on Mars or affordable, mass-produced long-range EVs.

Musk will definitely have a full plate with Neuralink on top of SpaceX and Tesla, as well as his side venture The Boring Company, which is looking into solving urban transportation issues via tunnels. However, the CEO sees artificial intelligence as a risk that could potentially affect humanity at large, and his decision to pursue this potential solution likely seems as imperative to him as does the necessity of expanding our intergalactic colonial footprint, or weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels.

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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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    technology nasa

    App Technology Allows Users To View Landscapes From Space

    The global imaging technology company that acquired Google’s Terra Bella satellite imaging business recently, Planet, is introducing a new tool called Planet Explorer Beta that permits its users to view how its image captures of Earth from space change over time. It is available to the public without a login, which means almost anyone can see what a particular spot on the planet looked like over a yearly or monthly period.

    technology nasa

    Will Marshall, Planet co-founder and CEO, describes in a blog post that the company has noticed that, as it captures images of the same locations over time, almost all places show visible signs of transformation. Planet’s satellite network captures a lot more imagery than has typically been available, and on a more frequent basis. It can collect a new photo of every piece of land on Earth on a daily basis, via its network of almost 150 orbital satellites. It proves things transform almost indefinitely all over the planet.

    There is clearly a business focus with Planet’s choice to reveal Explore Beta publicly with no login required. Use of the resulting images is limited to non-commercial purposes, and Planet anticipates this will drive free account sign-ups, which unlock access to not only yearly and monthly change imagery, but also daily comparisons. These gimmicks are likely to convert at least some users into paid subscribers, which permits them to use the available data for commercial use.

    However, Planet also says it believes imagery of the Earth should be freely accessible to all, including NGOs, individuals, and small companies, rather than exclusive province of big corporations and government agencies. For the everyday user, this is a great modern way to pass some time looking at truly fascinating satellite images, and getting some new perspective on the all-too inevitable passage of time.

    streaming_technology

    New Stream TV Technology App Revealed By Comcast

    Comcast is unveiling a new streaming technology app called Xfinity Stream, which will replace its older Xfinity TV app on mobile devices, as well as deliver many features for cable subscribers, including on-demand programming, DVR recordings, access to live TV, and more. It will also be home to Comcast’s internet TV service targeted at cord cutters, Stream TV. This IPTV service is set to roll out nationally later this year under new branding.

    streaming technology

    Stream TV has not had much attention since its reveal in 2015, mostly because it’s still only available in select markets. Currently, those in Boston and Chicago metros can subscribe to the live streaming technology service, which is being targeted at those who no longer want to pay for cable. Stream TV includes access to the local broadcast stations (ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC, PBS, Telemundo, and Univision), as well as HBO. The service has been criticized for not being on par with PlayStation Vue or Sling TV, but is not really targeted at the true cord cutter. Rather, Stream TV is meant to appeal to those who mostly watch TV at home, where a laptop or mobile device is used as their primary screen.

    Comcast plans to roll out Stream TV nationwide later this year to all the markets where Comcast is available. At the time of the nationwide reveal, Stream TV will also be rebranded to eliminate confusion between it and this new “Stream TV” app. The application will then continue to serve both Comcast customer bases: those streaming TV cord cutters as well as the traditional subscribers to cable TV. As for the new Stream TV app itself, it now allows subscribers to Xfinity cable TV to tune in to over 200 live TV channels.

    In addition, TV customers can choose from 40,000 on-demand titles, including both TV shows and movies, thousands of which can be downloaded for offline viewing, the company says. DVR recordings can be downloaded for offline access, and the DVR can be programmed remotely. Stream TV subscribers will have access to the same general feature set, but will only be able to view those channels and on-demand titles included in that subscription. Downloads are not available for the broadcast networks or HBO in this package, so on-demand viewing may be limited.

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    technology

    New iPhone May Come With Wireless Charging Technology

    Apple is now a member of the Wireless Power Consortium. As spotted by 9to5mac, the website has recently been revised to highlight Apple as one of the 213 members. This revision feeds rumors that Apple is going to add wireless charging technology in the next iPhone. While wireless charging technology is nothing new, Apple has been very careful about this feature. The Apple Watch already works with a magnetic cable that charges your device wirelessly. But the iPhone has never had such a feature.

    technology

    When wireless charging first became familiar, it was either slow or your phone battery would become hot. If this feature isn’t implemented properly, it could damage batteries over time. In addition to that technical obstacle, companies were competing to set the standard. The technology is now ready to come out, and Apple is ready to move ahead. Reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo from KGI Securities has already said that the next iPhone should feature wireless charging in addition to the Lightning port.

    In September, Apple could introduce three different iPhone models. In addition to the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, there should be a higher-end “pro” model. It is not clear if all iPhones, or just the top model, will have wireless charging. Similarly, nobody knows for sure if Apple is going to put the charger in the box or ship the phones with a Lightning cable.

    There are many companies in the Wireless Power Consortium, including LG, Samsung, HTC, Qualcomm, and Huawei. So the recent advertisement does not mean much about Apple’s plans. It is hard to dismiss it when you combine it with the current rumors. Now, if only somebody could tell Apple that the Lightning port is sort of useful. If you blink for a second, Apple could use this opportunity to remove that one last port on the iPhone.

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    email

    For the second time, a bill set to reform online privacy laws, including email, dating back thirty years sailed through the House by unanimous vote. The bipartisan bill known as the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 387) would obligate the government to seek a warrant in order to access the email of American citizens. Last year, the same bill passed in the House before suspending in the Senate, partly at the hands of Senator Jeff Sessions. Last June, Sessions proposed an amendment to the reinvented ECPA that would create exceptions for “emergency disclosures.” That surveillance-friendly loophole was just one of the tweaks that caused the bill to stall out before it could come to a vote.

    email

    After the vote, Google Director of Law Enforcement and Information Security Richard Salgado issued a statement commending the House and urging the Senate to seize the “historic opportunity” for revision:
    “The Email Privacy Act updates the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to require the government to obtain a warrant before it can compel companies like Google to disclose the content of users’ communications. Since 2010, Google has testified before Congress four times in support of this reform, which will protect all users, and we are proud of our efforts.

    This Act will fix a constitutional flaw in ECPA, which currently purports to allow the government to compel a provider to disclose email contents in some cases without a warrant, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Email Privacy Act ensures that the content of our emails are protected in the same way that the Fourth Amendment protects the items we store in our homes. This is consistent with the practice around the country already and what the Constitution requires; the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded in 2010 that ECPA is unconstitutional to the extent it permits the government to compel a service provider to disclose to the government a user’s electronic communications content without a warrant. Today’s vote demonstrates that this conviction is widely shared.”

    In a statement on the bill, the ACLU’s Neema Singh Guliani also commended the House for passing the Email Privacy Act again and urged the Senate to do the same:
    “Last year, this bills’ progress was derailed by Senate efforts to water down its provisions and attach amendments that would have weakened Americans’ privacy. We urge the Senate to not repeat past mistakes; instead it should act quickly to pass legislation that ensures that Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights are protected in the digital age.”

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    Amazon Building Air Cargo Hub For Air Fleet

    Amazon is constructing one of the biggest internal logistics and shipping organizations in the world. The company just unveiled that it is investing $1.5 billion in a new air cargo hub. This will establish a spot that crosses the Kentucky and Cincinnati border, and according to the Wall Street Journal, it should open up around 2,000 jobs.

    Amazon

    The new hub is being created in order to help provide a base for its progressively large fleet of 40 or more cargo planes, a group of vehicles it previously revealed it was leasing under the name of Amazon Prime Air, and come with custom Amazon exterior paint jobs. The planes are designed to help Amazon handle its increasing transportation needs, which are growing as its share of global retail business increases, and straining the capabilities and capacities of its shipping partners, which include UPS and FedEx.

    The company has long maintained that it is not looking to compete with other logistics providers, but it recently became an ocean cargo shipping company, with the ability to act as a “freight forwarder,” services that UPS and FedEx also offer. Amazon still hopes to eventually offer services both to itself and to outside companies and retailers, which would put it in direct competition with its current partners, according to the WSJ’s sources.

    If and when it ever happens, however, there’s likely plenty of business to go around for everyone. Amazon typically has some trouble keeping up with demand during busy periods like the holidays, even with all the shipping partners it currently enjoys, and so owning its own piece of the pie to try to build up its maximum capacity is a worthwhile goal even without considering building a functional standalone shipping business in the future, in addition to this.

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