Watch this self-solving Rubik’s cube march its way across a table

Watch this self-solving Rubik’s cube march its way across a table

This wild, 3D-printed self-solving Rubik’s cube is amazing. To make it work, a Japanese inventor used servo motors and Arduino boards to actuate the cube as it solves itself. Sadly, there isn’t much of a build description available but it looks to be very compact and surprisingly fast.

There is a description of the project on DMM-Make and you can watch the little cube scoot around a table as it solves itself in less than a minute. The creator also built the Human Controller, a cute system for controlling a human as they walk down the street, and the Human Crane Game which is equally inexplicable. If this Ru-bot is real and ready for prime time it could be an amazing Kickstarter.


Source: Tech Crunch

Zencargo raises a Seed Plus round led by London’s LocalGlobe to tackle global freight

Zencargo raises a Seed Plus round led by London’s LocalGlobe to tackle global freight

International shipping has changed little in the last century – it’s slow and opaque, with many processes carried out manually and on paper. Most supply chain teams still rely on phone calls and emails to do their job. The whole things stuck in the 20th Century. It’s estimated that the average shipper spends over 40 hours per month – the equivalent of 7 working days – manually chasing the various parties along their supply chain for action.

We’ve seen many startups try to tackle shipping and freight in the last few years but very few got anywhere because the industry is very resistant to change. The key to winning in this market would be to leap-frog legacy operating systems and improve customer-facing supply chain visibility and analytics.

Zencargo, the digital freight forwarder, thinks it may have the answer, and so do its investors. Today it announces its ‘seed plus’ round, led by London’s LocalGlobe, with participation from Samos Investments (founded by the Marquess of Salisbury) and Picus Capital, bringing total funds raised to over $4m.

The company works – which works with businesses ranging from high-growth scaleups to FTSE-listed businesses – will use the new funding to accelerate its product development process and build a presence in China.

The idea is simple and disruptive.

Zencargo makes it completely free for companies to digitise their supply chain. Its platform includes end-to-end visibility for shipments from purchase order to delivery, addressing the issue of fragmented suppliers and manual processes.

Instead of real offices, Zencargo’s customers utilise its “Virtual Local Offices” to gain visibility during production around the world.

Customers include wearable technology giant Catapult and mattress-in-a-box brand Simba. Catapult says it has used ZenCargo to expand its supply chain to over 50 countries, with 98% of all shipments arriving on time.

Tom Hook, supply chain and operations manager at Catapult, says Zencargo’s platform “helped us digitise our complete shipping operation overnight. Their technology acts like an extension of our team; helping to increase visibility into our supply chain, minimising the amount of admin and communication required and allowing us to focus on developing and improving the way we operate rather than continually chasing it.”

Richard Fattal, cofounder of Zencargo, says: “We’ve attracted a lot of fast-growing digital companies led by a new generation of business leaders. These are the kind of companies that are driving productivity growth in the UK and elsewhere and we are enjoying helping them operate with greater efficiency.”

The company was founded by Alex Hersham, Zencargo’s CEO, and Fattal, with CTO Jan Reithmeyer. Hersham worked for Cerberus Capital Management, a US Private Equity with $40bn under management, running the shipping business, buying and leasing ships back to the shipping lines. Richard is the third generation in his family to make a career in international trade; his grandfather owned a freight forwarding business and his father was a commodities trader.


Source: Tech Crunch

Salesforce partners with Apple to roll deeper into mobile enterprise markets

Salesforce partners with Apple to roll deeper into mobile enterprise markets

Apple and Salesforce are both highly successful, iconic brands, who like to put on a big show when they make product announcements. Today, the two companies announced they were forming a strategic partnership with an emphasis on mobile strategy ahead of Salesforce’s enormous customer conference, Dreamforce, which starts tomorrow in San Francisco.

For Apple, which is has been establishing partnerships with key enterprise brands for the last several years, today’s news is a another big step toward solidifying its enterprise strategy by involving the largest enterprise SaaS vendor in the world.

“We’re forming a strategic partnership with Salesforce to change the way people work and to empower developers of all abilities to build world-class mobile apps,” Susan Prescott, vice president of markets, apps and services at Apple told TechCrunch.

Tim Cook at Apple event on September 12, 2018 Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Bret Taylor, president and chief product at Salesforce, who came over in the Quip deal a couple of years ago, says working together, the two companies can streamline mobile development for customers. “Every single one of our customers is on mobile. They all want world-class mobile experiences, and this enables us when we’re talking to a customer about their mobile strategy, that we can be in that conversation together,” he explained.

For starters, the partnership is going to involve three main components: The two companies are going to work together to bring in some key iOS features such Siri Shortcuts and integration with Apple’s Business Chat into the Salesforce mobile app. Much like the partnership between Apple and IBM, Apple and Salesforce will also work together to build industry-specific iOS apps on the Salesforce platform.

The companies are also working together on a new mobile SDK built specifically for Swift, Apple’s popular programming language. The plan is to provide a way to build Swift apps for iOS and deploy them natively on Salesforce’s Lightning platform.

The final component involves deeper integration with Trailhead, Salesforce’s education platform. That will involve a new Trailhead Mobile app on IOS as well as adding Swift education courses to the Trailhead catalogue to help drive adoption of the mobile SDK.

While Apple has largely been perceived as a consumer-focused organization, as we saw a shift to  companies encouraging employees to bring their own devices to work over the last six or seven years, Apple has benefited. As that has happened, it has been able to take advantage to sell more products and services and has partnered with a number of other well-known enterprise brands including IBMCiscoSAP and GE along with systems integrators Accenture and Deloitte.

The move gives Salesforce a formidable partner to continue their incredible growth trajectory. Just last year the company passed the $10 billion run rate putting it in rarified company with some of the most successful software companies in the world. In their most recent earnings call at the end of August, they reported $3.28 billion for the quarter, placing them on a run rate of over $13 billion. Connecting with Apple could help keep that momentum growing.

The two companies will show off the partnership at Dreamforce this week. It’s a deal that has the potential to work out well for both companies, giving Salesforce a more integrated iOS experience and helping Apple increase its reach into the enterprise.


Source: Tech Crunch

Microsoft’s Quantum Development Kit adds a chemical simulation library

Microsoft’s Quantum Development Kit adds a chemical simulation library

During last September’s Ignite conference, Microsoft heavily emphasized its quantum computing efforts and launched both its Q# programming language and development kits.

This year, the focus is on other things, and the announcements about quantum are far and in between (and our understanding is that Microsoft, unlike some of its competitors, doesn’t have a working quantum computing prototype yet). It did, however, announce an addition to its Quantum Development Kit that brings a new chemical simulation library to tools for getting started with quantum computing.

While there are plenty of applications for quantum computing once it becomes a reality, quite a few experts are betting on chemical simulations as one of the first areas where developers will be able to reap the fruits of this new computing paradigm. It’s maybe no surprise then that Microsoft is also betting on this.

The new library was developed in collaboration with Pacific Northwest National Labs. “The library will enable developers and organizations to create quantum-inspired solutions that can be simulated on classical computers today and quantum computers in the future – helping them tackle big chemistry challenges in such fields as agriculture and climate,” Microsoft explained ahead of today’s announcement.

While Microsoft is still working on making quantum hardware available to developers, competitors like IBM and Rigetti already offer working machines that may be limited in their capabilities — as all quantum computers currently are — but that offer developers the ability to test their algorithms on real machines. We’re still a while away from reaching the point where quantum computers will be able to live up to their potential, but as both IBM’s Dario Gil and Rigetti CEO Chad Rigetti told me at our Disrupt conference earlier this year, now is the time to get started with learning the basics.

more Microsoft Ignite 2018 coverage


Source: Tech Crunch

Microsoft Azure gets new high-performance storage options

Microsoft Azure gets new high-performance storage options

Microsoft Azure is getting a number of new storage options today that mostly focus on use cases where disk performance matters.

The first of these is Azure Ultra SSD Managed Disks, which are now in public preview. Microsoft says that these drives will offer “sub-millisecond latency,” which unsurprisingly makes them ideal for workloads where latency matters.

Earlier this year, Microsoft launched its Premium and Standard SSD Managed Disks offerings for Azure into preview. As far as we can tell, these ‘ultra’ SSDs represent the next tier up from the Premium SSDs with even lower latency and higher throughput.

And talking about Standard SSD Managed Disks, this service is now generally available after only three months in preview. To top things off, all of Azure’s storage tiers (Premium and Standard SSD, as well as Standard HDD) now offer 8, 16 and 32 TB storage capacity.

Also new today is Azure Premium files, which is now in preview. This, too, is an SSD-based service. Azure Files itself isn’t new, though. It offers users access to cloud storage using the standard SMB protocol. This new premium offering promises higher throughput and lower latency for these kind of SMB operations.

more Microsoft Ignite 2018 coverage


Source: Tech Crunch

VC firms of Kevin Durant and Snoop Dogg back Dutchie, a new cannabis delivery service

VC firms of Kevin Durant and Snoop Dogg back Dutchie, a new cannabis delivery service

Ross Lipson, the chief executive officer and co-founder of the on-demand marijuana and cannabis delivery service, Dutchie, had thought he was done with the online delivery business.

Instead, he’s launched a new delivery service that has just raised $3 million from Casa Verde Capital, the $45 million venture firm founded by hip hop impresario Snoop Dogg, and Kevin Durant’s Durant Company — among others — to take advantage of the growing demand for marijuana delivery.

It had been only five years since Lipson sold a food delivery business he spent a decade building when the inspiration for Dutchie came to him. And the idea was too compelling to shake.

Lipson was living in Bend, Ore., where he’d retired after selling his online food delivery business GrubCanada to JustEat, the European tech-enabled delivery giant, back in 2012.

Then, in 2015, after Oregon legalized recreational use of marijuana, Lipson began wondering if it wasn’t time to revisit the whole delivery space again.

For him, the conundrum for consumers looking to buy cannabis products was similar to the dilemma in-home diners faced when choosing what to eat. In the modern weed world (at least in places where marijuana is legal), consumers are so spoiled for choice they often go with a default option.

Before online delivery, ordering food meant turning to the neighborhood spot for everything from American to Ethiopian, Italian, Jamaican, Chinese, Indian, Thai, or Tibetan food. But with online delivery services, a whole city’s worth of restaurant options opened up to consumers (as long as they were in your delivery area).

The same, Lipson figured, was true of marijuana.

“We’re creating a tool that helps the user and consumer navigate the delivery space,” he said. “We’re educating the consumer to that buying experiences…. If you don’t have that online ordering tool in front of you you’re forced to choose a dispensary and take the information that that ‘budtender’ gives you, which is their personal preference.”

Right now, marijuana delivery is something of a land grab. In Los Angeles alone, services like Nugg, Ganjarunner, Kushfly, Eaze, HERB, Westside Organic, and Cannabis Express, all pitch delivery services for marijuana or cannabis infused products, oils and vapes to willing consumers.

Eaze, the biggest startup in the online delivery space, has raised at least $37 million to tackle the growing market for legal cannabis delivery since its launch in 2014.

Lipson, however, has seen this all before with food. He started Dutchie in 2017 (and yes, it is named after the song) in 2017 from Bend and has been slowly and steadily growing the business. The company signed on 50 dispensaries in Oregon to help prove out the product and just raised $3 million in a seed round from Casa Verde Capital, The Durant Company, Sinai Ventures and other angel investors.

The company currently operates in Oregon, Washington, and Michigan and is launching in Colorado, Nevada and California this month. It currently works with 100 dispensaries and has seen $2.5 million in gross merchandise volume in its first year of operations alone.

To further boost its expansion efforts, the company also signed an agreement with Canopy Rivers (the newly spun off investment and operating arm of $10 billion dollar Canadian cannabis company, Canopy Growth) to operate internationally in Canada. Asked why Lipson didn’t just try to float the business on the Toronto Stock Exchange to take advantage of the exuberance investors have for all things cannabis, the chief executive said he wanted to be more measured in his approach.

“There’s a lot of hype and speculation around the cannabis space especially in the public markets,” Lipson said. “It’s not a traditional way to go about a business of this size. We’re extremely excited and eager to partner with the investors that we did.”

With only 14 employees — many of whom work remotely — Lipson is hoping to roll out aggressively in the next few months across all states in which medical marijuana is legal as well and into Canada as well. 

“We’re priding ourselves on the concept of scalability,” says Lipson. Who’s relying on his co-founder, and brother, Zach, to help him execute. “That’s the underlying mantra of our strategy.”

That mantra of scalability was apparently what attracted Casa Verde, which took only two months to decide to lead the investment round into Lipson’s new venture. “I started talking to them four months ago,” Lipson said. “A month or two into it, they did the deal and took the lead and we’ve just been filling out the round with strategics.”


Source: Tech Crunch

Tile names GoPro vet CJ Prober new CEO, adds Comcast as investor and new product partner

Tile names GoPro vet CJ Prober new CEO, adds Comcast as investor and new product partner

There’s a changing of the guard, and a new strategic partnership, over at Tile, the startup that helps you keep tabs on the location of your things by way of small tracking devices.

Today, the company is announcing that CJ Prober — a longtime exec at GoPro who had most recently been the COO — is taking on the role of CEO from co-founder Mike Farley.

Farley will keep a seat on the board and become a strategic advisor to the company, stepping away from a day-to-day role.

The leadership change coincides with another significant piece of news for the company: US media giant Comcast is taking a strategic investment in the startup that will also become the basis for a long-term product and marketing partnership.

The value of the investment is not being disclosed but a source close to the deal described it as a “sizable investment” made at a higher valuation than for Tile’s previous round. (For some context, Tile last raised $25 million in 2017, at around a $167 million post-money valuation.)

Prober — who had also been on the Tile board for the last seven months — would not comment on whether this is potentially the beginning of a larger round for Tile, which has disclosed some $61 million in funding, a total that is now higher with this new infusion from Comcast.

“We’re well funded,” Prober said. “It doesn’t mean we won’t raise capital in the future, but the current plan doesn’t require it.”

Both pieces of news come just as we start to inch into the holiday sales period, a key time of year for consumer electronics companies.

Tile specifically will be looking for a turnaround after a disappointing holiday season, and subsequent layoffs, in 2017. With over 15 million of its square devices to date and accounting for some 95 percent of the market in the US (according to estimates from NPD), Tile is considered the leader in its category in key regions like North America.

But after a hugely successful early entry into the market by way of a Kickstarter campaign, Tile has also faced some hard truths.

There are a number of me-too products out there — some of which have had their own struggles in meeting sales projections and could lead some of those competitors to exit the consumer market for device tracking altogether. And as we see a greater proliferation of “dumb” objects transform into a new generation of “connected hardware,” many of these are coming with their own location-tracking technologies — or, for example in the case of smart locks, may no longer require users to keep track of physical items at all.

In an interview, Prober said that his time at GoPro — which has also had its share of struggles — “really did expose me to the opportunities and challenges that come with consumer hardware”, and he’s hoping to use some of that experience to help Tile take itself to the next level as a product business.

The “primary use case,” as Prober describes it, is finding keys — and the strength of that has helped the company establish a global community that helps power Tile’s location-finding platform. (Some 4 million Tiles are active each month across 220 territories, he said.) The next steps will be to create an even stronger network of nodes that do not have to rely on active Tile users; and to start creating other kinds of tracking services that might not even rely on the Tile fob itself.

“We’d like to embed Tile technology into anything that already uses Bluetooth,” he said, citing a deal with Bose from earlier this year as a template it would like to continue to develop. And the company is also now testing out a new feature it calls “smart alerts,” which will not simply let you locate items when you’ve misplaced them, but will alert you when you leave something important behind.

The Comcast deal is also part of that strategic continuum. When it’s not outbidding Fox to buy broadcasters in the UK, the company has been focusing on how it can build out a more central role for itself in the connected home, as a way to help differentiate itself from the rest of the pack of media and broadband providers in its home market of the US.

Comcast has launched voice-controls for connected home services using its X1 Voice Remote, smart home automation, and even an early partnership with Tile. The investment will help the two build on that by putting Tile tech into its network of devices — namely remotes and set-top boxes — to create more access points to use the Tile location-tracking technology. And then two plan to co-market each other’s products.

Tile currently has 100 employees.


Source: Tech Crunch

SiriusXM to acquire Pandora for $3.5 billion

SiriusXM to acquire Pandora for .5 billion

SiriusXM and Pandora have announced acquisition plans before the stock market opens. SiriusXM is offering to acquire Pandora for $3.5 billion in stock, or $10.14 per share. Pandora would continue to exist as an independent service.

For Pandora shareholders, this offer represents a 13.8 percent premium over the volume-weighted average share price of the past 30 days. Both the Pandora board and the SiriusXM board have approved the plan.

But the transaction isn’t going to happen right away. As part of the deal, Pandora negotiated a "go-shop" provision, which means that Pandora’s board can still evaluate other offers. The acquisition is expected to close in the first quarter of 2019.

The announcement says that SiriusXM plans to leverage both services to cross-promote the other service. For instance, you could see references to SiriusXM shows while listening to Pandora. And SiriusXM hosts could suggest downloading the Pandora mobile app.

The company also plans to create subscription packages that could include SiriusXM radios as well as a Pandora premium subscription. SiriusXM also plans to make you listen to Pandora in your car as SiriusXM is already widely available in American cars.

Pandora shares are currently up 8.58 percent to $10.65 in pre-market trading. SiriusXM shares are currently trading at $6.89 (down 1.29 percent) in pre-market trading.

Pandora has been a public company since 2011 but has consistently lost money. The company bet very early on music streaming with an innovative interest-based smart radio format. That was before Spotify, before Apple Music, before SoundCloud, before smartphones.

While Pandora currently has over 70 million monthly active listeners, the vast majority of them aren’t premium subscribers. Pandora only has around 6 million paid subscribers — Spotify has 83 million paid subscribers. Paid subscribers tend to boost the average revenue per user. But the company never quite figured out how to convert those free users into subscribers.


Source: Tech Crunch

WhatsApp hires ‘grievance officer’ to help combat false information in India

WhatsApp hires ‘grievance officer’ to help combat false information in India

Following widespread criticism of the way its service is used to spread false information and news in India, WhatsApp has hired a “grievance officer” for the country.

U.S-based Komal Lahiri is the lead who handles complaints about the service from users, law enforcement and other government officials, according to Mint.

WhatsApp did not respond to a request for comment on Lahiri’s hiring and her role. Her LinkedIn account, however, states that she has been “Senior Director, Global Customer Operations & Localization” at WhatsApp since March. Prior to that, she spent over three years with Facebook and Instagram in the U.S.

WhatsApp claims over 1.5 billion active users per month, India is its largest market and it accounts for an estimated 200 million of that figure. Despite the many benefits of a more connected society, information on WhatsApp has led to a number of troubling incidents. That includes the killing of five people who visited a rural village but were beaten to death after being falsely accused of being child kidnappers due to the spread of rumors on WhatsApp.

WhatsApp has tried to advise people by taking out full-page advertisements in an assortment of daily newspapers as well as educational camps, but the Indian government has pressured WhatsApp to do more. The IT minister met with WhatsApp COO Chris Daniels after it had sent two letters to the company asking it make its service more accountable and enable law enforcement agencies to use it.

The company has instead said it is impossible to track messages since its service is end-to-end encrypted. It has added features in India — one indicates when a message has been forwarded, and another limited the number of times messages can be forwarded on — but that hasn’t solved the problem. WhatsApp is at least stepping up its efforts with this hire, but it remains to be seen how adequate a job Lahiri can do from the U.S.

More widely, WhatsApp does seem to be struggling make hires in India.

While this role is located in the U.S, the company is still trying to fill the position of ‘head of India’ and its head of policy in the country, too. Facebook itself is also hiring for a managing director for its India business.


Source: Tech Crunch

Yubico’s new security keys now support FIDO2

Yubico’s new security keys now support FIDO2

Yubico, the company behind the popular Yubikey security keys, today announced the launch of its 5 Series keys. The company argues that these new keys, which start at $45, are the first multi-protocol securities keys that supports the FIDO2 standard. With this, Yubico argues, the company will be able to replace password-based authentication, which is often a hassle and unsecure, with stronger hardware-based authentication.

“Innovation is core to all we do, from the launch of the original YubiKey ten years ago, to the concept of one authentication device across multiple services, and today as we are accelerating into the passwordless era,” said Stina Ehrensvard, the CEO and founder of Yubico in today’s announcement. “The YubiKey 5 Series can deliver single-factor, two-factor, or multi-factor secure login, supporting many different uses cases on different platforms for different verticals with a variety of authentication scenarios.”

The company made the announcement ahead of Microsoft’s Ignite conference this week, where Microsoft, too, is expect to make a number of security announcements around the future of passwords.

“Passwordless login brings a monumental change to how business users and consumers will securely log in to applications and services,” said Alex Simons, the corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Identity Division. “With FIDO2, Microsoft is working to remove the dependency on password-based logins, with support from devices like the YubiKey 5.”

For the most part, the new keys looks very much like the existing ones, but new to the series is the YubiKey 5 NFC, which combines supports all of the major security protocols over both USB and NFC — and the addition of NFC makes it a better option for those who want to use the same key on they desktops, laptops and mobile phones or tablets.

Supported protocols, in addition to FIDO2, include FIDO U2F, smart card (PIV), Yubico OTP, OpenPGP, OATH-TOTP, OATH-HOTP, and Challenge-Response.

The new keys will come in all of the standard Yubico form factors, including the large USB-A key with NFC support, as well as smaller versions and those for USB-C devices.

In its press release, Yubico stresses that its keys are manufactured and programmed in the USA and Sweden. The fact that it’s saying that is no accident, given that Google recently launched its own take on security keys (after years of recommending Yubikeys). Google’s keys, however, are being built by a Chinese company and while Google is building its own firmware for them, there are plenty of sceptics out there who aren’t exactly waiting for a key that was manufactured in China.


Source: Tech Crunch