Author: techno

The Cadillac CT6 review: Super Cruise is a game-changer

Enlarge (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

Cadillac’s flagship CT6 might not have the best interior in its class. It might not have the sharpest, track-honed handling. It doesn’t have a butter-smooth V12 engine. It definitely doesn’t have the best infotainment system. And yet, it is carrying the most exciting technology being offered in any production vehicle on sale in 2018.

Called Super Cruise, Cadillac’s new tech represents the best semi-autonomous system on the market. In fact, Super Cruise is so good, I think General Motors needs to do everything it can to add it to the company’s entire model range, post-haste.

You sure sound excited about this thing

Regular readers will know this isn’t the first time I’ve written about Super Cruise. In fact, at last year’s New York auto show, we awarded it an Ars Best distinction in the “Automotive Technology” field—a bold move for new technology that we had yet to actually test.

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Period time? Femtech app Clue launches on Fitbit’s Ionic smartwatch

Period-tracking app Clue announced today that it is launching on Fitbit’s Ionic smartwatch, thereby allowing women to track their period, PMS symptoms, sexual activity, energy, and fertility windows directly from their wrists.

“The new Clue app on Ionic is the next step in giving users the ability to connect their workout with their cycle,” wrote Clue cofounder and CEO Ida Tin, in an email to VentureBeat. “Clue helps its users to understand their cycle and its impact across their lives, including fitness and health. Research has shown a connection between exercise and the cycle. With the wearable market growing year-on-year, it is incredibly exciting to partner with Fitbit and become the first female health app available on Fitbit Ionic.”

Above: Clue app on Fitbit Ionic

Image Credit: Clue

Fitbit started selling its smartwatch in October for $300. This is the company’s first ever smartwatch, sporting GPS, heart rate monitoring technology, and support for Fitbit Pay, among other features. The watch provides access to more than 400 apps and clock faces and is compatible across most Android, iOS, and Windows phones.

Clue users can feed their Fitbit activity, sleep, weight, nutrition, and heart rate data into the Clue app to help improve cycle predictions. Fitbit’s 25 million user base will surely give a good boost to Clue, which currently has five million users across 190 countries. The Clue app is free and is available in 15 languages.

When asked whether Clue has plans to become a contraceptive app, Tin was very clear:

Clue is not, and has never presented itself as, a contraceptive. While we support innovation in reproductive health technology, we disagree with the scientific interpretations currently used by apps which position themselves as contraceptives. Fundamentally, we believe that a higher standard of research and transparent communication is necessary for fertility awareness contraceptive apps. There should be as little discrepancy as possible between the understanding of actual risk, and the risk assumed by users. We are excited about the possibility of one day supporting a digital contraceptive product, but would take a very different approach to research and research application in technology, as well as to communication around efficacy, effectiveness, and risk.

Stockholm, Sweden-based Natural Cycles is the first app to have been approved as a contraceptive in the European Union. The startup recently received criticism after several women blamed the app for unwanted pregnancies.

Founded in 2012, Berlin-based Clue has raised $30 million to date from investors that include Union Square Ventures (USV), Mosaic Ventures, and FJ Labs. The startup currently has 55 employees.

Watch live: SpaceX aims to launch a satellite and catch a payload fairing

Enlarge / SpaceX has a sooty booster on the pad in California, ready for a launch. (credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX had to scrub the Wednesday launch attempt of its Falcon 9 rocket due to upper-level winds, but will try again Thursday morning. The instantaneous launch window opens (and closes) again at 9:17am ET. This launch will occur from at Vandenberg Air Force Base, in Southern California.

There is heightened interest in this launch because, for the first time, SpaceX will attempt to “catch” one of the two payload fairings that enclose the satellite at the top of the rocket. The value of these fairings is about $6 million, and recovering and reusing them would both save SpaceX money and remove another roadblock on their production line for Falcon 9 rockets.

These fairings will separate from the rocket at about three minutes after launch and are “steerable” in the sense that SpaceX hopes to guide them back to a target location the ocean. The company has been mum about how it plans to slow the fairings and collect them as they fall to Earth. However, as part of that recovery effort, SpaceX will dispatch a boat named “Mr. Steven” into the Pacific Ocean. Photos of the boat, which has a large net above it, have popped up on social media in recent weeks. Presumably the company will share more information if the recovery is a success.

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Uber and Citymapper show how technology is blurring the line between public and private transport

When is a bus not a bus? Give up? When it’s an eight-seater private hire vehicle designed to bypass strict city regulations.

If that punchline didn’t have you laughing out loud, well, you should know it wasn’t a joke. Popular city transit app Citymapper is launching its own public transport service in London, called Smart Ride, according to a report in the Guardian.

This adds to a growing number of initiatives from the tech startup world that blur the lines between what constitutes a “bus” and a “taxi.” Or, to put it another way, between public and private transport.

By way of a quick recap, Citymapper is a popular transport app used in dozens of conurbations globally, including New York, Boston, San Francisco, Tokyo, and its native London. The company announced last May that it was putting its gargantuan arsenal of travel data to good use by plugging the gaps in London’s transport infrastructure. To do this, it started trialing its own smart green bus in the U.K. capital, which followed pre-set routes and allowed passengers to jump on and off at bus stops.

Yes, it all sounded very much like a traditional bus, except it sought to use its trove of urban mobility data to observe how users travel around the city and identify areas that could be better served by public transport. The company introduced its first commercial bus service a few months later, serving East London through weekend nights.

Above: Citymapper Bus

However, Citymapper identified a key problem with running a commercial bus service in London: regulation. The company said that it garnered enough data from its first weekend in operation to change how it operated its route, but it had to apply to local transport authorities for permission to do so, and the approval process took a while. So Citymapper was effectively shackled in its attempt to use real-time data to tweak its “fixed-route” bus service.

Private hire vehicles (such as taxis), on the other hand, aren’t bound by such regulation and are therefore afforded freedom to roam wherever they wish. According to the powers that be, if a vehicle can carry nine or more people, it is classed as a bus, but if it carries fewere than that, it is branded a private hire vehicle.

“As a result, a private hire vehicle can respond to demand, a bus cannot,” the company noted in a blog post this week. “That makes it hard for a bus, even a smart green minibus, to be part of the ‘demand-responsive’ future.”

The upshot of all this is that Citymapper is now focusing on smaller eight-seater vehicles in its latest attempt to fix urban mobility with its own transport. The Smart Ride service will work similar to buses insofar as it will operate on a fixed network and will have dedicated stops. But, unlike a bus, you’ll be able to book a seat, much as you would with a taxi. Even more importantly, Citymapper retains a degree of flexibility over any tweaks and changes it may wish to make to the service and avoids having to jump through regulatory hoops.

If this is all starting to sound familiar, you’re likely thinking of a couple of well-established urban mobility tech firms in the U.S.

Is it a bus? Is it a taxi? No, it’s a … what is it?

Last March, Lyft drew ridicule when it effectively reinvented the bus with its Lyft Shuttle service that offered fixed routes and fares.

And just yesterday Uber announced the official launch of its first new product in several years. Uber Express Pool is similar to the company’s existing carpooling service, UberPool, except Express Pool doesn’t offer a precise door-to-door service. Instead, Uber figures out an optimum route that runs near the people wishing to share a ride and requires those individuals to walk a block or two to meet their Uber at an “Express spot.” They may also have to walk a short distance at the end, depending on their actual destination. In theory, this means it should make fewer stops, with fewer detours, and offer a more efficient journey than UberPool.

Above: Uber Express Pool

Similar to Citymapper’s initiative, Express Pool meshes some of the benefits of private and public transport to create a cheaper, more streamlined service. But it’s not the first time Uber has dabbled in bus-like services, as it previously experimented with UberHop, which again was similar to UberPool except that it followed a set route during key commuting hours for a flat fare — just like a bus. The UberHop pilot was later discontinued as the company looked to take its learnings and improve UberPool in the future.

Uber is also now looking to enter the dockless bike-sharing business via a partnership with Jump, and it has been testing Uber Bike in San Francisco for the past few weeks, with plans to extend the program to more cities.

At a conference in San Francisco last week, new Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi talked in depth about his vision for the company, noting that the ultimate goal is to get people (or goods) from “point A to point B,” as noted by Bloomberg.

It has been clear for some time that Uber’s raison d’être goes well beyond being a simple “e-taxi app.” It’s an intricate transport network that uses data to join the dots between vehicles, people, and goods. The company now delivers food, it has shown its potential as a courier service via UberRush, and it has also entered the lucrative freighting space.

But Uber’s ambitions extend even further — it wants to run public bus networks for cities. “Cars are to us what books are to Amazon,” Khosrowshahi added. “I want to run the bus systems for a city. I want you to be able to take an Uber and get into the subway … and get out and have an Uber waiting for you.”

The big debate

Many cities could benefit from greater efficiencies in their public transport infrastructure, and data can clearly play a big part in this. However, debates will prevail over how much leeway private companies such as Uber should be given in terms of their control over public transport. Where profits are the ultimate goal, should Uber be given a seat at the public transport table?

Despite encountering regulatory troubles in many cities around the world, Uber isn’t going away anytime soon, and it — along with its competitors — have shown how data can be leveraged to match supply with demand. Increasingly, urban mobility companies such as Uber, Lyft, and Citymapper can be used to augment, rather than replace, existing public transport.

A few months back, Uber, Citymapper, and a bunch of transport-focused companies joined public transport advocacy network UITP, a nonprofit global advocacy network that brings together stakeholders from across transport to improve urban mobility. “Alone, these new players do not have the capacity or capability to meet every journey need or solve congestion issues,” said IAPT secretary general Alain Flausch, at the time. “They therefore need to operate to complement existing high-quality public transport.”

Elsewhere, Berlin-based Door2door, which joined the UITP last year alongside Uber and Citymapper, offers cities and local authorities a mobility platform to launch and operate their own on-demand transport systems, providing ride-sharing services and analytics to help inform their decisions. Door2door’s ultimate aim is to make personal car ownership a thing of the past by giving cities more efficient alternatives. And Israeli transit startup Moovit, which is along the lines of Citymapper and just yesterday announced a $50 million funding round, is licensing its data to cities so they can analyze traffic flows, improve their transit systems, and better plan transport infrastructure projects. Canada’s Transit is also giving data to local transport authorities.

There are many discussions to be had around the role that private mobility technology companies should play in improving urban transport. One thing is clear though: The lines between what constitutes “public” and “private” transport are blurring.

Counterfeit certificates sold online make digitally signed malware a snap

A digital signature used by malware that infected the network of Kaspersky Lab in 2014. Counterfeit certificates that generate such fraudulent signatures are being sold online for use in other malware. (credit: Kaspersky Lab)

The Stuxnet worm that targeted Iran’s nuclear program almost a decade ago was a watershed piece of malware for a variety of reasons. Chief among them, its use of cryptographic certificates belonging to legitimate companies to falsely vouch for the trustworthiness of the malware. Last year, we learned that fraudulently signed malware was more widespread than previously believed. On Thursday, researchers unveiled one possible reason: underground services that since 2011 have sold counterfeit signing credentials that are unique to each buyer.

In many cases, the certificates are required to install software on Windows and macOS computers, while in others, they prevent the OSes from displaying warnings that the software comes from an untrusted developer. The certificates also increase the chances that antivirus programs won’t flag previously unseen files as malicious. A report published by threat intelligence provider Recorded Future said that starting last year, researchers saw a sudden increase in fraudulent certificates issued by browser- and operating system-trusted providers that were being used to sign malicious wares. The spike drove Recorded Future researchers to investigate the cause. What they found was surprising.

“Contrary to a common belief that the security certificates circulating in the criminal underground are stolen from legitimate owners prior to being used in nefarious
campaigns, we confirmed with a high degree of certainty that the certificates are created for a specific buyer per request only and are registered using stolen corporate identities, making traditional network security appliances less effective,” Andrei Barysevich, a researcher at Recorded Future, reported.

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Indianapolis tech community sees lack of funding and diversity as its biggest challenges

Entrepreneurs can access plenty of data about the business conditions in Silicon Valley. But entrepreneurs outside of the coasts often don’t have access to the same level of coverage and surveys about how diverse their workforce is, or how many entrepreneurs are raising funding.

That’s a problem Powderkeg, a community-building platform that works with tech workers and leaders in nine cities, aims to solve with today’s release of its first Indianapolis Tech Census. Powderkeg surveyed 359 members of the Indiana tech community — 78 founders, 12 investors, and more than 250 tech workers — about what kind of progress and challenges the tech community faces, as well as to get a better sense of who works in tech in the city. According to Indianapolis organization TechPoint, there are 428 tech companies in Indianapolis and its surrounding suburbs.

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“Our plan is to [eventually] do this in all of the big tech hubs around the country,” Hunckler told VentureBeat in a phone interview. “There’s some really great national organizations…that do some really good comprehensive reports, but if you want to drill down into a city or a metro, it’s really hard to find that information.”

According to Hunckler, the survey did back up some anecdotal assessments he had made about the Indianapolis tech community, having grown up in the city and worked in the tech community for more than eight years.

The majority of the founders surveyed (54 percent) said their companies were bootstrapped, while the majority of respondents said that a lack of funding was the number one issue holding the Indianapolis tech community back.

Half of the participating companies in the survey said that their startup recorded over $1,000,000 in recurring revenue in 2017, while 34 percent of companies saw their revenue grow by more than 100 percent.

Marketing and SaaS companies seem to be experiencing the highest growth rates — which isn’t surprising as the city’s most well-known exit-to-date comes from a SaaS company — ExactTarget, which was acquired by Salesforce for $2.5 billion in 2013. 56 percent of marketing and SaaS companies surveyed said their revenue grew by more than 100 percent in 2017.

“[SaaS] is where you see a lot of the collaboration between the companies — you will actually see the Indianapolis SaaS companies using each others products and giving feedback,” Haley Altman, the founder and CEO of cloud-based platform Doxly, which helps automate the processing of legal documents, told VentureBeat.

One of the biggest challenges currently facing the Indianapolis tech community is a lack of diversity. Just 30.4 percent of workforce respondents were women, while 9.61 percent identified as an ethnic minority.

According to 2014 Census data, 58.4 percent of residents in Indianapolis-Marion County were white. Respondents gave the Indiana tech community a score of 4.4 out of 10 on diversity, while a score of 6.3 on inclusivity.

“I think we just need to continue to have the conversation with more people from more representative backgrounds,” Altman said. “People are acknowledging that it is an issue…and you see more companies make it a part of their platform to say they value diversity.”


Lighthouse uses AI and voice command in its home security camera

Lighthouse is launching a new home security camera powered by voice commands and artificial intelligence. It lets you ask who was jumping around in the living room after you find a broken vase on the floor. And it will tell you if there’s a burglar in your home or if it’s just one of the kids getting milk at night.

Palo Alto, California-based Lighthouse hopes to be the first to bring real smarts to the home security camera business, which is expected to grow 11 percent a year globally to $8 billion by 2023, according to research by Market Research Future. Most home security cameras are connected to Wi-Fi and smartphones, but they can still be pretty dumb about sending alerts to you when a cat walks by the camera. Lighthouse considers its product more like the Alexa of security cameras, with built-in computer vision, voice controls, and AI.

“We see a lot of camera companies out there,” said Lighthouse CEO Alex Teichman, in an interview with VentureBeat. “We don’t see AI companies. There are plenty of camera manufacturers, but this is a different thing. We are an AI services company that makes hardware to support the AI.”

Teichman and chief technology officer Hendrik Dahlkamp started the company in early 2015 in the Playground accelerator started by Android creator Andy Rubin. Both Teichman and Dahlkamp had backgrounds in self-driving cars. They watched the rapid rise of Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, and they thought to apply the natural language voice recognition to security cameras.

Above: Lighthouse cofounders Hendrik Dahlkamp (left) and Alex Teichman.

Image Credit: Lighthouse

But they also noticed the trend toward 3D sensing through inexpensive sensors known as time-of-flight sensors, which have been used in Microsoft’s Kinect 2.0 cameras for video game consoles. They created a camera with the new technologies as well as night vision, a wide field of view, and computer vision.

In a demo, Jessica Gilmartin, chief marketing officer at Lighthouse, showed how she monitors her home with two Lighthouse cameras, including one that watches the front door and living room. Each camera is always recording, but it only actively stores video when it senses motion. Gilmartin can ask the camera to show the highlights of the day, and she can see various incidents where motion triggered the camera.

Gilmartin showed how the dog walker came into the front door and took the dog out for a walk. It can identify the people in the house through face recognition, but also by physical features such as height. That way, it can identify people such as dog walkers, nannies, babysitters, and your family members by names that you give them.

In the videos, people show up in blue outlines, and pets show up in orange. Lighthouse senses objects and sends that data to the cloud, where the heavy-duty analysis is done by a neural network, which gets better over time.

“I have young kids, and I can check on what they are up to,” Gilmartin said. “I can ask Lighthouse, ‘What did my kids do while Dana was there and I was gone?’”

Lighthouse is smart enough to show the right moments in the day, based on such requests.

Above: Lighthouse can respond to natural language questions.

Image Credit: Lighthouse

You can distinguish between kids and burglars, strangers and friends, and pets or other animals. If the device is stolen, the crime will likely be captured on video, which is stored in the cloud. Customers can search through 30 days of motion-activated videos.

“We record and save everything with physical motion,” Teichman said.

Lighthouse charges $300 for the camera and $10 a month for the storage and AI services.

Of course, some people, such as teenagers, won’t like this technology, as it can be used to spy on them. Teichman said the company uses encryption, and it has privacy controls. He said no one at Lighthouse ever sees your data, and you can set the camera to turn off when people come home. Most beta users have not done that, however. And so far, the beta testers have discovered one burglary through Lighthouse.

Lighthouse uses a lot of power, particularly because of its 3D sensor, and so it has to be plugged into a wall. It is not intended for outdoor use.

The company has 35 employees.

“We are excited about the home security camera launch, but we have a lot of interest in the vision platform,” Teichman said. “We are excited about elderly care. For me this comes back to our mission to make useful and accessible home products. We are not restricted to the home or computer vision.”

Recode Daily: Twitter, YouTube and Facebook race to contain conspiracy content after the Parkland shooting

Plus, Coinbase is hiring a CFO, Uber rolls out a new ride-sharing service today, and don’t give up hope — The Enlightenment is working.

Social media has been a dark place since 17 people were killed at a Florida high school last week. Twitter is going out of its way to verify accounts of some of the most publicly outspoken student survivors of the Parkland shooting. YouTube and Facebook removed some of the conspiracy videos claiming that survivor David Hogg was a “crisis actor,” but in many cases, the videos had already been promoted in the “trending news” section of both services. Meanwhile, the father of an 18-year-old girl killed in the shooting made an impassioned plea to President Trump at the White House to act quickly to protect children in the country’s schools. [Kurt Wagner / Recode]

Coinbase is hiring a CFO in what would be a big move for the cryptocurrency platform’s growth plans — and often a sign that a business is eyeing an IPO. Other expected hires include vice presidents to handle communications and corporate development. Coinbase continues to fend off late-stage investors who want to buy existing shares, despite the company’s recent warning to knock it off. [Theodore Schleifer / Recode]

Uber is rolling out a cheaper version of its UberPool ride-sharing service. Called Express Pool, the service is now available in San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, San Diego and Denver and will launch today in Miami, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Riders are required to walk a little to meet their driver — and then again to their destination after being dropped off; Uber thinks this will make shared rides more efficient. [Johana Bhuiyan / Recode]

WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton is putting $50 million of his own money into the Signal encrypted messaging app, the security industry’s gold standard for surveillance-resistant communications. Acton also announced the launch of the tech nonprofit Signal Foundation, which will build and maintain Signal and potentially other privacy-focused apps. [Andy Greenberg / Wired]

Reporting mixed Q4 financial results yesterday, Pandora boasted a 63 percent bump in subscription revenue, bringing its yearly total to $97.7 million. The streaming-music pioneer also tallied 5.48 million subscribers, a 25 percent year-over-year increase. The company said it will invest $45 million into new growth initiatives like ad-tech, non-music content, device integration and marketing technology, as it continues to build out its “Premium Access” on-demand services to better compete with rivals like Spotify. And Roku posted a blowout 2017 holiday quarter yesterday, thanks largely to a big increase of its licensing and advertising revenue; a dip in hardware revenue spooked investors, sending Roku stock down 20 percent in after-hours trading. [Chloe Aiello / CNBC]

Recode Presents …

For the third year in a row, Recode’s Kara Swisher and Jason Del Rey are gathering some of the brightest e-commerce and retail minds for a night of live journalism at An Evening with Code Commerce, Tuesday, March 20 at The Venetian in Las Vegas. We’ve just announced three of the five speakers you’ll hear from at the three-hour event: Rent the Runway co-founder and CEO Jennifer Hyman, DoorDash founder and CEO Tony Xu and The Cheesecake Factory’s president David Gordon; look for one more Code Commerce speaker announcement next week. These events always sell out, so register today.

Top stories from Recode

Amazon is now worth more than 2.5 Walmarts.

It was worth just two Walmarts last month.

Priceline’s 2005 acquisition of has been so transformational that the online travel company is changing its name to Booking Holdings.

Take a look at its stock price since.

Lauren Duca became an internet star overnight. Now, she says she’s “fireproof.”

On the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka, Duca said she owes her fame (or infamy) to one mega-viral Teen Vogue column and a 10-minute interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News.

This is cool

Don’t give up hope: The Enlightenment is working.

Little Dragons Café is Harvest Moon creator’s newest project with Aksys Games

Yasuhiro Wada has previously espoused his love for “nature, animals, and caring for other people,” which his classic game Harvest Moon clearly expressed. Little Dragons Café seems to tap into the same warm and fuzzy feelings, putting players in charge of running a family restaurant and raising dragons. Wada has teamed up with publisher Aksys Games, and the title will launch sometime this summer for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.

Little Dragons Café is the story of two children whose mother has fallen into a deep slumber. A mysterious man tells them she’ll only wake up once they’ve successfully raised a dragon. In the meantime, they’ve got to keep the family café running — which means planting crops, fishing, learning recipes, serving food to small-town neighbors.

Aksys founder and CEO Akibo Shieh and Wada are long-time friends, and the two had planned on working on a project together for a while. They’ve been developing Little Dragons Café for two years now. The title is Wada’s first since 2016’s Birthdays the Beginning, a sandbox game about creating and nurturing life.