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Friday, 17 May 2019

Amazon leads $575M investment in British food delivery app Deliveroo

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16: A Deliveroo rider cycles through central London on February 16, 2018 in London, England. Millions of part-time and flexible workers in the so-called gig economy are to receive new rights including sick and holiday pay under a new government reform. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Amazon, the internet retailing behemoth, is in talks to invest hundreds of millions of pounds in the British food delivery app Deliveroo, giving it a huge boost in its international battle with rival Uber Eats. 
Sky News can exclusively reveal that Amazon is close to announcing a deal to back Deliveroo as part of a $575m (£450m) fundraising.
Sources said late on Thursday night that the deal was likely to be unveiled by Deliveroo in the coming days.
If confirmed, Amazon is likely to invest a substantial proportion of the funds being raised by the British-based group, which has become one of the biggest players in the so-called 'gig economy'.
The deal will come just days after Uber Technologies - which has been frequently been tipped to buy Deliveroo - sold shares publicly in New York.
Amazon is the world's largest internet business, with a market value of roughly $920bn.
Its diversification beyond retailing into the provision of a vast range of services has propelled it into the rarefied ranks of companies worth close to - and on brief occasions more than - $1trn. Read further here....

Facebook bans 265 "fake accounts" targeting Africa, Latin America and South East Asia

In this photo illustration a Facebook logo seen displayed on a smartphone.
The fake accounts often posted on political news, including on elections in various countries, the firm said.
Facebook has faced rising criticism for failing to stamp out misinformation on its platform.
It launched a fact-checking programme in 2016 shortly after Donald Trump became US president.
In a blog post, Facebook said it had removed 265 social media accounts that originated in Israel and focused on Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia, along with "some activity" in Latin America and South East Asia.
"The people behind this network used fake accounts to run pages, disseminate their content and artificially increase engagement.
"They also represented themselves as locals, including local news organisations, and published allegedly leaked information about politicians," Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook, wrote in the post.
An investigation found that some of the activity was linked to Israeli company Archimedes Group, Mr Gleicher said.
"This organisation and all its subsidiaries are now banned from Facebook, and it has been issued a cease and desist letter," he said.
The people behind the phantom accounts spent around $812,000 (£634,941) for ads between December 2012 and April 2019, Facebook said, and these were paid for in Brazilian reais, Israeli shekel and US dollars.
Five of the six African countries targeted have had elections since 2016, and Tunisia will hold national polls later this year.
Facebook has faced increasing criticism for failing to eradicate misinformation that could affect the way people vote in elections. BBC

Samsung's first 5G phone is out for Verizon customers (U.S)

It's a big day for the future of wireless internet connectivity.
Samsung's 5G phone has hit the market — it is the first time a smartphone can access 5G without an attachment in the US.
The $1300 Galaxy S10 5G smartphone is now available for Verizon customers in Chicago and Minneapolis. When customers leave those areas, the 5G smartphone will still work on Verizon's 4G LTE network.
    Later this year, the smartphone will launch in additional cities on Verizon and work with other carriers, including Sprint (S) and AT&T (T), which owns CNN's parent company.
    5G is the latest iteration of wireless technology and is expected to allow for things like better video streaming and technical advancements, such as connecting self-driving cars.
    The networks are still very limited, but the phone is a big step toward a greater roll out. The launch will likely help carriers test their service and create the foundation for future iterations of 5G devices.
    The smartphone features a 6.7-inch display and six camera lenses, including a dual-front camera with a 3D-depth lens to handle things like augmented reality. It's available in two storage options — 256GB or 512GB — and comes in silver or black.
    While the device costs $1300 for Verizon customers, they can snag it for half off for a limited time on Verizon's website and in its stores.
    Verizon was also the first carrier to offer a 5G-compatible phone when it launched its moto z3 smartphone. However, that phone required an accessory that attached to the back of the device to access the 5G network.
      One Verizon store representative in Chicago and another in Minneapolis confirmed the 5G device is for sale at their locations but said they hadn't noticed an increase in sales or lines.
      With the release of its first 5G phone, Samsung (SSNLF) gets a running start ahead of Apple(AAPL), which isn't expected to debut a 5G iPhone until the final quarter of 2020. The transition from 4G to 5G is expected to be more widespread that year, too.
      Source: CNN

      ArchiWorld: I.M Pei, Louvre pyramid architect, dies aged 102

      I M Pei on the 10th anniversary of The Pyramid of the Louvre, April 1999Image copyrightAFP
      I M Pei, the architect behind buildings including the glass pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris, has died aged 102.
      Tributes have been pouring in, remembering him for a lifetime of designing iconic structures worldwide.
      Pei's designs are renowned for their emphasis on precision geometry, plain surfaces and natural light.
      He carried on working well into old age, creating one of his most famous masterpieces - the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar - in his 80s.

      A pragmatic artist

      Ieoh Ming Pei was born in Guangzhou in 1917, and moved to the US at the age of 18 to study at Pennsylvania, MIT and Harvard.
      He worked as a research scientist for the US government during World War Two, and went on to work as an architect, founding his own firm in 1955.
      One of the 20th Century's most prolific architects, he has designed municipal buildings, hotels, schools and other structures across North America, Asia and Europe.
      Qatar's Islamic Museum of ArtImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
      Image captionQatar's Islamic Museum of Art is one of Pei's most famous designs
      Suzhou Museum in ChinaImage copyrightAFP/GETTY
      Image captionThe architect also designed the Suzhou Museum in China, which was completed in 2006
      His style was described as modernist with cubist themes, and was influenced by his love of Islamic architecture. His favoured building materials were glass and steel, with a combination of concrete.
      Pei sparked controversy for his pyramid at the Louvre Museum. The glass structure, completed in 1989, is now one of Paris' most famous landmarks.
      The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in BostonImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
      Image captionPei designed Boston's John F Kennedy Library and Museum
      Dallas City Hall, designed by architects I M Pei and Theodore J MushoImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
      Image captionI M Pei designed Dallas City Hall with fellow architect Theodore J Musho
      I M Pei's Bank of China tower (L) in Hong KongImage copyrightREUTERS
      Image captionI M Pei's Bank of China tower (L) in Hong Kong
      His other work includes Dallas City Hall and Japan's Miho Museum.
      "I believe that architecture is a pragmatic art. To become art it must be built on a foundation of necessity," he once said.
      He was won a variety awards and prizes for his buildings, including the AIA Gold Medal, the Praemium Imperiale for Architecture.
      In 1983 Pei was given the prestigious Pritzker Prize. The jury said he had he "has given this century some of its most beautiful interior spaces and exterior forms".
      He used his $100,000 prize money to start a scholarship fund for Chinese students to study architecture in America.
      Source: BBC

      Tuesday, 30 April 2019

      Tech: Driverless cars won't be ready for at least a Decade, experts says

      The Tesla Model Y is unveiled at Tesla's design studio in Hawthorne on March 14, 2019
      Driverless cars are at least a decade away as the machines remain vulnerable to hacking, industry experts say.
      Further major problems are presented from the highly advanced technology to provide a car with the artificial intelligence required to drive as well as a human.
      Tesla said their computer is low cost and low power, as well as 'straightforward and simple.' It is responsible for processing and receiving data from the car's eight, 360-degree cameras
      The news comes after Tesla boss Elon Musk held his first Autonomy Day with investors this week, claiming he would have fully self-driving cars on the road by 2020.
      The UK government have also said they want self-driving cars within two years. 
      Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks during the unveiling of the new Tesla Model Y in Hawthorne, California last month
      Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks during the unveiling of the new Tesla Model Y in Hawthorne, California last month
      Automotive Minister Richard Harrington said in February: 'We need to ensure we take the public with us as we move towards having self-driving cars on our roads by 2021. The update to the code of practice will provide clearer guidance to those looking to carry out trials on public roads.'
      But these claims seem bold compared to what 54 experts in the autonomous driving business told Forrester
      One told the industry researchers they were held up by the fact the necessary 'sensor technology doesn't exist. Computing horsepower and algorithms don't exist yet.
      Source: DailyMail

      A WHITE WHALE SUSPECTED OF BEING A RUSSIAN WEAPON FOUND IN NORWAY

      In 2017, Zvezda, a TV station owned by Russia’s Defence Ministry, reported that the nation’s military was training white whales, seals, and dolphins for Arctic missions — and now it seems one of those recruits may be guilty of desertion.
      A group of fishers recently told Norwegian broadcasterNRK that they found a white beluga whale wearing a strange harness with the words “Equipment of St. Petersburg” written on its strap — a clue that the animal may have had a role to play in Russia’s futuristic military plans.
      According to the fishers, the whale had been harassing their boats, rubbing against the vessels and pulling on accessible straps and ropes. When they removed its strange harness, which appeared designed to hold a camera or weapon, they saw the message written on it.
      “We know that in Russia they have had domestic whales in captivity and also that some of these have apparently been released,” Audun Rikardsen, a marine biology professor at the Arctic University of Norway, told NRK, according toThe Guardian. “Then they often seek out boats.”
      But when Rikardsen reached out to Russian researchers to try to find who owned the whale, they denied having anything to do with it.
      “They tell me that most likely is the Russian navy in Murmansk,” Rikardsen told NRK.

      Tech: Nigerian startup Tizeti launches WifiCall.ng IP voice call service

      Tizeti – WifiCall – Web Portal
      Nigeria based startup Tizeti, an internet service provider, today launched WifiCall.ng—an internet voice-calling platform for individuals and businesses.
      WifiCall is a VoIP—or Voice over Internet Protocol—subscription service that allows unlimited calls to any phone number, even if that number isn’t registered on WifiCall’s network.
      Tizeti will offer the product in Nigeria for now, with plans to open it up to phone numbers outside Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy in 2020.
      WifiCall was influenced by popularity of WiFi enabled voice services such WhatsApp, in Africa, and the continent’s improving digital and mobile profile.
      With its new VoIP product, Tizeti looks to contend with the likes of Skype, WhatsApp, and major telcos.
      “On the low end we’re competing with the mobile providers. WifiCall gives you a real number and it’s cheaper. But we’re also offering enterprise options you would not get with a mobile connection or even WhatsApp,” Tizeti co-founder and CEO Kendall Ananyi told TechCrunch.
      In addition to individual users, businesses and startups can use WifiCall for internal communications or open it up to developers to customize APIs for white-label, customer applications.
      WifiCall is available online or for download for free under the “Basic” package. The entry level commercial “Business Unlimited Pro” package—that offers up to 10 users, call recording, and call analytics—goes for ₦15,000, or around $35 a month. 
      Nigerian trucking logistic startup Kobo360 is already is a client. Ananyi sees prospective market segments for WifiCall as startups, educational institutions, hotels, gated communities, and “regular users anywhere they have tower coverage,” he said.
      That last group ties into Tizeti’s core business, which is building solar powered towers that offer WiFi service packages and hotspots in and around Lagos and Ogun State, Nigeria. Since its launch from Y Combinator’s  winter 2017 batch, the company has installed over 12,000 public WiFi hotspots in Nigeria with 500,000 users. The startup packages internet services drawing on partnerships with West African broadband provider MainOne and Facebook’s Express Wi-Fi
      Tizeti raised a $3 million Series A round in 2018, led by 4DX Ventures, and has $5.1 million in investment from firms including Golden Palm Investments, YC, and Social Investments. Read further here............

      Friday, 26 April 2019

      Tech: SoftBank teams up with Alphabet’s Loon for web in the sky

      Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank Corp has launched a new high-altitude platform station business through HAPSMobile, a joint venture with US firm AeroVironment. This business aims to deliver global internet connectivity through a fleet of unmanned aircraft – the Hawk30, shown here – that will fly in the Earth's stratosphere. Photo: Handout
      Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank Corp has launched a new high-altitude platform station business through HAPSMobile, a joint venture with US firm AeroVironment. This business aims to deliver global internet connectivity through a fleet of unmanned aircraft – the Hawk30, shown here – that will fly in the Earth's stratosphere. Photo: Handout
      One of the most improbable ideas from Google’s eccentric co-founders – using high-altitude balloons to provide internet connections – is getting a boost from another unconventional technology mogul.
      An affiliate of Masayoshi Son’s telecommunications company SoftBank Corp is investing US$125 million in Loon, a subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet. The SoftBank unit and Loon will share technology and ground stations, and form “an alliance to promote the use of high-altitude communications solutions with regulators and officials worldwide”, according to a statement from the two companies.
      The deal gives the SoftBank affiliate, HAPSMobile, an undisclosed minority stake in Loon. In the future, Loon has the right to invest US$125 million in the unit, a joint venture between SoftBank and US firm AeroVironment that designs unmanned aircraft systems. The partnership will initially target service in countries near the equator, eyeing proximity to developing markets as well as abundant solar energy.
      SoftBank, one of Japan’s largest wireless network operators, began exploring alternatives to terrestrial antennae after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami knocked out a broad swathe of its network.
      Masayoshi Son, the founder and chief executive of Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group Corp, is betting on Loon, a subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet, to help advance the company’s new business in high-altitude telecommunications systems. Photo: Reuters

      Masayoshi Son, the founder and chief executive of Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group Corp, is betting on Loon, a subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet, to help advance the company’s new business in high-altitude telecommunications systems. Photo: Reuters

      While the idea of using aircraft as a flying base station has been around for decades, it was only this year that the efficiency of solar panels and battery capacity have advanced enough to make that practical, SoftBank chief technology officer Junichi Miyakawa said.
      “Making better use of the stratosphere is a huge challenge for humanity,” Miyakawa told a briefing in Tokyo on Thursday. “Above the clouds, the sunlight is plentiful. The air is thin and the winds are mild.”
      The Hawk 30 aircraft developed by HAPSMobile has a wingspan of 78 metres, 10 propellers and can travel at speeds of up to 110 kilometres an hour. It will eventually operate at an altitude of 20 kilometres for six months at a time, Miyakawa said.
      SoftBank and Loon plan to offer connectivity services to telecoms carriers in countries where building a physical network is difficult. SoftBank will offer terrestrial gateway stations for Loon’s balloons starting this year, before introducing its own aircraft in 2023. The network could also make use of low-Earth-orbit satellites operated by OneWeb, a SoftBank Vision Fund portfolio company.
      Visitors stand next to a high-altitude internet-beaming balloon developed by Loon, a subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet, on display at the Air Force Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand, on June 16, 2013. Photo: Agence France-Presse

      Visitors stand next to a high-altitude internet-beaming balloon developed by Loon, a subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet, on display at the Air Force Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand, on June 16, 2013. Photo: Agence France-Presse

      Loon, which began in the Google X “moonshot lab”, retreated from an initial plan to blanket the globe with its internet-beaming, stratospheric helium-filled balloons. Instead, it has been negotiating more targeted deals with industry partners, including a telecoms company in Kenya and satellite firm in Canada. Facebook last year decided to shut down its own programme, called Aquila, after about four years in development.
      Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin formed the Alphabet holding company in 2015 to give newer, riskier projects more room to grow away from the main Google digital advertising operation. Some of these emerging businesses have taken investments from other companies in their industries. Verily, a health-technology unit, has raised nearly US$2 billion in outside funding. Calico, a bold attempt to thwart death, has teamed up with pharmaceutical giant AbbVie, which has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the initiative.
      HAPSMobile, which is 90 per cent owned by SoftBank, was created in January 2018 to develop solar-powered high-altitude unmanned aircraft and ground control stations. AeroVironment controls the remaining 10 per cent and has exclusive rights to design and manufacture all such aircraft in the future.
      AeroVironment’s experience with high-altitude long-endurance aircraft dates back to the 90s, building prototypes for Nasa and the Pentagon. According to the company’s presentation materials to investors in June 2018, it targeted HAPS demonstration and certification starting next financial year.
      The aircraft developed by HAPSMobile costs about as much as 10 Ferraris, but the price should fall with volume, Miyakawa said. A network would need 10 to 20 such aircraft to start with, requiring an investment of around US$10 million per country, he said.