Negative? How a Navy veteran refused to accept a ‘no’ to his battery invention

Decades ago, a young naval engineer on a British nuclear submarine started taking an interest in the electric batteries helping to run his vessel. Silently running under the frozen polar ice-cap during the Cold War, little did this sub-mariner know that, in the 21st Century, batteries would become one of the biggest single sectors in technology. Even the planet. But his curiosity stayed with him, and almost 20 years ago he decided to pursue that dream, borne many years beneath the waves.

The journey for Trevor Jackson started, as many things do in tech, with research. He’d become fascinated by the experiments done, not with lithium batteries, which had come to dominate the battery industry, but with so-called ‘Aluminum-air’ batteries.

Technically described at “(Al)/air” batteries, these are the – almost – untold story from the battery world. For starters, an Aluminum-air battery system can generate enough energy and power for driving ranges and acceleration similar to gasoline powered cars.

Sometimes known as ‘Metal-Air’ batteries, these have been successfully used in ‘off-grid’ applications for many years, just as batteries powering army radios. The most attractive metal in this type of battery is Aluminum because it is the most common metal on Earth and has one of the highest energy densities.

Think of an air-breathing battery which uses Aluminum as a ‘fuel’. That means it can provide vehicle power with energy originating from clean sources (hydro, geothermal, nuclear etc). These are the power sources for most Aluminum smelters all over the world. The only waste product is Aluminum Hydroxide and this can be returned to the smelter as the feedstock for – guess what? – making more Aluminum! This cycle is therefore highly sustainable and separate from the oil industry. You could even recycle aluminum tin cans and use them to make batteries.

Imagine that – a power source separate from the highly polluting oil industry.

But hardly anyone was using them in mainstream applications. Why?

trevor battery 2

Aluminum-air batteries had been around for a while. But the problem with a battery which generated electricity by ‘eating’ Aluminum was that it was simply not efficient. The electrolyte used just didn’t work well.

This was important. An electrolyte is a chemical medium inside a battery that allows the flow of electrical charge between the cathode and anode. When a device is connected to a battery — a light bulb or an electric circuit — chemical reactions occur on the electrodes that create a flow of electrical energy to the device.

When an Aluminum-Air battery starts to run, a chemical reaction produces a ‘gel’ by-product which can gradually block the airways into the cell. It seemed like an intractable problem for researchers to deal with.

But after a lot of experimentation, in 2001, Jackson developed what he believed to be a revolutionary kind of electrolyte for Aluminum-air batteries which had the potential to remove the barriers to commercialization. His specially-developed electrolyte did not produce the hated gel that would destroy the efficiency of an Aluminum-air battery. It seemed like a game-changer.

The breakthrough – if proven – had huge potential. The energy density of his battery was about 8 times that of a Lithium-Ion battery. He was incredibly excited. Then he tried to tell politicians…

trevor battery 1

Despite a detailed demonstration of a working battery to Lord ‘Jim’ Knight in 2001, followed by email correspondence and a promise to ‘pass it onto Tony (Blair)’ there was no interest from the UK Government.

And Jackson faced bureaucratic hurdles. The UK government’s official innovation body, Innovate UK, emphasized lithium battery technology, not Aluminum-Air batteries.

He was struggling to convince public and private investors to back him, such was the hold the “lithium battery lobby” had over the sector.

This emphasis on Lithium batteries over anything else meant UK the government was effectively leaving on the table a technology which could revolutionize electrical storage and mobility and even contribute to the fight against carbon emission and move the UK towards its pollution-reduction goals.

Disappointed in the UK, Jackson upped sticks and found better backing in France where he moved his R&D in 2005.

Finally, in 2007, the potential of Jackson’s invention was confirmed independently in France at the Polytech Nantes institution. Its advantages over Lithium Ion batteries were (and still are) increased cell voltage. They used ordinary aluminum, would create very little pollution and had a steady, long-duration power output.

As a result, in 2007 the French Government formally endorsed the technology as ‘strategic and in the national interest of France’.

At this point, the UK’s Foreign Office suddenly woke up and took notice.

It promised Jackson that the UKTI would deliver ‘300%’ effort in launching the technology in the UK if it was ‘repatriated’ back to the UK.

However, in 2009, the UK’s Technology Strategy Board refused to back the technology, citing that the Automotive Council Technology Road Map ‘excluded this type of battery’. Even though the Carbon Trust agreed that it did indeed constitute a ‘credible CO2-reduction technology’ it refused to assist Jackson further.

Meanwhile, other governments were more enthusiastic about exploring metal-air batteries.

The Israeli Government, for instance, directly invested in Phinergy, a startup working on very similar Aluminum-Air technology. Here’s an, admittedly corporate, video which actually shows the advantages of metal-air batteries in electric cars:

The Russian Aluminum company RUSAL developed a CO2-free smelting process, meaning they could, in theory, make an Aluminum-air battery with a CO2-free process.

Jackson tried to tell the UK government they were making a mistake. Appearing before the Parliamentary Select Committee for business-energy and industrial strategy, he described how the UK had created a bias towards lithium-Ion technology which had led to a battery-tech ecosystem which was funding Lithium-Ion research to the tune of billions of pounds. In 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May further backed the lithium-ion industry.

Jackson (below) refused to take no for an answer.

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He applied to UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. But in 2017 they replied with a ‘no-fund’ decision which dismissed the technology, even though DSTL had an actual programme of its own on Aluminum-Air technology, dedicated to finding a better electrolyte, at Southampton University.

Jackson turned to auto industry instead. He formed his company MAL (branded as “Metalectrique“) in 2013 and used seed-funding to successfully test a long-range design of power pack in its laboratory facilities in Tavistock, UK.

Here he is on a regional BBC channel explaining the battery:

He worked closely with Lotus Engineering to design and develop long-range replacement power packs for the Nissan Leaf and the Mahindra Reva ‘G-Wiz’ electric cars. At the time, Nissan expressed a strong interest in this ‘Beyond Lithium Technology’ (their words) but they were already committed to fitting LiON batteries to the ‘Leaf’. Undeterred, Jackson concentrated on the G-Wiz and went on to produce full-size battery cells for testing and showed that Aluminum-Air technology was superior to any other existing technology.

And now this emphasis on Lithium-Ion is still holding back the industry.

The fact is that Lithium batteries now face considerable challenges. The technology development has peaked; unlike Aluminum, Lithium is not recyclable and Lithium battery supplies are not assured.

The advantages of Aluminum-Air technology are numerous. Without having to charge the battery, a car could simply swap the battery out in second, completely removing ‘charge time’. Most current charging points are rated at 50 kW which is roughly one-hundredth of that required to charge a Lithium battery in 5 minutes. Meanwhile, Hydrogen Fuel Cells would require a huge and expensive Hydrogen distribution infrastructure and a new Hydrogen generation system.

But Jackson has kept on pushing, convinced his technology can address both the power needs of the future, and the climate crisis.

Last May, he started getting much-needed recognition

The UK’s Advanced Propulsion Centre included the Metalectrique battery as part of its grant investment into 15 UK startups to take their technology to the next level as part of its Technology Developer Accelerator Programme (TDAP). The TDAP is part of a 10-year program to make UK a world-leader in low carbon propulsion technology.

The catch? These 15 companies have to share a paltry £1.1m in funding.

And as for Jackson? He’s still raising money for Metalectrique and spreading the word about the potential for Aluminum-air batteries to save the planet.

Heaven knows, at this point, it could use it.

GetAccept’s workflow and e-signature platform for sales secures $7M Series A funding

Many years ago every sales deal was sealed with a handshake between two people. Today, digitization has moved into the sales process, but it hasn’t necessarily improved the experience. In fact, it’s often become a more time-consuming affair because information and communications are scattered across multiple channels and the number of people involved in a deal has increased. That means lots of offers and quotes are get lost in the mix.
GetAccept a startup which provides an all-in-one sales platform where video, live chat, proposal design, document tracking and e-signatures come together to simplify the life of a sales team.

It’s now convinced investors there is such a need, raising a $7 million Series A funding round led by DN Capital, with participation from BootstrapLabs, Y Combinator and a number of Spotify’s early investors including ex-CFO of Spotify, Peter Sterky. The former CMO of Slack and Zendesk, Bill Macaitis, will also join the company’s Board of Directors.

The new capital will be used to scale sales and marketing, and accelerate product innovation for GetAccept’s industry leading document workflow solution for sales.
This round brings GetAccept’s total financing raised to $9M after then won their first seed round in 2017.
Samir Smajic, CEO, GetAccept says while CRM systems have made it easier for sales teams to manage pipeline and broker deals, “60 percent of all contracts are lost to indecision or simply go unanswered… Prospects no longer have to interact with reps to get basic information about a product or service, making the sales process highly impersonal. But prospects still need a rep to guide them through an increasingly complex B2B sales process in order to make better-informed buying decisions.” He believes GetAccept bridges this growing “engagement gap”.
GetAccept integrates into a company’s sales pipeline through technology partnerships with CRM and sales automation platforms including Salesforce, HubSpot, Microsoft Dynamics 365 and others.
It’s pitched as an all-in-one sales platform which compete with several separate tools including well-financed solutions likeDocsend, Pandadoc, Showpad, Highspot, Docusign, and Adobe Sign. Their ‘sales pitch’ is that companies can do all of the things in those products but the single GetAccept platform is actually geared toward to sales reps and includes the important features that help sales reps to actually move deals forward.
“Getting a deal to the point of contract has become increasingly difficult because buyers now get most of their information online,” said Thomas Rubens, Partner at DN Capital. “GetAccept honed in on this growing issue early on and built a best-in-class platform for managing document workflow and engagement across the entire sales cycle.”
GetAccept has so far signed customers including Samsung, Stanley and Siemens . It’s also expanded to the US and EMEA including Norway, Denmark and France.

Heat waves bring record-breaking temperatures on a geological scale

From Alaska to Europe the world has spent the past few weeks roasting under temperatures never before seen in recorded history.

In Alaska, all-time high record temperatures were set across the state on July 4th, according to the National Weather Service. In Anchorage, the mercury soared to highs of 90 degrees, the highest temperature since recording began in 1952.

Temperatures in Alaska have reached 90 degrees in other cities around the state before, but this is the first time that the thermometer hit that mark in Anchorage.

Meanwhile, hot winds blowing North from the Sahara set temperatures in Europe soaring to record highs, according to data released by the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

It was Europe’s record three degree temperature spike that brought global temperatures to their recorded-history highs.

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“Although local temperatures may have been lower or higher than those forecast, our data show that the temperatures over the southwestern region of Europe during the last week of June were unusually high,” said Jean-Noël Thépaut, head of the Copernicus Climate Change Service. “Although this was exceptional, we are likely to see more of these events in the future due to climate change.”

According to data from Copernicus, the temperature spikes across Europe was the highest on record for the month.

Compared for the same five-day period during the last thirty year climatological reference period, six to ten degree Celsius temperature spikes happened in most of France and Germany, throughout northern Spain, northern Italy, Switzerland, Austria and the Czech Republic.

As these events become common, the need for technologies that can reduce carbon emissions because more pressing.

Increasingly, businesses and investors are returning to the once-shunned market of clean technology and renewable energy to back new electric vehicle manufacturers, new energy efficient construction technologies, the rehabilitation of outdated infrastructure and consumer goods that have a smaller carbon footprint or reduce waste.

Data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance published earlier this year indicated that venture investments into what was once called clean technology hit $9.2 billion in 2018. That’s the highest cumulative investment in the sector since 2009. Much of those deals were in Chinese electric vehicle manufacturers who attracted some $3.3 billion in venture capital and private equity dollars.

That’s critical because global carbon emissions have increased over the past two years, according to estimates from the Global Carbon Project.

“We thought, perhaps hoped, emissions had peaked a few years ago,” said Rob Jackson, a professor of Earth system science in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth). “After two years of renewed growth, that was wishful thinking.”

In the U.S. specifically, climate related pressures (a warmer summer and a colder winter) led to increasing demand along with an uptick in gasoline consumption as demand for bigger vehicles fueled higher gas consumption.

“We’re driving more miles in bigger cars, changes that are outpacing improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency,” Jackson explained.

India reportedly wants to build its own WhatsApp for government communications

India may have plans to follow France’s footsteps in building a chat app and requiring government employees to use it for official communications.

The New Delhi government is said to be pondering about the need to have homegrown email and chat apps, local news outlet Economic Times reported on Thursday.

The rationale behind the move is to cut reliance on foreign entities, the report said, a concern that has somehow manifested amid U.S.’s ongoing tussle with Huawei and China.

“We need to make our communication insular,” an unnamed top government official was quoted as saying by the paper. The person suggested that by putting Chinese giant Huawei on the entity list, the U.S. has “set alarm bells ringing in New Delhi.”

India has its own ongoing trade tension with the U.S. Donald Trump earlier this month removed the South Asian nation from a special trade program after India did not assure him that it will “provide equitable and reasonable access to its markets.” India called the move “unfortunate”, and weeks later, increased tariffs on some U.S. exports.

The move to step away from foreign communication apps, if it comes to fruition, won’t be the first time a nation has attempted to cautiously restrict usage of popular messaging apps run by foreign players in government offices.

France launched an encrypted chat app — called Tchap — for use in government offices earlier this year. Only those employed by the French government offices can sign up to use the service, though the nation has open sourced the app’s code for the world to see and audit.

Of course, a security flaw in Tchap came into light within the first 24 hours of its release. Security is a real challenge that the government would have to tackle and it might not have the best resources — talent, budget, and expertise — to deal with it.

China, which has restricted many foreign companies from operating in the nation, also maintains customized versions of popular operating systems for use in government offices. So does North Korea.

It won’t be an unprecedented step for India, either. The nation has been trying to build and scale its own Linux-based desktop operating system called BOSS for several years with little success as most government agencies continue to use Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

Even as India has emerged as the third-largest startup hub in the world, the country has failed to build local alternatives for many popular services. Facebook’s WhatsApp has become ubiquitous for communication in India, while Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows power most smartphones and computers in the nation.

Waymo takes its self-driving car ambitions global in partnership with Renault-Nissan

Waymo has locked in an exclusive partnership with Renault and Nissan to research how commercial autonomous vehicles might work for passengers and packages in France and Japan.

This exclusive partnership has a deadline — the public announcement says it will last for “an initial period.” Waymo nor the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance provided details on when it might end.

For now, research is the basis of the partnership. The companies plan to research commercial, legal and regulatory issues. However, Waymo CEO John Krafcik, and by extension the company, sees this as an opening to deploy commercial services in these two countries, and possibly China and other countries.

“This is an ideal opportunity for Waymo to bring our autonomous technology to a global stage, with an innovative partner,” Krafcik said in a statement. “With the Alliance’s international reach and scale, our Waymo Driver can deliver transformational mobility solutions to safely serve riders and commercial deliveries in France, Japan, and other countries.”

Renault and Nissan plan to create joint venture Alliance-focused companies in France and Japan dedicated to autonomous vehicle mobility services.

The announcement follows a recent spate of alliances, failed deals and partnerships between a number of autonomous vehicle companies, suppliers and automakers.

In May, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles withdrew its proposal to merge with the Renault-Nissan Alliance, a 50-50 tie-up that was touted as a way to reduce costs and put more capital towards bringing next-generation technologies like self-driving cars to market.

While that merger fizzled, a deal that had been in the works between Fiat Chrysler and self-driving car startup Aurora became public. That announcement was quickly followed by a Financial Times article that reported VW had ended its partnership with Aurora.

All the while, negotiations between VW and Ford-backed Argo AI continue.

GuestReady raises $6M to help hosts on Airbnb and other services manage their property

GuestReady, a three-year-old service that lets shared-economy hosts manage their business on Airbnb and other rental sites, has announced a $6 million Series A round.

The investment was led by existing backer Impulse VC — the Russian fund that is backed by billionaire Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich — and new addition VentureSouq from Dubai. Other past backers also took part, including Boost Heroes, Aria Group and 808 Tech Ventures. GuestReady raised $3 million in 2017 and this round takes it to nearly $10 million from investors to date.

GuestReady’s property management platform helps owners manage the intricacies of operating a shared-economy house, such as cleaning, laundry, and check-in and out services. It claims to cover over 2,000 properties across six countries: the UK, France, Portugal, UAE, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. Airbnb is the obvious platform to work with, but a sizeable volume of business comes from Expedia’s HomeAway business and Booking.com, GuestReady CEO Alexander Limpert told TechCrunch in an interview.

Limpert added that GuestReady’s annual booking volume is close to reaching $50 million on an annualized basis. Over the last year, the company’s take-home revenue has tripled with a lower burn rate, he added, although he declined to provide specific figures.

The GuestReady Team

That growth has come courtesy of a series of M&A deals.

Indeed, this new infusion of cash comes months after the company completed its fourth acquisition to date, snapping up France-based rival BnbLord, a startup that it claims is the largest Airbnb host platform in France and Portugal.

That deal, which Limpert said is the company’s largest to date, was a “strategic play to become the market leader in Europe” — and it could be followed by others.

The GuestReady CEO said the company is engaged in “quite a few conversations right now” over potential acquisitions, with this new capital potentially fuelling those moves.

“We believe the market [for guest services] will consolidate,” he said, explaining that many young companies start out with promise but struggle to scale successfully once they hit 50-100 properties under management.

“They realize this is an intensive business without good processes and technology,” he added.

Still, the company is likely to retain the focus on its current markets with the potential to add “one or two” new cities further down the line.

“For now, we’re seeing so much potential in our current markets,” explained Limpert. “London and Paris are two of Airbnb’s biggest markets globally, for example, with 60,000 properties… we manage a couple of hundred of them.”

Zava bags $32M to expand its AI-free telehealth service in Europe

More money is being injected into the telehealth space in Europe. Zava, a long-time player that bills its online service as offering a “discreet and convenient” alternative to an in-person doctor visit, has just announced a $32 million Series A round, led by growth equity firm HPE Growth.

Zava relies on patients filling in an online medical questionnaire which is reviewed by a person from its team of in-house doctors/clinicians as part of the remote consultation process. Test kits and/or medicine can follow in the post or be sent to a pharmacy for the patient to collect.

“Zava provides reliable and convenient access to a qualified clinical team, via written communication, which drives an effective patient:doctor relationship,” says co-founder and CEO David Meinertz. “The questions we ask in our written questionnaire are exactly the same questions a GP would ask — but the patient can do this in their own time, meaning their answers are often more thorough.”

“Our patients feel more comfortable not having to discuss medical conditions that they might find embarrassing face to face, so we often find our patient answers are very direct,” he adds. “We’re not replacing doctors with AI and we are not just putting doctors on video. Zava is providing healthcare that enables doctors to treat patients more efficiently and more safely.”

Commenting on the Series A in a statement, Harry Dolman, partner at HPE Growth, added: “Zava offers a unique and highly scalable model to deliver a more convenient healthcare experience to patients while radically improving the efficiency of healthcare professionals, enabling healthcare systems to reduce the overall costs associated with primary care.”

The startup was founded nearly a decade ago, in 2010, and had only previously raised an angel round of $1.4M back in 2012 from an entrepreneur in Hamburg — but was profitable until the end of 2018. “We are now in investment mode,” Meinertz tells TechCrunch.

The growth opportunity its investors are spotting is both to expand to more markets, initially across Europe, but also to supplement over-stretched state healthcare services — with Zava gearing up to make a sales pitch to state healthcare services in the UK, France and Germany.

Its early profits have come from offering paid services either direct to patients, or via working with insurance companies or partnering with pharmacies. The next stage will be to open up a dual track in key markets such as the UK — supplementing direct paid consultations with winning business from the state funded National Health Service so the service is offered to their patients free-at-the-point-of-use.

Although at this stage Zava has not provided any details of state healthcare contracts it has won.

“We’re delighted that our latest investment will help fund the research required to enter this space in the UK, Germany and France,” says Meinertz of the Series A. “We feel passionately about the transformation of primary care and the Zava healthcare platform is primed to support it.”

“As Zava grows and scales in the UK, we are looking to work closely with the NHS to help it become more efficient. This will mean that we will be working with two distinct models in the UK, one where patients pay Zava for the services they receive from us, or, two, access Zava through the NHS and receive healthcare free of charge at the point of care,” he adds.

“Due to the different requirements of the healthcare systems in France and Germany, we are already exploring different routes to enter the statutory healthcare markets in these countries.

“In Germany, we will work with statutory and private insurance companies to provide healthcare to patients free at the point of care.”

Meinertz says the new funding will also go on expanding Zava’s medical and technology capabilities — to offer “many new services for patients across Europe”, with women’s health a near term focus.

“We will be launching dozens of new services in the UK and other markets during Q3 and Q4 of 2019. In particular, we are focussing on women’s health in the coming months, as well as new test-kits and mental health services,” he says, adding: “With our latest investment we are investigating routes to replicate Zava’s success in the current markets to new markets to accelerate growth. Our intention is to launch in two additional European markets by 2021.”

Since 2011, Zava has provided three million paid consultations across the six markets it operates in in Europe — with 1M those taking place in 2018 alone.

Every month it says almost 100,000 patients access its service from the UK, Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland and Ireland to seek advice, tests or treatment for a growing range of conditions.

On the surface, Zava’s approach looks considerably ‘lower tech’ than some of the other digital health startups also targeting a younger, tech-savvy generation of patients — such as London-based Babylon Health, which uses an AI chatbot as part of its telehealth mix.

But what it may lose in triaging scale and immediacy, by requiring patients spend time filling in a detailed questionnaire in order to access remote healthcare — vs offering a more dynamic chatbot-style Q&A with a patient — could represent a longer term, sustainable advantage if Zava can show this method reduces the risks of errors and misdiagnosis, especially as usage scales, and does indeed help to foster a stronger link between patient and app, as it claims.

“Patients fill in an online questionnaire giving details on their symptoms, past medical history and personal circumstances. This medical information is reviewed by one of our doctors who then decide the best course of action, whether this is prescribing medication, offering a diagnostic test, giving advice or requesting further information from the patient,” says Meinertz explaining Zava’s approach.

“The medical questionnaires have been developed by the clinical team and passed rigorous testing to ensure safe treatment to our patients.”

Patient dissatisfaction rates do appear to be an early challenge for ‘digital first’ healthcare services.

For example, an Ipsos Mori evaluation of Babylon Health’s rival GP at Hand service, published earlier this year, found high levels of patient churn — with one in four patients found to have left the practice since July 2017 vs an average across London during the same period of one in six.

How well Zava’s questionnaire review process scales will be key. (Trustpilot reviews of its current UK service skew overwhelmingly positive — but a full 3% of reviewers have left the lowest possible rating, with complaints including canceled orders, lost/delayed packages, privacy-related complaints and even the wrong strength medicine being sent.)

Currently the startup has an in-house clinical team comprised of more than 20 doctors, pharmacists and healthcare professionals. Though the plan with the new funding is to grow headcount.

“The majority of this team sits in our London head office but we offer flexibility for our staff, meaning that consultations can be offered by remote doctors. With this in mind, we have doctors based in France, Switzerland and Germany too who treat Zava patients,” adds Meinertz.

The typical Zava patient is a man or a woman aged between 20 and 40 who is resident in a major city.

“They are patients who are dissatisfied with their current healthcare options and they’re willing to try something new,” he says. “They want to avoid a face to face interaction or an inconvenient appointment, accessibility and reliability are the most important factors to them.”

While this tech-savvy target demographic may be willing to try an app over a traditional trip to the GP, they’re unlikely to stick around long if the underlying service doesn’t live up to their expectations. So there are major challenges for telehealth players like Zava — to make sure patients remain satisfied with the quality and reliability of the service as usage scales, and to find ways to foster a genuine sense of connection with remote doctors sitting in the equivalent of a call center. A shiny app wrapper on its own won’t go far.

Revolut adds Apple Pay support in 16 markets

Fintech startup Revolut has expanded its support for Apple Pay, confirming that from today the payment option is available for users in 16 European markets.

The list of supported markets is: UK, France, Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland.

Press reports last month suggested the UK challenger bank had inked Apple Pay agreements in markets including the UK, France, Germany and Switzerland.

It’s not clear what took Revolut so long to join the Apple Pay party.

Customers in the supported markets can add their Revolut card to Apple Pay via the Revolut app or via Apple’s Wallet app. Those without a plastic card can add a virtual card to Apple Wallet via the Revolut app and are able to start spending immediately, without having to wait for the physical card to arrive in the post.

Commenting in statement, Arthur Johanet, product owner for card payments at Revolut, said: “Revolut’s ultimate goal is to give our customers a useful tool to manage every aspect of their financial lives, and the ability to make payments quickly, conveniently and securely is vital to achieving this. Our customers have been requesting Apple Pay for a long time, so we are delighted to kick off our rollout, starting with our customers in 16 markets. This is a very positive step forward in enabling our customers to use their money in the way that they want to.”

The all-electric Honda e is bringing its side view mirrors inside

Honda e, the compact electric vehicle that’s coming to market in spring 2020, is bringing its side view mirrors inside. The company confirmed Tuesday that its side camera mirror system, which was on the prototype version, will be a standard feature when the car enters production. 

The side camera mirror system includes two six-inch screens, situated on the left and right sides of the dashboard, provides live images of traffic. Honda argues that the tech reduces aerodynamic drag by 90 percent compared to conventional door mirrors for an overall 3.8 percent improvement for the entire vehicle. This, in turn, can help with the battery’s efficiency and range.

The mirrors also improve visibility, Honda says, adding that the camera unit housings are shaped to prevent water drops on the lens. The lens has a water-repellent coating to prevent residual water build up.

You can check out how it works in the video below.

The driver can choose two views, normal and wide, via the vehicle settings. The two views extends the field of vision and helps reduce blind spots by about 10 percent in normal and about 50 percent when using the wide option, Honda claims.

If the driver, puts the vehicle in reverse, guidelines appear on the side view screens. As lighting conditions change, the brightness levels on the interior displays adjust.

Honda also has confirmed that the pop out door handles will be in the production version.

Honda e Prototype

The automaker has big plans for the Urban EV, officially named the Honda e, and more broadly electric vehicles. The Honda e is expected to have a battery range of more than 124 miles and come equipped with a “fast charge” capability that will provide a 80 percent change in 30 minutes.

Way back in 2017, Honda Motor Co. president and CEO Takahiro Hachigo emphasized that the Urban EV wasn’t some “vision of the distant future.”

Honda plans to bring electrification, which can mean hybrid, plug-in or all-electric, to every new car model launched in Europe. The automaker is aiming for two-thirds of European sales to feature electrified technology by 2025.

The production version of the Honda e will be unveiled later this year.  Customers can make a reservation for priority ordering online in the UK, Germany, France and Norway or register their interest in other European markets on the Honda national websites.

EU-US Privacy Shield complaint to be heard by Europe’s top court in July

A legal challenge to the EU-US Privacy Shield, a mechanism used by thousands of companies to authorize data transfers from the European Union to the US, will be heard by Europe’s top court this summer.

The General Court of the EU has set a date of July 1 and 2 to hear the complaint brought by French digital rights group, La Quadrature du Net, against the European Commission’s renegotiated data transfer agreement which argues the arrangement is still incompatible with EU law on account of US government mass surveillance practices.

Privacy Shield was only adopted three years ago after its forerunner, Safe Harbor, was struck down by the European Court of Justice in 2015 following the 2013 exposé of US intelligence agencies’ access to personal data, revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The renegotiated arrangement tightened some elements, and made the mechanism subject to annual reviews by the Commission to ensure it functions as intended. But even before it was adopted it faced fierce criticism — with data protection and privacy experts couching it as an attempt to put lipstick on the same old EU-law breaching pig.

The Shield’s continued survival has also been placed under added pressure as a consequence of the Trump administration — which has entrenched rather than rolled back privacy-hostile US laws, as well as dragging its feet on key appointments that the Commission said the arrangement’s survival depends on.

Ahead of last year’s annual Privacy Shield review the EU parliament called for the mechanism to be suspended until the US came into compliance. (The Commission ignored the calls.)

In one particularly embarrassing moment for the mechanism it emerged that disgraced political data company, Cambridge Analytica, had been signed up to self-certify its ‘compliance’ with EU privacy law…

La Quadrature du Net is a long time critic of Privacy Shield, filing its complaint back in October 2016 — immediately after Privacy Shield got up and running. It argues the mechanism breaches fundamental EU rights and does not provide adequate protection for EU citizens’ data.

It subsequently made a joint petition with a French NGO for its complaint to be heard before the General Court of the EU, in November 2016. Much back and forth followed, with exchanges of writing between the two sides laying out the arguments and counter arguments.

The Commission has been supported in this process by countries including the US, France and the UK and companies including Microsoft and tech industry association, Digitaleurope, whose members include Amazon, Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Huawei, Oracle and Qualcomm (to name a few).

While La Quadrature du Net getting support from local consumer protection organisation UFC Que Choisir and the American Civil Liberties Union — which it says provided “a detailed description of the US surveillance regime”.

“The General Court of the EU has deemed our complaint serious and grave enough to open proceedings,” La Quadrature du Net says now.

It will be up to the court in Luxembourg to hear and judge the complain.

A decision on the legality of Privacy Shield will follow some time after July — perhaps in just a handful of months, as the CJEU has been known to move quickly in cases involving the defence of fundamental EU rights. Though it may also take the court longer to issue a judgement.

All companies signed up to the Privacy Shield should be aware of the risk and have contingencies in place in case the arrangement is struck down.

Nor is this complaint the only legal questions facing Privacy Shield. A challenge filed to a separate data transfer mechanism in Ireland by privacy campaigner Max Schrems — whose original challenge brought down Safe Harbor — has also now been referred by Irish courts to the CJEU, in what’s being referred to as ‘Schrems II’.

In that case Facebook has attempted to block the court’s referral of questions to the CJEU — by seeking to appeal to Ireland’s Supreme Court, even though there is not normally a right to appeal a referral to the CJEU.

Facebook was granted leave to appeal — and Ireland’s Supreme Court is expected to rule on that appeal early next month. The appeals process has not stayed the referral, though. Nor does it impinge upon La Quadrature du Net’s complaint against Privacy Shield being heard later this summer.