JD.com’s drones take flight to Japan in partnership with Rakuten

Chinese e-commerce company JD.com is taking its drone delivery system to Japan.

Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce giant, just announced a partnership with JD that will see its drones and unmanned vehicles become a part of Rakuten’s own unmanned delivery service efforts.

JD has been operating drones in its native China for a number of years, and it has wider expansion plans having recently gained a regional-level operating license. Its other human-less tech includes self-operating trucks, automated warehouses and unmanned stores, and it recently picked Indonesia for its first overseas drone pilot.

Rakuten has been offering drone delivery in Japan since 2016 and unmanned vehicle trials since 2018. It said that working with JD — which claims to have racked up 400,000 minutes of delivery flight time — will “accelerate the development and commercialization” of its human-free last mile delivery efforts.

JD.com’s drones take flight to Japan in partnership with Rakuten

Chinese e-commerce company JD.com is taking its drone delivery system to Japan.

Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce giant, just announced a partnership with JD that will see its drones and unmanned vehicles become a part of Rakuten’s own unmanned delivery service efforts.

JD has been operating drones in its native China for a number of years, and it has wider expansion plans having recently gained a regional-level operating license. Its other human-less tech includes self-operating trucks, automated warehouses and unmanned stores, and it recently picked Indonesia for its first overseas drone pilot.

Rakuten has been offering drone delivery in Japan since 2016 and unmanned vehicle trials since 2018. It said that working with JD — which claims to have racked up 400,000 minutes of delivery flight time — will “accelerate the development and commercialization” of its human-free last mile delivery efforts.

Arm expands its push into the cloud and edge with the Neoverse N1 and E1

For the longest time, Arm was basically synonymous with chip designs for smartphones and very low-end devices. But more recently, the company launched solutions for laptops, cars, high-powered IoT devices and even servers. Today, ahead of MWC 2019, the company is officially launching two new products for cloud and edge applications, the Neoverse N1 and E1. Arm unveiled the Neoverse brand a few months ago, but it’s only now that it is taking concrete form with the launch of these new products.

“We’ve always been anticipating that this market is going to shift as we move more towards this world of lots of really smart devices out at the endpoint — moving beyond even just what smartphones are capable of doing,” Drew Henry, Arms’ SVP and GM for Infrastructure, told me in an interview ahead of today’s announcement. “And when you start anticipating that, you realize that those devices out of those endpoints are going to start creating an awful lot of data and need an awful lot of compute to support that.”

To address these two problems, Arm decided to launch two products: one that focuses on compute speed and one that is all about throughput, especially in the context of 5G.

ARM NEOVERSE N1

The Neoverse N1 platform is meant for infrastructure-class solutions that focus on raw compute speed. The chips should perform significantly better than previous Arm CPU generations meant for the data center and the company says that it saw speedups of 2.5x for Nginx and MemcacheD, for example. Chip manufacturers can optimize the 7nm platform for their needs, with core counts that can reach up to 128 cores (or as few as 4).

“This technology platform is designed for a lot of compute power that you could either put in the data center or stick out at the edge,” said Henry. “It’s very configurable for our customers so they can design how big or small they want those devices to be.”

The E1 is also a 7nm platform, but with a stronger focus on edge computing use cases where you also need some compute power to maybe filter out data as it is generated, but where the focus is on moving that data quickly and efficiently. “The E1 is very highly efficient in terms of its ability to be able to move data through it while doing the right amount of compute as you move that data through,” explained Henry, who also stressed that the company made the decision to launch these two different platforms based on customer feedback.

There’s no point in launching these platforms without software support, though. A few years ago, that would have been a challenge because few commercial vendors supported their data center products on the Arm architecture. Today, many of the biggest open-source and proprietary projects and distributions run on Arm chips, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Ubuntu, Suse, VMware, MySQL, OpenStack, Docker, Microsoft .Net, DOK and OPNFV. “We have lots of support across the space,” said Henry. “And then as you go down to that tier of languages and libraries and compilers, that’s a very large investment area for us at Arm. One of our largest investments in engineering is in software and working with the software communities.”

And as Henry noted, AWS also recently launched its Arm-based servers — and that surely gave the industry a lot more confidence in the platform, given that the biggest cloud supplier is now backing it, too.

Coinbase buys blockchain intelligence startup to boost security and new asset discovery

Coinbase, the world’s most valuable crypto company, is gearing up to add more cryptocurrencies to its exchange thanks to its latest acquisition.

We already know the firm wants to a glut of new crypto assets, but today it announced it has snapped up blockchain intelligence startup Neutrino in an undisclosed deal that seemed destined to help further that goal.

Based in Italy, Neutrino helps map blockchain networks, and in particular crypto token transactions, to pull in information and insight. With the rise of thefts, that includes a major focus on services for law enforcement agencies to track stolen digital assets while it also includes tracking ransomware and analyzing ‘darknets.’ Other solutions include tracking services for investment and finance companies to help find rising tokens and assets, an area Coinbase could clearly capitalize on as it goes after security token offerings.

The company and its eight staff will relocate to Coinbase’s London office from where they will continue to service clients whilst becoming part of the Coinbase business. Initially, the startup’s primary remit will be security and theft-prevention but further down the line its smarts and technology will put to discovering and analyzing new asset listings for Coinbase.

“By analyzing data on public blockchains, Neutrino will help us prevent theft of funds from peoples’ accounts, investigate ransomware attacks, and identify bad actors. It will also help us bring more cryptocurrencies and features to more people while helping ensure compliance with local laws and regulations,” Coinbase’s engineering director Varun Srinivasan wrote in a brief blog post announcing the deal.

Srinivasan added that Neutrino’s technology is “the best we’ve encountered in this space.”

Coinbase has raised more than $500 million from investors, including its most recent $300 million Series E round in October that gave it a valuation of $8 billion. The purchase of Neutrino is its eleventh acquisition to date, according to Crunchbase. Most of those deals have tended to be talent-led deals as Coinbase seeks to suck up more expertise and engineering skills to support its growing business.

Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.

What an American artificial intelligence initiative really needs

At a high level, the American AI Initiative seems to be headed in the right direction. We absolutely need a holistic approach that considers all the various areas that are critical to building innovative AI solutions. This seems to be an underlying concept of the Initiative, as the executive order places priority on making data available across government agencies, allocating cloud computing resources to support AI R&D and training the workforce. Commitment to AI innovation is critical to maintaining our leadership position in technology with the increasing level of global AI competition.

We know that China, France and the U.K. have invested and committed billions already to their own AI initiatives. The American AI Initiative as it stands does little to blunt the fears that America will fall behind in its technological edge. In fact, its lack of particulars sends exactly the opposite message.

If the government wants to demonstrate its support for AI, it needs to commit significant funding and investment in education to retain, attract and grow the talent necessary to support such a critical industry that has the potential to define our future and truly increase American competitiveness.

We have started to see momentum from some institutions that have already announced funding initiatives for AI research and advanced computer science education, such as MIT’s $1 billion commitment to AI, but we need government agencies and other private institutions to follow suit in order to effectively change the landscape. Such investments and focus on advanced technology development must become the baseline expectation for competition in our country.

We also need continuous and robust investments from VCs for AI startups across industries and markets, as there exists ample opportunity for backing transformative AI startups. Now is the time for the government and private capital to come together and jointly put our monies where our mouths are.

Beyond funding, the government must take a hard look at the global AI talent pool and accelerate the incoming flow of talent to our country, whether through academia or industry. According to NVCA (National Venture Capital Association), an estimated 51 percent of domestic private companies valued at $1 billion or more had one or more founders who were born outside of the U.S.

Overall, 31 percent of venture-backed founders are immigrants. A large number of these are leading technology companies at the forefront of developing new American products and services, many of which will leverage some form of AI in the next few years if they aren’t already. Attracting and retaining fresh talent, educators and data scientists must be a part of our national agenda, as the talent pool necessary to take a leadership position in AI is currently cannibalizing itself.

With respect to the American AI Initiative, success comes down to the details and specific plans, which will be determined over the course of the next three to six months. Each of the milestones outlined in the executive order are important advancements, but the Initiative will only truly succeed if it is built holistically.

Access (and the necessary protections) to data, access to cloud computing and a commitment to computer science must be embraced by the government as an integral part of our technology-driven businesses and personal lifestyles. These cannot be viewed as separate components in disparate silos.

If the government can champion a frontier technology and data-centric approach, the American AI Initiative has the potential to both reduce barriers to entry for AI startups and elevate the entire tech, business and innovation landscape. But it starts with a commitment to academic education, training for the workforce and a deliberate and concerted focus on ensuring public trust in AI. While no small feat, this is what is required to guarantee the intelligent future of America, and its leadership role in global innovation.

Even years later, Twitter doesn’t delete your direct messages

When does “delete” really mean delete? Not always or even at all if you’re Twitter .

Twitter retains direct messages for years, including messages you and others have deleted, but also data sent to and from accounts that have been deactivated and suspended, according to security researcher Karan Saini.

Saini found years-old messages found in a file from an archive of his data obtained through the website from accounts that were no longer on Twitter. He also filed a similar bug, found a year earlier but not disclosed until now, that allowed him to use a since-deprecated API to retrieve direct messages even after a message was deleted from both the sender and the recipient — though, the bug wasn’t able to retrieve messages from suspended accounts.

Saini told TechCrunch that he had “concerns” that the data was retained by Twitter for so long.

Direct messages once let users to “unsend” messages from someone else’s inbox, simply by deleting it from their own. Twitter changed this years ago, and now only allows a user to delete messages from their account. “Others in the conversation will still be able to see direct messages or conversations that you have deleted,” Twitter says in a help page. Twitter also says in its privacy policy that anyone wanting to leave the service can have their account “deactivated and then deleted.” After a 30-day grace period, the account disappears and along with its data.

But, in our tests, we could recover direct messages from years ago — including old messages that had since been lost to suspended or deleted accounts. By downloading your account’s data, it’s possible to download all of the data Twitter stores on you.

A conversation, dated March 2016, with a suspended Twitter account was still retrievable today. (Image: TechCrunch

Saini says this is a “functional bug” rather than a security flaw, but argued that the bug allows anyone a “clear bypass” of Twitter mechanisms to prevent accessed to suspended or deactivated accounts.

But it’s also a privacy matter, and a reminder that “delete” doesn’t mean delete — especially with your direct messages. That can open up users, particularly high-risk accounts like journalist and activists, to government data demands that call for data from years earlier.

That’s despite Twitter’s claim that once an account has been deactivated, there is “a very brief period in which we may be able to access account information, including tweets,” to law enforcement.

A Twitter spokesperson said the company was “looking into this further to ensure we have considered the entire scope of the issue.”

Retaining direct messages for years may put the company in a legal grey area ground amid Europe’s new data protection laws, which allows users to demand that a company deletes their data.

Neil Brown, a telecoms, tech and internet lawyer at U.K. law firm Decoded Legal, said there’s “no formality at all” to how a user can ask for their data to be deleted. Any request from a user to delete their data that’s directly communicated to the company “is a valid exercise” of a user’s rights, he said.

Companies can be fined up to four percent of their annual turnover for violating GDPR rules.

“A delete button is perhaps a different matter, as it is not obvious that ‘delete’ means the same as ‘exercise my right of erasure’,” said Brown. Given that there’s no case law yet under the new General Data Protection Regulation regime, it will be up to the courts to decide, he said.

When asked if Twitter thinks that consent to retain direct messages is withdrawn when a message or account is deleted, Twitter’s spokesperson had “nothing further” to add.

Samsung is preparing to launch a sports smartwatch and AirPods-like earbuds

Samsung’s newest product launch happens next week, but already the Korean tech giant has revealed its entire upcoming range of wearable devices that will seemingly be unveiled alongside the Galaxy S10.

That’s because the company’s Galaxy Wearable’s app was uploaded today with support for a range of unreleased products which include wireless earbuds, a sports-focused smartwatch, and a new fitness band.

First reported by The Verge — and originally noticed by @SamCentralTech on Twitter — the new wearables include a Galaxy Sport smartwatch, fitness bands Galaxy Fit and Galaxy Fit e, Galaxy Buds, Samsung’s take on Apple’s AirPods. The devices have all been teased in various leaks in recent weeks but this confirmation from the Samsung app, deliberate or inadvertent, appears to all but confirm their impending arrival.

That said, we really can’t tell too much about the respective devices based on the app, which just shows basic renders of each device.

Still, that might just be enough of a tease to general a little more interest in what promises to be Samsung’s biggest consumer launch event of the year.

The Samsung unveiling comes days before Mobile World Congress, the mobile industry’s biggest event of the year, kicks off — so expect to see new product launches coming thick and fast over the coming weeks.

The Green New Deal is long on vision, short on details, and a potential windfall for startups

The Green New Deal has landed.

Proposed by the rising star of the Democratic Party, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Senator Edward Markey, a longtime advocate for decarbonization in both the House and the Senate, the sweeping proposal is a grand vision for what a progressive push to rebuild American institutions for the 21st century looks like. But it’s a plan that’s long on promise and short on details.

And it’s unlikely to gain much traction in Washington.

The proposal is notable for the support it has received in the Democratic party, particularly in the Party’s progressive wing, and could be a massive boost to a number of startup technology companies that are looking for government support as they look to commercialize their technologies.

Recognizing the centrality of climate change to the disasters that have pounded the U.S. in the past five years, and the role the bill declares “the United States must take a leading role in reducing emissions through economic transformation.”

That economic transformation touches on many areas where startup technology companies are already working to develop solutions — meaning the Green New Deal could likely result in huge gains for companies developing technologies for everything from transportation, finance, new agriculture, energy generation and efficiency, food production and even housing and construction.

In part, it’s a sign of the breadth and depth of innovation in America and the ambitions of venture investors who now believe that private industry can disrupt everything. What will be interesting is watching how these ambitions align with the policy and priorities of a movement that would like to see government take back some of the ground it has lost to private industry.

As the bill states:

“… it is the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal— (A) to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition 4 for all communities and workers; (B) to create millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic 6 security for all people of the United States; (C) to invest in the infrastructure and industry of the United States to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century; (D) to secure for all people of the United States for generations to come — (i) clean air and water; (ii) climate and community resiliency; (iii) healthy food; (iv) access to nature; and (v) a sustainable environment; and (E) to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth (referred to in this resolution as “frontline and vulnerable communities”)”

To achieve these lofty goals, the bill’s authors, and the party seem to be hitching their wagon to a load of policy initiatives that are only possible through technological innovation.

Improving climate resiliency, infrastructure upgrades, water purification and desalination; zero-emission energy sources; clean manufacturing; sustainable farming; vehicle electrification; high-speed rail development; waste cleanup and removal are all dependent on technology being commercialized by startups.

At the same time, the the bill would require greater federal oversight to ensure that the work these startups are doing includes and accounts for communities that have been marginalized or left behind by the progress these technologies enables.

It’s a fine line that the Democrats are offering and little bottom-line details on how all of this would get funded.

Right now, the policy is a line in the sand — and one that could shape policymaking in the next two years — but only if Democratic House leadership comes on board.

With many representatives coming from swing districts where decarbonization policies and the labor and social justice goals that are attached to them, the Green New Deal may have a hard time event getting through the house. And with a Republican Senate — the bill seems dead on arrival.

But what isn’t up for debate — at least among scientists — is the scale of the problem and the immediate threat that climate change poses.

There’s already been nearly $500 billion in damages that scientists directly attribute to climatological changes that humans have wrought on the planet. The risks for future catastrophes that will cost billions of dollars more and risks untold numbers of lives are only increasing.

If the bill only serves as a conversation starter — and moves policy along toward modest goals like a price on carbon to encourage the acceleration of carbon neutral or carbon-reducing technologies that would be a win.. for the country, and for the investors whose technologies are likely to be called upon to provide solutions.

Green New Deal Resolution by on Scribd

As threats proliferate, so do new tools for protecting medical devices and hospitals

Six months after an episode of “Homeland” showed hackers exploiting security vulnerabilities in the (fictional) Vice President’s pacemaker, Mike Kijewski, the founder of a new startup security company called Medcrypt, was approached by his (then) employers at Varian Medical Systems with a unique problem. 

“A hospital came to the company and said we are treating a patient and a nation-state may attempt to assassinate the patient that we’re treating by using a cybersecurity vulnerability in a medical device to do it,” Kijewski recalled.

At the time, there were no universal solutions to those types of security threats — so companies were left to cobble together one-off solutions for their devices, which is what Kijewski’s former employer likely attempted to do.

Ever since, Kijewski became obsessed with the security holes that exist in the foundation of the healthcare industry’s practice — the devices used to diagnose and treat patients.

“My partner Eric Pancoast and I looked into the problem of medical device cybersecurity and we found two things,” says Kijewski. “Number one there were no regulations forcing medical device companies to use cybersecurity protections at all. Number two, any given company has only one core competency — maybe two. And are medical device vendors going to have cryptography and cybersecurity competencies?”

Medcrypt was launched in 2016 to ensure that medical device manufacturers wouldn’t need to be cryptographic experts. The company is graduating from the latest batch of Y Combinator (after raising a $3 million seed round from Eniac Ventures and other investors) with a pitch to secure medical devices using just a single line of code.

It’s a technological necessity thanks to new guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration requiring medical devices to include security features like encryption, signature verification, and intrusion detection.

By inserting a single line of code into the software of a device, Medcrypt can provide the security manufacturers need at the device level, according to Kijewski.

The company not only encrypts the data on the device, but it also provide intrusion detection services by analyzing medical device metadata to identify standard device behaviors and deviations from that behavior, Kijewski said.

Medcrypt is one of a growing number of startups that are securing medical devices and hospital networks as the threats to the healthcare system proliferate.

Other startups are working on protecting hospital networks. Companies like Medigate, founded by ex-Israeli officers from the Israeli Defense Forces, which just raised $15 million from investors including YL Ventures and US Venture Partners; and Cylera, which is backed by Samsung Next and launched from the DreamIT healthcare accelerator are two such companies.

By 2017, Beckers Health IT and CIO Report counted over 107 technology companies pitching cybersecurity solutions to healthcare practitioners and medical device manufacturers.

It’s little wonder so many companies are pouring in to close the (data) breach in healthcare, given the scope of the problem.

A 2018 report from Experian cited by U.S. News indicated that 233 breaches were reported to the Department of Health and Human Services, media, or state attorneys general in the period from January to June 2017. And for the 193 attacks where the scope of the breach was calculated, roughly 3.2 million patient records were affected.

Experian predicts healthcare cybersecurity spending will be a $65 billion industry by 2021.

Still, some of the security problems that hospitals face can be solved with some fairly basic updates. Indeed, perhaps the most critical — and the one that left hospitals most exposed — is just ensuring that their technology can accept patches and security upgrades. Many of the attacks that crippled health networks came down to an inability to upgrade their Windows operating systems.

Sometimes, all it takes is tightening the screws to make sure the machines don’t fall apart.

“Connected medical devices — from patient monitors, MRIs and CAT scanners to infusion pumps and yet-to-be invented devices — are critical to the delivery of healthcare today and are revolutionizing the care of tomorrow,” said YL Ventures founder Yoav Leitersdorf in a statement announcing Medigate’s 2017 financing. “These devices are inherently different from traditional IT endpoints and can’t be protected by currently available products and practices. With the pandemic of cyberattacks targeting healthcare providers, far too many connected devices are left vulnerable and exposed, putting patient health and privacy at risk.”

 

Apeel partners with Nature’s Pride to bring spoilage resistant fruits and veggies to Europe

Apeel Sciences, the developer of a new technology that makes fruits and vegetables more resistant to spoilage, and Nature’s Pride, one of the largest vendors of avocados and mangos in Europe, are partnering to bring longer-lived avocados to market.

Subject to regulatory approval in the EU, Nature’s Pride said it will integrate Apeel’s plant-based preservation technology into its avocado supply chain — bringing avocados with double the edible shelf life to European homes.

Apeel’s technology takes the naturally occurring chemicals found in the skins and peels of plants and applies it to fresh produce, providing what the company calls “a little extra peel” that slows the rate of water loss and oxidation — which cause vegetables and fruits to spil.

The company says that its produce will stay fresh two to three times longer than untreated produce. Apeel touts that its technology can lead to more sustainable growing practices and less food waste.

Across Europe, 88 million tons of food is thrown out every year, at a cost of 143 billion euros (or roughly $163 billion dollars).

As part of the agreement with Nature’s Pride, Apeel Sciences is introducing a co-branded label with the European fruit supplier.

Founded in 2012 with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help reduce post-harvest food loss in developing countries that lack access to refrigeration, Apeel Sciences is backed by a slew of marquee investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Viking Global Investors, Upfront Ventures, S2G Ventures, Powerplant Ventures, DBL Partners, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UK Department for International Development, and The Rockefeller Foundation .