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Walmart, Microsoft in partnership to use cloud tech

(Reuters) – Retail giant Walmart Inc said on Tuesday it entered into a strategic partnership with Microsoft Corp for wider use of cloud and artificial intelligence technology, in a sign of major rivals of Amazon.com Inc coming together.

FILE PHOTO: Shopping carts are seen outside a new Wal-Mart Express store in Chicago July 26, 2011. Wal-Mart Stores Inc reporterd a higher-than-expected quarterly profit May 19, 2106, as sales in the U.S. market rose, sending the retailer’s shares up nearly 10 percent. REUTERS/John Gress/File Photo

The five-year agreement will leverage the full range of Microsoft’s cloud solutions, including Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365, to make shopping faster and easier for customers, the Bentonville Arkansas-based company said.

As part of the partnership, Walmart and Microsoft engineers will collaborate to migrate a significant portion of walmart.com and samsclub.com to Azure, Walmart added.

While Walmart is doubling down on its e-commerce presence to better compete with Amazon, Microsoft has been working on a technology that would eliminate cashiers and checkout lines from stores, Reuters reported last month.

Microsoft’s technology aims to help retailers keep pace with Amazon Go, the ecommerce giant’s highly automated store format.

The Windows software maker has also shown the sample technology to retailers from around the world and has had talks with Walmart about a potential collaboration, Reuters reported.

Through the partnership, Walmart plans to defend itself from Amazon’s retail ambitions and expertise in data, and boost its online presence.

Reporting by Rishika Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier

American Airlines and United Airlines Flight Attendants Just Made a Very Controversial Announcement. Not Everyone's Happy to Hear It

Does everything have to be political? When it comes to big U.S. airlines, I’m beginning to think so.

Most companies in other industries seem to try hard not to get pulled into political disputes. Our country is as divided as we’ve been in decades, and they don’t want to take stands unnecessarily that will turn off big portions of their customer base.

But with airlines, either they or their employees keep getting involved. Is it admirable bravery or unnecessary alienation of customers? 

Or the two American Airlines flight attendants who led the movement to get airlines to denounce the federal government’s practice of separating parents from children at border crossings.

Now, through their unions, United and American flight attendants are adding a new one: coming out swinging against President Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

From the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, representing 27,000 American Airlines employees:

And, from the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents 24,000 United flight attendants:

Kavanaugh has ruled against workers’ access to the courts, owed monetary benefits, and failed to hold employers accountable who evade collective bargaining and discriminate against union members.

I get that these are the statements of the flight attendants’ unions, not the airlines themselves. And I understand that they have the right to free speech, of course.

But I wondered how the airlines and the rank and file employees themselves felt.

Kavanaugh is almost certainly going to be confirmed, since Republicans hold a majority in the U.S. Senate. So the upside of coming out swinging like this isn’t clear to me.

The downside is clear however: the fact that a sizable plurality of both airlines’ customers, at least, support the president and likely don’t want their airline to weigh in on their politics.

I’m thinking of what happened recently when Walmart allowed a third party vendor to market “Impeach 45” baseball jerseys online, and people on Twitter started talking about a boycott. It didn’t take long for Walmart to boot the jerseys from its platform.

So I asked American Airlines and United Airlines employees on Facebook for their take. And the ones I heard from don’t seem too pleased to have the unions weighing in.

These Big Thinkers Want You To Know How They Feel About Science

Astronaut Scott Kelly talks about his year in space at 3M’s campus in Minneapolis on April 25, 2018.Alejandro Rojas

In April 2018, the Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative and 3M hosted the lecture, Climate Change: Science and Policy with Dr. Mario Molina. Molina won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his scientific discovery of the chemistry of the stratospheric ozone layer and its susceptibility to human-made activities.

He co-authored research in 1974 in Nature magazine on the threat to the ozone layer from chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gasses being used in spray cans. Molina has also served on the United States President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology from 1994 to 2000 and again in 2010-2016.

“Science doesn’t tell you what to do. Science isn’t either good or bad so you can not give Nobel prizes in science to good people, you do that in principle for the science,” said Molina.  “One of the new aspects of science is that we recognize our social responsibility. Many of us do not continue doing the same research we were doing before winning the prize (Nobel). After the prize, many of us do something for society.  I changed a bit as well, to more science and policy issues, and again, the bulk of these changes ended up being for the betterment of society.”

“So if somebody doubts climate change, that’s total misinformation. You can go to the extreme and say that’s really just corruption,” said Molina. “Science is so well established that it’s either you don’t want to understand something or that you have some hidden motives and that’s not science, who [..] would want to say nowadays that molecules don’t exist?” added Molina. 

Molina’s lecture coincided with a State of Science index put out by 3M which looked at a cross-section of views on the public’s perception of science today.

When it comes to kids and parent, 92 percent of parents said they want their kids to know more about science. But on the other hand, data from the report noted that four out of ten people said that if science didn’t exist their everyday lives wouldn’t be that different. Also, 60 percent of the science skeptics in the report believed if science didn’t exist, daily life wouldn’t be much different, and 66 percent of people in the world rarely think of the impact science has on their lives.

Scott Kelly, former NASA astronaut who spent 320 days in space and who spoke at the 3M Campus on April 26, 2018, tweeted the statistic that people believe science has little impact on their lives.

Scott Kelly on Flat Earthers, Climate Change and Mars

Astronaut Scott Kelly at the 3M State of Science event in Minneapolis, April 25, 2018.Alejandro Rojas

This bothers me because those 66 percent of people will go to the polls and vote and elect representatives in the United States or their countries and the people who they elect will make decisions that will affect their lives and their children’s lives. I think we need more members representing us that have science backgrounds and believe in science,” said Kelly.

“I [..] think that in the last 10 years, some people have become skeptics of things that are facts,” said Kelly. “Why that is, I don’t know, but we’ve lost our ability to have a conversation about it. If I am wrong, talk to me about it, try and convince me.”

“Some of that flat-earthers don’t fully believe the earth is flat and they’re doing it as a goof, and that’s fine,” quipped Kelly. “But the problem is that if you can discount that the earth is not a sphere, then you can’t believe in things that are important to us like issues with the environment, healthcare, vaccines, etc. On the one hand, you can laugh and say its funny, but on the other hand, it can have a huge influence on other people.”

“I’m not a climate scientist, but when 97% of the climate scientists say this is fact, I’m going to believe them, so it’s the logical thing to do to believe the experts,” said Kelly. “But when we have people in government who have no science background and say they aren’t going to believe, it confounds me how this is even possible,” said Kelly.

“From my time in space, I’ve noticed there are fewer rainforests and more field clearing in South America. I’ve seen icebergs with my naked eye in the middle of the southern Indian ocean as I am flying over and thought to myself, that’s a pretty big iceberg to be just floating around out there,” said Kelly. “The scary thing to me is how fragile our atmosphere is, when you see it, it’s like a thin film covering the earth, like a contact lens over your eyeball.”

In this July 12, 2015 photo, Astronaut Scott Kelly takes a picture of himself inside the Cupola, a special module of the International Space Station which provides a 360-degree viewing of the Earth and the station. In his new autobiography, the retired astronaut writes about his U.S. record-breaking year in space and the challenging life events that got him there. (Scott Kelly/NASA via AP)

Kelly adds that going to Mars is the next logical step for our species. “We have a lot of the technology to do that mission, over the course of the lifetime of the space station, we’ve learned a lot,” adds Kelly.

“I was in space for space for 320 days, I got back and didn’t feel great, but I was capable,” said Kelly. “But going to Mars will take 200 days, then you are on the surface for a year and operating in a lesser gravitational field, one third that of the earth, the physical effects on the body is going to be greater.”

When it comes to Mars versus the Moon, Kelly said he would prefer a long-term plan and the money to do it. “What we have now is a change in direction from where we are going and no money to do anything. We have a policy change with nothing to back it up. My desire for NASA is that they would be an agency that has the budget over a longer period and not be tied to each administration,” said Kelly.

“There are a lot of great reasons to go to the moon. We have a lot more science today than when we were there before, and there’s still a lot we can learn about the moon and earth and where we came from,” said Kelly. “But if you want to build the perfect place to practice to go to Mars and you wanted to demonstrate your technology, the Moon is the perfect place to do it. It’s expensive, but if you have an unlimited amount of money and if you only can do one thing, my choice is to go to Mars.”

Telling The Story Of Science

In 2017, National Geographic funded more than 600 grants totaling around $16 million for scientists and explorers. The also hired their first Chief Scientist, Jonathan Baillie.

Gary Knell, CEO, National Geographic, said that it’s essential to support scientists and explorers, like Jane Goodall, because their experiences and science becomes fodder for storytelling and shows the contextual connection of why science is important. “We’ve tried to double down over the past several years to make the grantmaking contribute to more practical applications, like the June 2018 plastics issue of National Geographic, which we hope will get people to own the problem,” adds Knell.

“For the past two years there seems to be a war on science,” said Knell. “Politically people seem to be choosing what science they want to believe in that fits their political views – climate change, GMO, etc.,” said Knell. “But science is a methodology and as Neil DeGrasse Tyson has said, ‘science is true whether you believe it or not ‘ so maybe it’s the applications that may or may not be good for mankind.”

The Discovery and Science Channels have also been working on programming that creates context around science in series like Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey To Tomorrow (debuts in October 2018), How the Universe Works and Rancher Farmer Fisherman.

The Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft is seen launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with Expedition 50 crewmembers NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos, and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, (Kazakh time) Whitson, Novitskiy, and Pesquet spent approximately six months on the orbital complex. This image is part of upcoming Discovery and Science Channel programming called Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey To Tomorrow which debuts October 2018. Image courtesy of Discovery.NASA/Bill Ingalls

Nancy Daniels, Chief Brand Officer, Discovery and Factual said that in an era when there is so much uncertainty, and facts aren’t thought to be as concrete as they once were, science-based programming can be reassuring.

“Whether we’re talking about how climate change has had real effects on the crab fishing industry, exploring the far reaches of the universe, or inspiring the next generation to learn more about science, Discovery and Science Channel are at the forefront of this movement in television back to authenticity. At the same time, we can’t be up on an ivory tower,” said Daniels. “We are storytellers, and good storytelling has the power to help synthesize complicated issues.”

Looking Forward

John P. BanovetzSenior Vice President, Research and Development and Chief Technology Officer, 3M said the world is becoming more technologically advanced, and science is driving those technology breakthroughs.

“You see it every day and read about science driving improvements in energy use, cleaner air and water, and transportation.  To continue these advancements in the future, we need to be vigilant about helping people understand all of the incredible innovations around science,” said Banovetz.  “Science is all about collaborating to solve the challenges we will face in the future.”

Jim Jefferies, 2018 IEEE President, and CEO said that much of the improvement in the quality of life over the last few decades is the result of advances in science and technology driven by electrical and electronic engineering and computer science. “These advances in electronics and computer science underpin the advances in healthcare, ubiquitous communications, clean and efficient energy, intelligent transportation, entertainment, education, advanced agriculture, financial technology, security, and space, and touch almost every aspect of life,” adds Jefferies.

“Today, we see an explosion of interest at the frontiers of machine learning and artificial intelligence, in robotics, in new models of computing for a post-Moore’s law world (including applications of quantum science), in intelligent vehicle technology, and in biomedical technology,” adds Jefferies. “We also see a vibrant discussion about ethics and design, driven by an increased focus on risk and responsibility in the development of intelligent systems.”

Molina offers some advice for inspiring scientists. 

“Take ambitious ideas, innovation [..] because it’s extremely rewarding. Persevere in your goals, and live with the fact that we all make mistakes. Sometimes it doesn’t work, and when you realize that, you change, and you learn from your mistakes,” said Molina. “So don’t give up, unless you want to have a very boring life and just function like a bureaucrat which isn’t very encouraging. Keep being ambitious.” 

_____

Correction: This post has been updated since it was originally published to add the link to Nature magazine from 1974 where Molina’s research was published.

Funimation Picks Up The Classic Anime Series 'Zillion' For Western Release

‘Zillion’ is finally getting a Western release.Credit: Funimation, Tatsunoko Production

</div> </div> <p>A few years back, Japan received an <a href="http://www.vap.co.jp/category/1436262311094/" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:http://www.vap.co.jp/category/1436262311094/" rel="nofollow">amazingly nice remastered Blu-ray version</a> of this anime and I had hoped that at some point it would come Westward.</p>

<p>After checking in with Funimation, it seems that this Blu-ray release is the one they have picked up and that the Western version will also have English subtitles.</p> <p>What’s more, this&nbsp;release will also include the OVA as well as the whole TV series. The SRP&nbsp;will also be $64.98 for the set.</p> <p>While we don’t have details on when <em>Zillion</em> will be released, the fact this classic anime is finally getting a proper release outside of Japan is great news.</p> <p><em>Follow me on <a href="https://twitter.com/Cacophanus/" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/Cacophanus/" rel="nofollow">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/cacophanus" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.facebook.com/cacophanus" rel="nofollow">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/user/Cacophanus" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.youtube.com/user/Cacophanus" rel="nofollow">YouTube</a>. I also manage <a href="http://www.mechadamashii.com" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:http://www.mechadamashii.com" rel="nofollow">Mecha Damashii</a> and do toy reviews over at <a href="http://www.hobbylink.tv/members/ollie/" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:http://www.hobbylink.tv/members/ollie/" rel="nofollow">hobbylink.tv</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Read my Forbes blog <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/olliebarder/" target="_self">here</a>.</em></p>” readability=”42.2632794457″>

One of the most interesting anime series of the late 80s, Red Photon Zillion, has now been picked up for a Western release and its gaming lineage is also pretty interesting.

Zillion is a curious anime on various counts. From it being the start of Production I.G as a spin-off studio from Tatsunoko Production to the amazing mecha design by Ammonite but the really fascinating part about the series is how it tied into the Sega Master System.

Two games were spawned from the anime, Zillion and Zillion II. There was also a laser-tag type toy sold in Japan and Brazil. However, the anime also introduced Opa-Opa from the arcade game Fantasy Zone as a recurring mascot.

Set on Mars, the anime deals with the alien invasion of the Nohzas, that want to wipe out humanity. The name “Zillion” refers to the special gun the main characters carry that is very powerful and almost impossible to mass produce.

‘Zillion’ is finally getting a Western release.Credit: Funimation, Tatsunoko Production

A few years back, Japan received an amazingly nice remastered Blu-ray version of this anime and I had hoped that at some point it would come Westward.

After checking in with Funimation, it seems that this Blu-ray release is the one they have picked up and that the Western version will also have English subtitles.

What’s more, this release will also include the OVA as well as the whole TV series. The SRP will also be $64.98 for the set.

While we don’t have details on when Zillion will be released, the fact this classic anime is finally getting a proper release outside of Japan is great news.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. I also manage Mecha Damashii and do toy reviews over at hobbylink.tv.

Read my Forbes blog here.

Silicon Valley employees flex newfound political muscles

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Employees at several of the world’s biggest technology companies have been exercising newfound political power where they work, pushing their bosses on business ethics with help from established and fledgling nonprofit groups.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is surrounded by members of the media as he sits down to testify before a joint Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees hearing regarding the company’s use and protection of user data, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein –

Most of the highly paid professional workers at Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google, Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and other tech companies have little experience with labor unions, and many have avoided other civil movements. But several organizations such as Tech Workers Coalition and coworker.org are helping techies learn new skills like building consensus across workgroups, drafting effective petitions and protecting themselves under labor law.

More established groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are also growing more active in Silicon Valley, engaging companies on more topics and helping workers who want to raise issues with management.  

Political concern grew following the 2016 presidential campaign. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in April before the U.S. Congress about concerns ranging from lack of data protection to Russian agents using Facebook to influence U.S. elections. Recently, activism among Silicon Valley employees has accelerated.

Last month, workers and rights groups persuaded Google not to renew a contract to supply artificial intelligence tools to help the Pentagon analyze footage from drone aircraft. More than 4,000 employees signed the petition which argued that the project could lead to more automated killing.

“We have all this power, and we’re learning to recognize that and apply it, because we are the ones actually building stuff,” said coalition member Tyler Breisacher, who helped spread word on issues within Google before joining a smaller company in May.

In what has become a regular ritual, more than 50 tech workers shared an evening meeting last week in San Francisco’s Mission District. Attendees said they traded stories about accomplishments and tips on sounding out potentially sympathetic coworkers while reducing the risk of termination.

The event was one of a series in the tech hubs of San Francisco and Seattle held by volunteers in the loosely structured Tech Workers Coalition. Formed in 2015, its membership has surged since the 2016 election.

“We have a broad network of community groups, unions, and non-profits that we collaborate with, but the best education comes from other workers and their past struggles,” the coalition wrote in response to emailed questions. Another relative newcomer, coworker.org, coaches on campaign strategy and media relations.

After the petition drive, Google employees are debating whether, when and how to go public in the future. Many said they would rather be heard internally, earlier in the product cycle.

As Google engineer and activist Liz Fong-Jones put it in a recent talk to software developers: “Ethics crises are a process failure.”

While Google has always prided itself on an open and freewheeling corporate culture, activism is newer to other big tech employers.

AMAZON AND MICROSOFT

Amazon employees wrote a letter protesting the company’s sale of facial-recognition technology to law enforcement agencies, noting the software can make errors and infringe on privacy and due process rights.

At Microsoft, more than 300 workers complained about contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency that had been separating families on the U.S.-Mexico border and rounding up longtime residents for deportation.

Longtime activists said they sense a golden opportunity with Silicon Valley employees who often had more experience as the subject of protests. San Francisco residents, for instance, have frequently thrown rocks at company buses they viewed as symbols of gentrification driving out longtime city dwellers.

Activists said tech executives who provide those buses, along with massages and gourmet chefs to workers, are eager not to alienate those same employees with company policies.

“If the morale goes down the tubes and the employee base is not with you, you are going to have a tough time,” said Lynn Fox, spokeswoman for the nonprofit Center for Humane Technology, begun by former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris.

ELECTION WAS A CATALYST

Many liberal-leaning tech employees became more politically active out of concern that Facebook, Alphabet’s YouTube and Twitter had helped elect U.S. President Donald Trump, if only through inaction over incendiary posts and gamed algorithms. Others are growing more concerned about industry issues such as addictive products.

Meanwhile, activists with human rights groups said they are frustrated at fruitless efforts to influence Washington. They are going directly to Silicon Valley with campaigns involving issues such as social media and artificial intelligence.

“It is more important than ever that technologists, engineers and leadership of tech companies incorporate a human rights-based approach into the design of their products,” said Scott Campbell, a staffer for the U.N.’s permanent human rights office.

Campbell moved to California in hopes of setting up a permanent outpost there. Amnesty International started an area branch in November, and Human Rights Watch opened a Silicon Valley office in 2016.

In February, Amnesty convened a session about the implications of artificial intelligence, with engineers and policy experts from Facebook, Google, Microsoft and IBM Corp (IBM.N). The result was the Toronto Declaration, which says companies need to make sure that machine learning does not extend discrimination.

The statement was formally released at a May conference in Toronto run by digital rights group Access Now. Advance participation by engineers helped keep the language practical and improves the odds their companies will sign, people familiar with the process said.

The interplay among internal pressure and outside pressure is complex, activists said. For instance, top executives who want to take an ethical stand may find it more convenient to have employees take the lead, said Patrick Ball, director of research at Human Rights Data Analysis Group and adviser to many larger rights groups.

He explained that executives at publicly traded corporations “can’t do anything that takes them away from an obvious sale without an obviously countervailing force” such as employees leaving or public embarrassment.

Reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Greg Mitchell and David Gregorio

Facebook Closes Loophole That Revealed Personal Data of People in ‘Closed’ Groups

Facebook has closed a loophole that allowed third parties to view and collect personal information about members of groups set to the “closed” privacy setting. An extension for Google’s Chrome browser called Grouply.io was specifically made to allow third parties to collect names, locations, email addresses, employers, and other personal data from Facebook groups, according to a report from CNBC.

What finally caused Facebook to close the loophole were complaints from a group of women with the BRCA gene, a gene mutation associated with an elevated risk of breast cancer. The BRCA Sisterhood group, which did not want members’ names to be known, ran a “closed” Facebook group. Technically, “secret” is Facebook’s most restrictive setting, but choosing to make a group “secret” hides it from public listings entirely. The BRCA Sisterhood was open to new members and selected the “closed” setting for that reason.

A security researcher who helped the BRCA Sisterhood moderators investigate whether the plugin could harvest their personal information also found that Facebook groups for individuals coping with other sensitive issues, such as addiction recovery and HIV/AIDS, were easily searchable using the Chrome plugin.

This type of personal data can be used in marketing and advertising. But it comes with another more fraught consideration for Facebook: healthcare privacy compliance. While a social media site like Facebook is not required to be compliant under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States, it may catch the attention of European regulators, where Facebook is facing an uphill battle under new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules.

Facebook issued a cease-and-desist letter to Grouply.io developers, who discontinued the Chrome plugin earlier this year. Facebook has also says it closed the third-party loophole overall.

Despite ongoing privacy concerns and controversies plaguing the social media giant, Facebook stock recently closed at an all-time record high. Mark Zuckerberg also recently became the world’s third richest person, passing Warren Buffet.

Apple’s Airplay 2 May Be the Boost Sonos Needs for Its IPO

It’s not often that a simple software upgrade can improve the prospects of an imminent tech IPO, but that could happen with Sonos, which announced support for Apple’s Airplay 2 technology Wednesday.

Unlike lo-fi bluetooth connections, Sonos speakers need a proprietary app to connect the hardware with streaming music sources and users’ libraries. While some users found the Sonos app’s user-interface challenging, everyone generally conceded it was the trade-off required for enjoying Sonos speakers’ superb sound quality.

Over time, Sonos let music services like Pandora and Spotify control the output on their speakers by allowing users to use the streaming apps for selecting songs and playlists. Sonos also ported Amazon’s voice-powered Alexa technology to its speakers last fall. But while the company became the first third-party hardware manufacturer to integrate Apple Music, Sonos owners who streamed from Apple still needed to make their musical selections through that clunky app.

With support for Airplay 2, Sonos speakers will be able to play songs on multiple speakers from the Apple Music app—and from any other iOS app that is compatible with Airplay 2. The Airplay integration is available on most Sonos speakers, including the Sonos One, Beam, Playbase, and the second generation Play:5. Supported speakers will also be able to use Siri to control Apple Music by voice.

The upgrade has been expected. Last fall, when Sonos added Alexa voice control to its speakers, it said support for Airplay would come sometime in 2018. Still, the timing of the news works well for Sonos, which filed to go public last week. Sonos is expected to be valued between $2.5 billion and $3 billion following the IPO.

Sonos’ brand-name recognition could help its debut, as well as the success of last fall’s successful IPO of Roku, another gadget manufacturer. But Sonos posted a net loss of $14.2 million last year and its revenue grew by only 10%, so it could use an extra boost as it approaches the public stock market.

The Apple Airplay integration could help investor confidence in the company’s future. The lack of a user-friendly interface has put off some Sonos owners from buying more speakers for their house or caused people to buy instead lower-fidelity but easier-to-use speakers like the Echo. Sonos’ big-sound-in-small-speakers design has won praise, along with loyalty of some users who install them in multiple rooms.

Perhaps more importantly, Sonos is strengthening its prospects by branching out beyond its reliance on Amazon’s Alexa. Sonos warned in its IPO prospectus that it could be hurt if Amazon ever disabled Alexa on the devices, noting it could do so at any time. With Airplay integration, Sonos adds Siri to its voice assistant mix. The company has also said support for Google Assistant is coming this year, although it’s still yet to happen.

Finally, Airplay integration will make Sonos speakers more attractive to people with iPhones. Amazon is estimated to have sold between 20 million and 30 million Echos. But Apple has 800 million iTunes accounts, the best gauge of how many people actively use their iPhones and iPads. Sonos’ Airplay integration will mean that, for most of those iPhone users, its speakers should be much easier to use now—and at less than half the cost of Apple’s HomePod.

Why We Decided to Start A Kickstarter For College

You don’t wake up one day and choose to be an entrepreneur. You don’t choose to embark on a journey full of anxiety and stress, with an inkling of hope and unforeseeable returns. It chooses you. For me, it started when my cofounder, Chisa Egbelu, talked to his best friend and roommate who was so passionate about music that he decided to hone his craft by attempting to transfer from Rutgers to the Berkelee College of Music. Little did he know, this choice would become a crippling financial decision that would inspire us to re-think how education is funded. And it all boiled down to a draw-dropping question: “Why isn’t there something like Kickstarter for college?”

That’s how Chisa and I started PeduL, which is a platform that helps students raise money for college. Right now, we accomplish this through crowdfunding. It is the only crowdfunding platform online that protects sponsors by sending all of the money students raise directly to their institution. At first, it seemed too perfect to be true. Chisa was curious why this kind of platform didn’t already exist. Once he determined there was no established competition in the space, he began recruiting teammates to join his journey. Since we both majored in Journalism & Media Studies and had a ton of classes together, he knew I was the queen of the humble brag—and more importantly, already had some experience building and selling a business before graduating high school. But when he pitched me the concept, I wasn’t fully convinced.

We sat for hours and discussed the core reasons he wanted to pursue this idea. I knew why I would. I turned down five Division 1 golf scholarships to attend my dream school only to find out I would be $40,000 in debt per year if I went. I was stripped of an opportunitynot because I didn’t deserve it—but because I couldn’t afford it. But relating to this problem wasn’t enough to pursue a Kickstarter for college. Through countless conversations with students—our potential customers—and our team of five, at the time, we pinpointed the heart of crowdfunding’s greatest downfall: access. Crowdfunding, whether you want to admit it or not, is innately elitist because it almost always requires the fundraiser to have access to a well-endowed network. Not everyone enjoys the luxury of knowing people with money. We can’t control what family we’re born into or the economic bracket we’re in. But what we can do is fight for and create equal access to academic and professional opportunities.

With this realization, we decided to brainstorm ways to provide students with capital beyond their personal networks. We reflected on the large companies and organizations that we’ve received scholarships from, and we decided that we would try to partner with corporations, influencers and foundations that would award scholarships directly to our competitive talent pool of entrepreneurial-minded students running crowdfunding campaigns.

This was in January 2016. We didn’t know where to start or how to begin pitching enterprise clients, so we stuck with what we knew. We put our corporate model on the back burner, and pursued crowdfunding full-force. We started meeting every Sunday in the Red Lion Café on the College Ave campus to research the competition, construct experiments to prove our concept, write our business plan, develop our minimum viable product (MVP), iron out our operational systems and processes, and figure out how to monetize this idea. We eventually decided to match industry standards, but tweak it based on focus group research. We would make the platform free to students, and encourage sponsors to “tip” PeduL between 5% and 20% of their contribution. When we realized we could disseminate scholarships by partnering with corporations, influencers and other scholarship providers, we knew we could pursue a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model as a reliable revenue source. Licensing software on a subscription basis has been on the rise since the beginning of the new millennium, and we believed it was our time to cash in on the trend. By categorizing students on PeduL as “talent,” we could essentially “sell” them as “potential recruits” to these large corporations—in exchange for a finder’s fee, of course. In other words, it’s our job to source qualified students for corporations who have the budget to disseminate scholarships and provide training, internships and professional development opportunities. Statistics show that highly-engaged employees with training opportunities increase productivity and bottom lines. By investing in millennials earlier—who will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025—corporations can cultivate a workforce of skilled labor who are prepared to hit the ground running from day one. PeduL could help enable corporations to pave the next generation of leaders by funding their education upfront, which could ultimately boost their bottom lines. We believed, early on, that this would be the path to escape velocity and venture scale. We were suddenly a business-to-consumer (B2C) and a business-to-business (B2B) company, which broadened our horizons and maximized our potential, especially as a minority-owned and operated company.

During this time, we were lucky enough to get a feature in an online publication that was known as Startup Panel. The staff writer for that story is a Rutgers-Newark student who was starting a business called Ramenworks, a network of undergraduate students dedicated to connecting student founders with the capital and resources necessary to build and grow their startups. We unknowingly became Ramenworks’s MVP. They were shopping us out to venture capitalists and angel investors in the tri-state area, and one stuck: IDT. An international telecommunications company headquartered in Newark, New Jersey, bought into our vision. Although the check we received was smaller than most venture deals, it provided us with the office space, outsourcing development company, financial and human capital necessary to build and launch our platform.

Our real vision is to become the one-stop shop for education financing through our common application for scholarships. Imagine filling out a single application to apply to thousands of scholarships at one time for both higher education and alternative education programming like coding bootcamps or trade-specific academies. We know what you’re thinking…we wish we had this back when we were in school too. This is the idea that allows us to truly close the gap of access to education while sidestepping legislation and inevitably bureaucratic government engagement. Although our idea has evolved, we know it’s something worth fighting to create.

By the time I graduated college in May 2017, PeduL had become my mission, my livelihood, my greatest source of anxiety and stress, and most importantly, my greatest source of fulfillment and purpose. PeduL finally went live to the public on January 1, 2018. Over 2,500 students have raised a little over $25,000 and we’re growing each day. But this journey comes with challenges, from fundraising to building a team, all of which I look forward to sharing in detail week after week. I intend to use this column as an outlet of expression and transparency. I encourage you to follow our story because we’re in for an unpredictable and eventful ride. Each week, you’ll get a glimpse into every step of this journey. The ups. The downs. And everything in between. I’ll share what’s worked for us and what hasn’t. I’ll call on you for advice and I’ll open up my heart and mind to hearing your first-hand experience. Consider this my diary and open letter to each and everyone one of you with a dream and a will, so that one day we may all look back and say, “together, we did it.”

Every Wednesday at 3PM/EST, I will host a chat to a weekly question on Twitter & Instagram @iamkaylamichele. Tweet & DM me with your answer! – “How did you gain the courage to start you business?”

British regulator to fine Facebook over data protection breaches

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s information regulator said on Wednesday she intends to fine Facebook (FB.O) for breaches of data protection law as her office investigates how millions of users’ data was improperly accessed by consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

FILE PHOTO: A woman looks at the Facebook logo on an iPad in this photo illustration taken June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/Illustration

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has faced questioning by U.S. and EU lawmakers over how Cambridge Analytica improperly got hold of the personal data of 87 million Facebook users from a researcher.

Updating on her investigation into the use of data analytics by political campaigns, Britain’s Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said she intended to fine Facebook 500,000 pounds ($663,850), a small figure for a company with a market value of $590 billion, but the maximum amount allowed.

Denham said that Facebook had broken the law by failing to safeguard people’s information and had not been transparent about how data was harvested by others on its platform.

“New technologies that use data analytics to micro-target people give campaign groups the ability to connect with individual voters. But this cannot be at the expense of transparency, fairness and compliance with the law,” she said in a statement.

Facebook can respond to the commissioner before a final decision is made, and said it was reviewing the report and would respond soon.

“As we have said before, we should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and take action in 2015,” Erin Egan, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, said in a statement.

“We have been working closely with the Information Commissioner’s Office in their investigation of Cambridge Analytica, just as we have with authorities in the US and other countries.”

British lawmakers have launched an inquiry into “fake news” and its effect on election campaigns, and have increasingly focused on Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica, which was hired by Donald Trump in 2016, has denied its work on the U.S. president’s successful election campaign made use of data.

It has also said that, while it pitched for work with campaign group Leave.EU ahead of the Brexit referendum in Britain in 2016, it did not end up doing any work on the campaign.

However, the Information Commissioner’s report said other regulatory action would include a criminal prosecution against Cambridge Analytica’s parent firm, SCL Elections, for failing to deal with the regulator’s enforcement notice.

It also said it would send warning letters to 11 political parties to compel them to audit their data protection practices.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Stephen Addison

Lawmakers Push Apple and Google to Reveal Data Collection Practices

Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee want Google and Apple to explain more about how they handle user data.

The lawmakers sent letters on Monday to Apple (aapl) CEO Tim Cook and Larry Page, CEO of Google parent Alphabet (goog), asking the tech giants to explain their data collection practices.

Recent data privacy blunders by Facebook (fb) as well as alleged Russian meddling of the 2016 presidential election has raised concerns by politicians that tech companies fail to safeguard user data.

Additionally, lawmakers worry that these companies are not transparent about how they share user data with third-party firms as they collect people’s data to improve their own technologies and grow their businesses.

In the letter sent to Alphabet’s Page, the lawmakers asked that the company address recent media reports that exposed some of Alphabet’s data practices. Last week, for example, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google allows some third-party organizations to access user emails. Google said in 2017 that the company would no longer scan Gmail messages for advertising purposes.

Some of the questions lawmakers want Google to answer about its email policies include:

How many outside software developers, or third parties, are permitted to access user’s email contents with or without consent on Gmail?

What restrictions, if any, does Google place on how data from Gmail users may be used?

What additional steps, if any, are taken by Google to verify that the activity of companies granted access to user’s email contents meets Google’s terms of service?

In their letter to Apple’s CEO, the lawmakers want to know more about the company’s data-collection practices related to its flagship iPhone. The House representatives want to know if Apple collects and stores user information “through a different data-collection capability” even if people disable location-tracking services on their iPhones.

Lawmakers also want to know if people’s iPhones collect audio recordings without their consent and if Apple could “control or limit the data collected by third-party apps available on the App store.”

The House members also point to Cook’s various public comments about Apple’s data privacy practices in relation to competitors like Google and Facebook. They referred to Cook recently saying that Apple “felt strongly about privacy when no one cared,” but then pointed out that Apple lets users download Google and Facebook apps from its online store, which is significant because these services and others are “contradictory to Apple’s values.”

Get Data Sheet, Fortune’s technology newsletter.

The implication that Apple should bar Google and Facebook apps from its online store is a sensitive one. Some lawmakers would likely accuse Apple of unfair business practices if it removed competitors from its app store.

Fortune contacted Apple and Google for comment and will update this story if they respond.

Snap and Amazon Are Reportedly Working on a Visual Search Feature for Snapchat

Snap appears to be laying the groundwork for a partnership with e-commerce giant Amazon.

According to TechCrunch, a version of Snapchat being developed for Android phones includes code for a new feature called “Visual Search” that can use Snapchat’s camera to send images of a product or a barcode scan to Amazon, which then display search results.

TechCrunch spotted source code in the Snapchat app that included pop-up text reading, “Press and hold to identify an object, song, barcode, and more! This works by sending data to Amazon, Shazam, and other partners.”

Snap already has a similar partnership with Shazam, in which songs captured through Snapchat’s camera can be relayed to Shazam’s music database. The feature allows users to discover artists through Shazam and then follow them on Snapchat.

Visual and barcode search is not new for mobile apps. Amazon’s own app includes a barcode scanning feature. In early 2017, Pinterest introduced its Lens feature, which uses artificial intelligence to identify objects and bring up images of similar or related items. Last fall, Pinterest announced an advertising agreement with Target and its Lens feature.

Snap has been struggling to boost its revenue following its 2017 IPO. In its most recent quarter, Snap’s revenue of $150 million fell short of Wall Street’s expectations. Snap’s stock closed at $13.65 a share Monday, below its $17 a share offering price.

How To Improve Customer Experiences With Real-Time Analytics

, Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
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</div> </div> <ul> <li><span class="tweet_quote"> <a href="https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2Fsites%2Flouiscolumbus%2F2018%2F07%2F08%2Fhow-to-improve-customer-experiences-with-real-time-analytics%2F&amp;text=70%25%20of%20enterprises%20have%20increased%20their%20spending%20on%20real-time%20customer%20%23analytics%20solutions%20over%20the%20past%20year." target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2Fsites%2Flouiscolumbus%2F2018%2F07%2F08%2Fhow-to-improve-customer-experiences-with-real-time-analytics%2F&amp;text=70%25%20of%20enterprises%20have%20increased%20their%20spending%20on%20real-time%20customer%20%23analytics%20solutions%20over%20the%20past%20year." rel="nofollow">70% of enterprises have increased their spending on real-time customer analytics solutions over the past year.<span data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2Fsites%2Flouiscolumbus%2F2018%2F07%2F08%2Fhow-to-improve-customer-experiences-with-real-time-analytics%2F&amp;text=70%25%20of%20enterprises%20have%20increased%20their%20spending%20on%20real-time%20customer%20%23analytics%20solutions%20over%20the%20past%20year."></span></a></span></li> <li><span class="tweet_quote"> <a href="https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2Fsites%2Flouiscolumbus%2F2018%2F07%2F08%2Fhow-to-improve-customer-experiences-with-real-time-analytics%2F&amp;text=58%25%20of%20enterprises%20are%20seeing%20a%20significant%20increase%20in%20customer%20retention%20and%20loyalty%20from%20using%20customer%20%23analytics." target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2Fsites%2Flouiscolumbus%2F2018%2F07%2F08%2Fhow-to-improve-customer-experiences-with-real-time-analytics%2F&amp;text=58%25%20of%20enterprises%20are%20seeing%20a%20significant%20increase%20in%20customer%20retention%20and%20loyalty%20from%20using%20customer%20%23analytics." rel="nofollow">58% of enterprises are seeing a significant increase in customer retention and loyalty as a result of using customer analytics.<span data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2Fsites%2Flouiscolumbus%2F2018%2F07%2F08%2Fhow-to-improve-customer-experiences-with-real-time-analytics%2F&amp;text=58%25%20of%20enterprises%20are%20seeing%20a%20significant%20increase%20in%20customer%20retention%20and%20loyalty%20from%20using%20customer%20%23analytics."></span></a></span></li> <li>60% use real-time customer analytics to improve customer experience across touch points and devices is extremely important today.</li> <li><span class="tweet_quote"> <a href="https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2Fsites%2Flouiscolumbus%2F2018%2F07%2F08%2Fhow-to-improve-customer-experiences-with-real-time-analytics%2F&amp;text=44%25%20of%20enterprises%20are%20gaining%20new%20customers%20and%20increasing%20revenue%20as%20a%20result%20of%20adopting%20customer%20%23analytics" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2Fsites%2Flouiscolumbus%2F2018%2F07%2F08%2Fhow-to-improve-customer-experiences-with-real-time-analytics%2F&amp;text=44%25%20of%20enterprises%20are%20gaining%20new%20customers%20and%20increasing%20revenue%20as%20a%20result%20of%20adopting%20customer%20%23analytics" rel="nofollow">44% of enterprises are gaining new customers and increasing revenue as a result of adopting and integrating customer analytics into their operations.<span data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2Fsites%2Flouiscolumbus%2F2018%2F07%2F08%2Fhow-to-improve-customer-experiences-with-real-time-analytics%2F&amp;text=44%25%20of%20enterprises%20are%20gaining%20new%20customers%20and%20increasing%20revenue%20as%20a%20result%20of%20adopting%20customer%20%23analytics"></span></a></span></li> <li>39% of enterprise execs consider IoT an important technology today for improving customer experiences increasing to 55% in two years, making it one of the fastest growing systems for customer analytics.</li> </ul> <p>These and many other fascinating insights are from a new study conducted by <a href="https://hbr.org/hbr-analytic-services" target="_blank" rel="nofollow" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://hbr.org/hbr-analytic-services">Harvard Business Review Analytic Services</a> in conjunction with <a href="http://www.sas.com/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:http://www.sas.com/">SAS</a>, <a href="https://www.intel.com/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.intel.com/">Intel</a> and <a href="https://www.accenture.com/appliedintelligence" target="_blank" rel="nofollow" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.accenture.com/appliedintelligence">Accenture Applied Intelligence</a>. The study is a quick, insightful read of 16 pages that combines survey findings and enterprises’ marketing results. <a href="https://hbr.org/sponsored/2018/06/real-time-analytics" target="_blank" rel="nofollow" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://hbr.org/sponsored/2018/06/real-time-analytics">Real-Time Analytics: The Key To Unlocking Customer Insights &amp; Driving The Customer Experience</a> finds that customer analytics are essential for improving customer experiences across all marketing, selling and service channels an enterprise relies on. The methodology is based on interviews with more than 560 business leaders drawn from the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council and the Harvard Business Review audience of readers in February and March 2018. “The expectation of consumers today is that everything exists in the world of the now and that their interactions will be personalized,” says Jeff Jacobs, a partner in the category growth strategy and marketing procurement groups at management consulting firm <a href="https://www.mckinsey.com/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.mckinsey.com/">McKinsey &amp; Company</a>. The study finds that banking, retail, and telecommunications have the greatest upside growth potential from adopting customer analytics. For additional details on the methodology, please see page 12 of the study which is <a href="https://www.sas.com/en_us/whitepapers/real-time-analytics-109676.html" target="_blank" rel="nofollow" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.sas.com/en_us/whitepapers/real-time-analytics-109676.html">available for download here</a> (PDF, 16 pp., opt-in, free).</p> <p>The following are the ways enterprises are using real-time customer analytics to improve revenue:</p> <ul> <li><strong>60% of enterprise business leaders say customer analytics is extremely important today, jumping to 79% by 2020 with a key driver being personalization at scale.</strong> Enterprises successfully adopting customer analytics today are concentrating on the goal of providing <em>personalization at scale</em> by continually fine-tuning every aspect of the marketing mix for every customer audience or persona in real-time. Highest achieving enterprises have developed machine learning algorithms that learn when and how to offer upsell and product recommendations, adjust pricing based on demand and competitive pricing strategies.</li> </ul>

Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Real-Time Analytics: The Key To Unlocking Customer Insights & Driving The Customer Experience

</div> </div> <p> </p> <ul> <li><strong>Scaling real-time customer analytics cross-functionally (69%) is the leading growth driver with enterprises creating real-time marketing technologies stacks to scale.</strong> Fulfilling the vision of a customer-centric enterprise is what initially motives large-scale businesses to invest in real-time customer analytics. Contributing business drivers also include designing and strengthening contextual engagements across customer journeys (62%), improve the accuracy of demand planning and product/services availability (50%) and better address and respond to competitive and regulatory market pressures (39%).</li> </ul>

Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Real-Time Analytics: The Key To Unlocking Customer Insights & Driving The Customer Experience

</div> </div> <ul> <li><strong>Despite the proven value of using real-time customer analytics to produce more revenue only 16% considered their brands very effective at delivering real-time interactions across various channels.</strong> Further, 30% indicated they were not effective at all. There’s a major gap between what real-time customer analytics business cases are showing as potential contributions versus what some enterprises are accomplishing. With the majority of the business leaders (60%) saying that delivering real-time customer interactions is extremely important today and 79% by 2020, it’s time for greater focus and effort on how to enable customer analytics’ contributions to happen.</li> </ul>

Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Real-Time Analytics: The Key To Unlocking Customer Insights & Driving The Customer Experience

</div> </div>

<ul> <li><strong>Enterprises’ definition of successful real-time customer analytics use cases are prioritizing the ability to translate data into actionable insight at the optimal time (83%), yet just 22% are having success with this strategy today. </strong>This 61% gap is the widest between enterprise leader’s expectations and experience, signaling the challenges of creating and using a real-time marketing technology stack. The second greatest gap is in the area of data accessibility (80%) or getting the right data to the right people at the right time. Lack of integration options to legacy systems is one of the primary factors slowing down data accessibility and the ability to access and use all available data in a seamless fashion (73%). The biggest gaps in real-time customer analytics capabilities are in the areas of accessing customer data, performing analytics on those data, and taking action based on the resulting insights. The following graphic illustrates the greatest differences between expectations and experiences on the part of enterprise business leaders using real-time customer analytics.</li> </ul>

Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Real-Time Analytics: The Key To Unlocking Customer Insights & Driving The Customer Experience

</div> </div> <ul> <li><strong>Clear strategies and goals (42%) for attaining personalization at scale and being able to produce actionable data &amp; visualizations (39%) are the two most important success factors enterprises concentrate on today.</strong> The more support for these goals from the CEO, CMO, and CIO, the greater the success in overcoming the challenges of legacy systems, data &amp; organizational silos, and multichannel complexity.</li> </ul>

Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Real-Time Analytics: The Key To Unlocking Customer Insights & Driving The Customer Experience

</div> </div> <ul> <li><strong>Improving customer experiences (85%) to improve customer retention and loyalty (58%) is where real-time customer analytics are delivering the greatest business value today.</strong> Enterprises are finding that the effort to create a real-time marketing technology stack pays off by delivering in-depth customer insight and intelligence. The study provides examples of how <a href="https://www.hrblock.com/" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.hrblock.com/" rel="nofollow">H&amp;R Block</a>, a leader in tax consulting and preparation services, uses real-time customer analytics to ensure every customer touchpoint is a successful one. The company implemented a new CRM system four years ago and today has decision engine and machine learning capabilities that provide insights into how they can course-correct strategies for each step of a customer’s journey with them.</li> </ul>

Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Real-Time Analytics: The Key To Unlocking Customer Insights & Driving The Customer Experience

</div> </div> <p><strong>Roadmap: How To Improve Customer Experiences With Real-Time Analytics</strong></p> <p>Based on the collaborative efforts of the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services. SAS, Intel, and Accenture Applied Intelligence have produced a roadmap for where any company can begin to improve customer experiences with real-time analytics. Many of these also apply to any enterprise software project. Their importance is underscored by the need to define a cohesive, integrated and goal-driven real-time marketing technology stack that can deliver personalization at scale across a global enterprise:</p> <ol> <li><strong>Finding a C-Level champion increases the probability of success by 70% or more.</strong> This applies to every enterprise software project, and it’s been my experience a C-level executive can move organizational boulders out of the way to get work done faster than any series of meetings could ever hope to. They create new roads of opportunity to improve customer centricity using their influence and insight. This is a must-have for any customer analytics program to succeed.</li> <li><strong>Know your use cases going in and have an urgency to get them done.</strong> Have a roadmap that is defined from the customer touchpoints backward as H&amp;R Block, and Telef&oacute;nica Chile did. Overcome the analysis paralysis that slows down roadmaps from becoming a reality in larger enterprises by staying focused on customer outcomes and capturing retention, loyalty and revenue outcomes as fast as you can in an initial pilot.</li> <li><strong>Rewiring data to support only the customer vision and journey is the best place to start, which is where a C-level executive can move mountains fast for results. </strong>The study references the impressive results Telef&oacute;nica Chile is attaining by showing how they stayed true to their original vision of enriching every customer touchpoint with valuable data. Those enterprises who are truly strong at being customer-centric have systems that reflect the reality of their customers today and their preferences tomorrow and are using analytics to chart a course of retention and revenue growth.</li> <li><strong>Test and test again for usability and resolve to be the best analytics app in your enterprise, ever.</strong> Often the most impassioned evangelists for analytics and customer-driven change are C-level execs and VPs who have been asking for customer analytics for years, only to find incomplete data from legacy systems designed for business models long gone is all that’s available. Excel at usability and many problems including getting more sales, marketing, and services teams to use the analytics insights disappear.</li> <li><strong>Always focus on personalization at scale starting from customer touchpoints back.</strong> This is the secret to H&amp;R Block’s exceptional success with customer analytics as is how Telef&oacute;nica Chile is successfully using customer analytics today.</li> <li><strong>Instead of forever chasing the mirage of technological leadership more enterprises need to come to the knowledge oasis of Voice of the Customer and Voice of the Product.</strong> It is surprising how large-scale enterprises chase the mirage of technological leadership when building software is not in their DNA, yet banking, retailing and telecommunications companies continue down this path. Innovating around the customer using data from products thanks to sensor &amp; IoT technologies and usage stats from cloud-based apps (Voice of the Product) and Voice of the Customer programs are how market leaders course-correct roadmaps and continue growing retention, loyalty, and revenues relying on analytics to deliver new, valuable insights.</li> </ol> <p><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p>” readability=”39.5873850197″>

These and many other fascinating insights are from a new study conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services in conjunction with SAS, Intel and Accenture Applied Intelligence. The study is a quick, insightful read of 16 pages that combines survey findings and enterprises’ marketing results. Real-Time Analytics: The Key To Unlocking Customer Insights & Driving The Customer Experience finds that customer analytics are essential for improving customer experiences across all marketing, selling and service channels an enterprise relies on. The methodology is based on interviews with more than 560 business leaders drawn from the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council and the Harvard Business Review audience of readers in February and March 2018. “The expectation of consumers today is that everything exists in the world of the now and that their interactions will be personalized,” says Jeff Jacobs, a partner in the category growth strategy and marketing procurement groups at management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. The study finds that banking, retail, and telecommunications have the greatest upside growth potential from adopting customer analytics. For additional details on the methodology, please see page 12 of the study which is available for download here (PDF, 16 pp., opt-in, free).

The following are the ways enterprises are using real-time customer analytics to improve revenue:

  • 60% of enterprise business leaders say customer analytics is extremely important today, jumping to 79% by 2020 with a key driver being personalization at scale. Enterprises successfully adopting customer analytics today are concentrating on the goal of providing personalization at scale by continually fine-tuning every aspect of the marketing mix for every customer audience or persona in real-time. Highest achieving enterprises have developed machine learning algorithms that learn when and how to offer upsell and product recommendations, adjust pricing based on demand and competitive pricing strategies.

Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Real-Time Analytics: The Key To Unlocking Customer Insights & Driving The Customer Experience

  • Scaling real-time customer analytics cross-functionally (69%) is the leading growth driver with enterprises creating real-time marketing technologies stacks to scale. Fulfilling the vision of a customer-centric enterprise is what initially motives large-scale businesses to invest in real-time customer analytics. Contributing business drivers also include designing and strengthening contextual engagements across customer journeys (62%), improve the accuracy of demand planning and product/services availability (50%) and better address and respond to competitive and regulatory market pressures (39%).

Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Real-Time Analytics: The Key To Unlocking Customer Insights & Driving The Customer Experience

  • Despite the proven value of using real-time customer analytics to produce more revenue only 16% considered their brands very effective at delivering real-time interactions across various channels. Further, 30% indicated they were not effective at all. There’s a major gap between what real-time customer analytics business cases are showing as potential contributions versus what some enterprises are accomplishing. With the majority of the business leaders (60%) saying that delivering real-time customer interactions is extremely important today and 79% by 2020, it’s time for greater focus and effort on how to enable customer analytics’ contributions to happen.

Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Real-Time Analytics: The Key To Unlocking Customer Insights & Driving The Customer Experience

  • Enterprises’ definition of successful real-time customer analytics use cases are prioritizing the ability to translate data into actionable insight at the optimal time (83%), yet just 22% are having success with this strategy today. This 61% gap is the widest between enterprise leader’s expectations and experience, signaling the challenges of creating and using a real-time marketing technology stack. The second greatest gap is in the area of data accessibility (80%) or getting the right data to the right people at the right time. Lack of integration options to legacy systems is one of the primary factors slowing down data accessibility and the ability to access and use all available data in a seamless fashion (73%). The biggest gaps in real-time customer analytics capabilities are in the areas of accessing customer data, performing analytics on those data, and taking action based on the resulting insights. The following graphic illustrates the greatest differences between expectations and experiences on the part of enterprise business leaders using real-time customer analytics.

Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Real-Time Analytics: The Key To Unlocking Customer Insights & Driving The Customer Experience

  • Clear strategies and goals (42%) for attaining personalization at scale and being able to produce actionable data & visualizations (39%) are the two most important success factors enterprises concentrate on today. The more support for these goals from the CEO, CMO, and CIO, the greater the success in overcoming the challenges of legacy systems, data & organizational silos, and multichannel complexity.

Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Real-Time Analytics: The Key To Unlocking Customer Insights & Driving The Customer Experience

  • Improving customer experiences (85%) to improve customer retention and loyalty (58%) is where real-time customer analytics are delivering the greatest business value today. Enterprises are finding that the effort to create a real-time marketing technology stack pays off by delivering in-depth customer insight and intelligence. The study provides examples of how H&R Block, a leader in tax consulting and preparation services, uses real-time customer analytics to ensure every customer touchpoint is a successful one. The company implemented a new CRM system four years ago and today has decision engine and machine learning capabilities that provide insights into how they can course-correct strategies for each step of a customer’s journey with them.

Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Real-Time Analytics: The Key To Unlocking Customer Insights & Driving The Customer Experience

Roadmap: How To Improve Customer Experiences With Real-Time Analytics

Based on the collaborative efforts of the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services. SAS, Intel, and Accenture Applied Intelligence have produced a roadmap for where any company can begin to improve customer experiences with real-time analytics. Many of these also apply to any enterprise software project. Their importance is underscored by the need to define a cohesive, integrated and goal-driven real-time marketing technology stack that can deliver personalization at scale across a global enterprise:

  1. Finding a C-Level champion increases the probability of success by 70% or more. This applies to every enterprise software project, and it’s been my experience a C-level executive can move organizational boulders out of the way to get work done faster than any series of meetings could ever hope to. They create new roads of opportunity to improve customer centricity using their influence and insight. This is a must-have for any customer analytics program to succeed.
  2. Know your use cases going in and have an urgency to get them done. Have a roadmap that is defined from the customer touchpoints backward as H&R Block, and Telefónica Chile did. Overcome the analysis paralysis that slows down roadmaps from becoming a reality in larger enterprises by staying focused on customer outcomes and capturing retention, loyalty and revenue outcomes as fast as you can in an initial pilot.
  3. Rewiring data to support only the customer vision and journey is the best place to start, which is where a C-level executive can move mountains fast for results. The study references the impressive results Telefónica Chile is attaining by showing how they stayed true to their original vision of enriching every customer touchpoint with valuable data. Those enterprises who are truly strong at being customer-centric have systems that reflect the reality of their customers today and their preferences tomorrow and are using analytics to chart a course of retention and revenue growth.
  4. Test and test again for usability and resolve to be the best analytics app in your enterprise, ever. Often the most impassioned evangelists for analytics and customer-driven change are C-level execs and VPs who have been asking for customer analytics for years, only to find incomplete data from legacy systems designed for business models long gone is all that’s available. Excel at usability and many problems including getting more sales, marketing, and services teams to use the analytics insights disappear.
  5. Always focus on personalization at scale starting from customer touchpoints back. This is the secret to H&R Block’s exceptional success with customer analytics as is how Telefónica Chile is successfully using customer analytics today.
  6. Instead of forever chasing the mirage of technological leadership more enterprises need to come to the knowledge oasis of Voice of the Customer and Voice of the Product. It is surprising how large-scale enterprises chase the mirage of technological leadership when building software is not in their DNA, yet banking, retailing and telecommunications companies continue down this path. Innovating around the customer using data from products thanks to sensor & IoT technologies and usage stats from cloud-based apps (Voice of the Product) and Voice of the Customer programs are how market leaders course-correct roadmaps and continue growing retention, loyalty, and revenues relying on analytics to deliver new, valuable insights.

 

Louis Columbus is an enterprise software strategist with expertise in analytics, cloud computing, CPQ, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), e-commerce and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).

Google, Quantum Media Storage And Symply Acquisition

, Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Image from Google blog

VFX simulation and virtual workstation in GCP using Google Cloud Filestore

</div> </div> <p>Quantum announced that Visual Data Media Services (one of the largest media processing, distribution and localization service companies in the world) choose Quantum StorNext-Powered Xcellis Scale-out NAS to manage its 4K transcoding workflows, high bit-depth film scanning and to support the heavy data rate requirements for high dynamic range (HDR) video mastering. The Quantum solution supports multiple simultaneous 4K and UHD scanning and mastering operations. The announcement says that the advanced data management features in StorNext have enabled the Visual Data team to increase their projection capacity by six times, without an increase in staff.</p>

<p>The VDMS team particularly wanted a storage system to help remastering film content. The release says that remastering older programs in HD and 4K posed a challenge: often with no cut negative to scan, the only way to get old features and TV shows to HD or 4K is to perform a match-back—scanning the original dailies, manually eye matching the images used in the final cut and then conforming the original in the new format. The team wanted a solution that could double capacity and deliver the performance to support multiple 4K and UHD operations at the same time.</p>

Quantum Product Photo

Quantum Xcellis Scale-out NAS

</div> </div>” readability=”49″>

This blog will look at some recent announcements in digital storage related services for the media and entertainment industry from Google and Quantum, as well as the recent acquisition of storage start-up Symply by Global Distribution. Media and entertainment storage is one of the areas I particularly cover.

Google has opened up a Los Angeles cloud region. This region joins four other Google Cloud Platform regions in Oregon, Iowa, South Carolina and Northern Virginia. The LA region targets media and entertainment customers requiring low latency availability to scalable cloud-based computing resources. Media organizations use cloud-based resources to respond to incoming projects with short time lines that exceed their in-house capabilities (often called cloud bursting).

As stated by Tom Taylor, Head of Engineering at The Mill, a global visual effects studio working on short form content like commercials and music videos in addition to larger projects, “A lot of our short form projects pop up unexpectedly, so having extra capacity in region can help us quickly capitalize on these opportunities.” Visual effects rendering using cloud-resources is a particularly popular use of cloud-based services.

Google also announced Google Cloud Filestore, a managed Network Attached Storage (NAS) service. This service works with applications that require a file system interface and a shared file system for data. For projects like video rendering running across many machines with a shared file system, the Google Cloud Filestore allows easier collaboration for these production projects. A VFX simulation and virtual workstation in GCP using Cloud Filestore for sharing is shown below.

Image from Google blog

VFX simulation and virtual workstation in GCP using Google Cloud Filestore

Quantum announced that Visual Data Media Services (one of the largest media processing, distribution and localization service companies in the world) choose Quantum StorNext-Powered Xcellis Scale-out NAS to manage its 4K transcoding workflows, high bit-depth film scanning and to support the heavy data rate requirements for high dynamic range (HDR) video mastering. The Quantum solution supports multiple simultaneous 4K and UHD scanning and mastering operations. The announcement says that the advanced data management features in StorNext have enabled the Visual Data team to increase their projection capacity by six times, without an increase in staff.

The VDMS team particularly wanted a storage system to help remastering film content. The release says that remastering older programs in HD and 4K posed a challenge: often with no cut negative to scan, the only way to get old features and TV shows to HD or 4K is to perform a match-back—scanning the original dailies, manually eye matching the images used in the final cut and then conforming the original in the new format. The team wanted a solution that could double capacity and deliver the performance to support multiple 4K and UHD operations at the same time.

Quantum Product Photo

Quantum Xcellis Scale-out NAS

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Fast-Growth Royalty LP Dropping K-1s, Yields 7.6%, Big Q3 Deal Will Up DCF 15%

Have you ever owned a royalty LP? Usually, there’s a fixed amount of assets for which the LP gets paid royalty interests in a variety of ways, and a target termination date, usually with no growth. The reserves are just drawn down, and may or may not be replaced.

However, Kimbell Royalty Partners LP (KRP) is a royalty LP with a difference – it’s actively managed, meaning that it can grow its interests through acquisitions and dropdowns. This is precisely what KRP’s management has done. Since its February 2017 IPO, production has grown 19%, and revenue has grown 44%:

(Source: KRP site)

This, in turn, has led to 40% distribution growth since the IPO:

(Source: KRP site)

Profile:

KRP is based in Ft. Worth, TX, and is managed by its general partner, Kimbell Royalty GP, LLC, and owns mineral and royalty interests in approximately 5.7 million gross acres in 20 states and in nearly every major onshore basin in the continental United States, including ownership in more than 50,000 gross producing wells with more than 30,000 wells in the Permian Basin.

(Source: KRP site)

KRP has ~35% of its gross acres and 60% of operators’ rigs in the very active Permian Basin, but it also has a presence in several other major production areas, which gives it some asset diversification:

(Source: KRP site)

Management succinctly pointed the advantage of KRP’s royalty setup on the Q1 ’18 earnings call:

“We are (a) pure mineral and royalty company with no working interest unlike some of our peers, and with no operating costs or capex requirements. We are currently generating 9.6% cash on cash yield with a tax yield of over 90%.”

The infographic below details the cycles of KRP’s mineral leases. Unlike a working interest, in which an LP shares production costs, KRP’s receives royalties, typically 20% – 25%, based upon revenues from mineral leases, with the operators assuming all production costs.

(Source: KRP site)

Here’s a look at KRP’s proved developed reserves and proved undeveloped reserves, as of 12/31/17:

(Source: KRP 2017 10K)

Proved developed reserves comprised 74% of KRP’s total reserves, with production evenly split between oil and NGL liquids vs. natural gas. However, 73% of KRP’s revenues came from oil and NGL liquids, and 27% came from natural gas:

(Source: KRP site)

KRP’s acreage has an overall average breakeven price of $40.00 due to its concentration in the Permian, SCOOP, and STACK production areas. Although its royalties are based upon revenues, these lower cost areas are attractive to operators, which aids KRP’s leasing program.

(Source: KRP site)

Distributions:

Like most of the LPs we cover in our articles, KRP pays in a Feb-May-Aug-Nov. cycle.

We’ve added KRP to our High Dividend Stocks By Sector Tables (in the Basic Materials section).

In general, royalty LPs pay out all of their cash available for distribution – CAFD – to unitholders, so their distribution coverage is usually ~1X, which is what it has been for KRP over the past three quarters. Due to KRPs not having any capex costs, its CAFD is very close to its EBITDA amounts:

Taxes:

Although KRP currently issues a K-1, management intends to convert the company to a C-Corp structure soon. Unitholders would receive a 1099 instead of a K-1, after this conversion.

They mentioned this on the Q1 ’18 earnings call, referring to one of their competitors, Viper Energy Partners, (VNOM):

“we definitely saw the 30%-plus uptick in Viper’s price when they converted to a C-Corp. And I think that the market seems to be valuing the liquidity that generates. It opens an investor base of roughly 60 times greater than what the existing MLP universe is.”

They also stated on the press release for the Q3 deal: “Increased liquidity in the stock attracting new people that would rather have 1099 than a K-1, we think is very attractive for us.”

A Big Deal Coming In Q3 ’18:

“On 5/29/18, KRP announced that it had agreed to acquire the mineral and royalty interests held by Houston-based Haymaker Minerals & Royalties, LLC and Haymaker Resources, LP (collectively, “Haymaker”) in a transaction valued at approximately $404M.”

“The purchase price for the acquisition is comprised of $210M in cash and 10 million common units of Kimbell, valued at approximately $194M. KRP will raise the cash portion of the purchase price through a private placement of 7.00% Series A Cumulative Convertible Preferred Units to an affiliate of Apollo Global Management, LLC, for gross proceeds of $110M, and through borrowings of $114M under a new $200 million revolving credit facility. The Boards of Kimbell and Haymaker have unanimously approved the acquisition, which is expected to close in the third quarter of 2018, subject to customary closing conditions.”

Bob Ravnaas, Chairman and CEO of Kimbell, said,

“This is a transformative acquisition for our company which we expect to deliver significant value and benefits through both increased scale and significant operating leverage that will drive improved profitability.”

“We expect the acquisition to be immediately accretive to distributable cash flow per unit.” (Source: KRP site)

Although this deal will increase KRP’s unit count by 10M units, to ~26.34M units, the acquisition should increase KRP’s production by 148%, which translates into a production rise of 56% per million common units. Its pro forma Net Royalty Acres will grow by 60% to more than 114,000 net acres.

Management expects this acquisition to increase KRP’s DCF/unit by 15% initially, (accounting for one-time integration costs), and then by 20% on a run-rate basis.

(Source: KRP site)

Based upon the Q1 ’18 DCF figure of $0.42/unit, this 20% rise implies DCF of $0.50/unit, which would translate into a ~9% yield:

Risks:

Asset Impairment Charge – KRP took a non-cash $54M impairment charge to its properties in Q1 ’18. By law, they must periodically assess the carrying value of their properties. The net capitalized costs of proved properties aren’t allowed to exceed their future net revenues discounted by 10%. This risk increases during commodity pricing downturns.

(Source: Q1 ’18 10Q)

This non-cash charge resulted in a negative net income of -$52.82M in Q1 ’18. Excluding the $54M charge, adjusted net income was $2.28M:

(Source: Q1 ’18 10Q)

Commodity Prices – KRP has exposure to commodity prices, for which it has a partial hedging program in place. In Q1 ’18, management extended KRP’s hedging program to include hedges through Q1 2020. They hedged ~30% to 40% of oil and natural gas revenue streams using fixed price swaps.

“At March 31, 2018, fixed price swaps for the remainder of 2018 consisted of 32,450 Bbl of oil (fixed rate at $56.00 per Bbl) and 265,650 MMBtu of natural gas (fixed rate at $2.71 per MMBtu).

Fixed price swaps for 2019 consisted of 43,070 Bbl of oil (fixed rate at $53.07 per Bbl) and 352,590 MMBtu of natural gas (fixed rate at $2.76 per MMBtu).

On March 29, 2018, we entered into additional fixed price swaps for the first quarter of 2020 consisting of 11,011 Bbl of oil (fixed rate at $56.03 per Bbl) and 96,915 MMBtu of natural gas (fixed rate at $2.94 per MMBtu).” (Source: KRP site)

Additional Positive Factors:

Premium Permian Land Values – KRP owns a lot of increasingly valuable land in the Permian Basin, which it can also monetize, via asset sales. In Q2 ’18, management sold a minor asset, acreage in the Delaware Basin, which was less than 0.06% of KRP’s total net royalty acres, for ~$9M. These 41 net royalty acres were only producing ~24 Boe/day, which is less than 0.7% of the company’s total production.

“Permian Royalty assets are very expensive right now. We are (were) fortunate to acquire a lot of Permian assets before the latest drilling boom at extremely attractive prices. So this sale will allow us to monetize a small portion of our previous investment and maximize value for our unitholders. We are very well positioned in the Permian with about 35% of our total Royalty portfolio situated there, and we may consider additional sales when we have the opportunity to deliver compelling value to our unitholders.” (Source: Q1 ’18 earnings call)

Future Dropdowns – KRP’s sponsors also have additional assets which they can drop down to KRP, with production and reserve characteristics similar to Kimbell’s existing portfolio. In fact, these assets are larger than KRP’s current holdings, so there’s plenty of room for growth via dropdowns.

Performance:

Early unitholders have done well with KRP – it’s up 21.82% since its February IPO and has risen 35.38% in 2018. It has risen from ~$17.50 to ~$22.00 after its well-received Q1 ’18 earnings report in early May.

Analysts’ Price Targets:

Even with that big rise, KRP is still 8.3% below analysts’ lowest price target of $24.00 and is 14.73% below the $25.80 average price target.

Valuations:

We took a look at KRP’s valuations vs. two peers, BSM Minerals LP (BSM) and Viper Energy Partners LP (VNOM). Currently, KRP is a much smaller entity, with a market cap of just $380M, vs. $3.7B and $3.6B for BSM and VNOM, respectively. KRP tops the list for yield, at 7.64%, and has the cheapest price/book by far, at 1.82. Its price/CAFD per unit is in the middle of the group, as is its price/sales.

Leverage:

KRP is the most conservatively leveraged of these three LPs, with a net debt/EBITDA of 1X, and a tiny debt/equity of just .15. Its current ratio is strong, at 6.07X, but VNOM wins the prize there, at 21.60. Its net debt/EBITDA ratio improved from 1.2X, as of 12/31/17, to 1X in Q1, due to increased production and higher commodity prices.

Although the Haymarket deal has a pro-forma debt/EBITDA leverage of 2X, management is committed to keeping KRP’s debt/EBITDA leverage below 1.5X on a long-term basis.

Debt and Liquidity:

KRP has a credit facility borrowing base of $100M, and commitments of $50M, leaving availability of $50M. KRP had borrowings of $30.8M as of 3/31/18, with current liquidity of $69 million if they exercise the accordion feature that doubles their revolver to $100 million.

However, in connection with the Haymarket acquisition, they secured a new, larger revolving credit facility of $200M, which activates upon the closing of that deal in Q3 ’18. They’ll draw $114M to close the deal, leaving $64 million in undrawn capacity.

(Source: KRP site)

Options:

KRP doesn’t have options available yet, but you can track more than 30 option-selling trades daily in our Covered Calls Table and our Cash Secured Puts Table.

Summary:

We rate KRP a long-term buy, based upon its attractive yield, and its expected distribution and production growth.

All tables furnished by DoubleDividendStocks.com, unless otherwise noted.

Disclaimer: This article was written for informational purposes only and is not intended as personal investment advice. Please practice due diligence before investing in any investment vehicle mentioned in this article.

Disclosure: I am/we are long KRP.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

The Ultra-Rare Red Knight 'Fortnite' Skin Has Her Back Bling Now

Most read

, Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Credit: Epic Games

The Red Knight

</div> </div> <p>When the super-rare Red Knight skin returned to&nbsp;<em>Fortnite&nbsp;</em>yesterday, players noticed something was missing from the Outfit: The red shield Back Bling.</p> <p>While the Red Knight now has a matching pick-axe, the red shield that’s supposed to adorn her back was nowhere to be seen. At first, players weren’t sure if this was an intentional change or an error on Epic’s part.</p>

Credit: Epic Games

The Crimson Axe

</div> </div> <p>Well, Epic answered that question on Twitter and promised to get players who bought the&nbsp;Outfit without Back Bling their shield in the near future.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">We’re aware that the Red Knight Outfit doesn’t have back bling. We’ll be granting her back bling to anyone who has purchased this Outfit in the near future. Sorry for the inconvenience!</p> <p>— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) <a href="https://twitter.com/FortniteGame/status/1015028716936859648?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/FortniteGame/status/1015028716936859648?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw" rel="nofollow">July 6, 2018</a></p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p>That’s a relief. The Red Knight Outfit is one of the game’s&nbsp;rarest pieces of loot,&nbsp;costing 2,000 V-Bucks (or about $20) to purchase. It hasn’t been seen in the Item Shop since February. And she just looks way cooler with that red shield on.</p>

Credit: Epic Games

The Red Knight with her Red Shield

</div> </div>” readability=”27.6970243463″>

Credit: Epic Games

The Red Knight

When the super-rare Red Knight skin returned to Fortnite yesterday, players noticed something was missing from the Outfit: The red shield Back Bling.

While the Red Knight now has a matching pick-axe, the red shield that’s supposed to adorn her back was nowhere to be seen. At first, players weren’t sure if this was an intentional change or an error on Epic’s part.

Credit: Epic Games

The Crimson Axe

Well, Epic answered that question on Twitter and promised to get players who bought the Outfit without Back Bling their shield in the near future.

That’s a relief. The Red Knight Outfit is one of the game’s rarest pieces of loot, costing 2,000 V-Bucks (or about $20) to purchase. It hasn’t been seen in the Item Shop since February. And she just looks way cooler with that red shield on.

Credit: Epic Games

The Red Knight with her Red Shield

Twitch Publicizes Prime Day In PUBG With Deadmau5, Shroud And Others

, I write about PC games, VR games and Blizzard esports. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Twitch

Deadmau5 will play — in all senses of the word — in a PUBG event on Prime Day.

</div> </div> <p>Twitch Prime will celebrate Amazon Prime Day with a special PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Squad Showdown featuring popular DJ deadmau5 and streamers including Shroud, the <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2018/02/06/dr-disrespects-record-breaking-stream-shows-that-twitch-loves-a-comeback-story/" target="_self">controversial Dr DisRespect</a>, Anne Munition and more.</p> <p>Prime Day may be <a href="https://www.amazon.com/b/?node=17870981011" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.amazon.com/b/?node=17870981011" rel="nofollow">a made-up corporate holiday</a>, but the entertainment&nbsp;looks pretty good. While you’re there, grab your TwitchCon 2018 tickets — they <a href="http://twitchcon.com/tickets/" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:http://twitchcon.com/tickets/" rel="nofollow">just went on sale</a>.</p> <p>Deadmau5 will perform his new single, &quot;<span>Monophobia Ft Rob Swire,&quot; along with music from&nbsp;his&nbsp;Mau5ville Vol. 1 CD and other new music.</span></p> <p>The festivities start at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time on July 13 <a href="https://www.twitch.tv/playBATTLEGROUNDS" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.twitch.tv/playBATTLEGROUNDS" rel="nofollow">on Twitch</a>. Viewers get in-game PUBG goodies, and Twitch promises killer squad action between celebrities and streamers. The full streamer lineup:&nbsp;Shroud, Dr DisRespect, Anne Munition, Chocotaco, chad, anthony_kongphan, Ashek, Lil_Lexi, DizzyKitten, Tsm_viss, Luzu, Tsm_smak, GoldGlove, GiantWaffle, N0thing, and Trick2g.</p> <p> </p> <p>Details are posted <a href="https://blog.twitch.tv/unboxing-prime-day-with-the-twitch-prime-event-featuring-pubg-deadmau5-5bd6ba9568b4" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://blog.twitch.tv/unboxing-prime-day-with-the-twitch-prime-event-featuring-pubg-deadmau5-5bd6ba9568b4" rel="nofollow">on the Twitch blog</a>.&nbsp;The company is offering daily free games&nbsp;for Twitch Prime members, as well as Twitch and deadmau5 merchandise.</p>” readability=”42.0697471665″>

Twitch

Deadmau5 will play — in all senses of the word — in a PUBG event on Prime Day.

Twitch Prime will celebrate Amazon Prime Day with a special PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Squad Showdown featuring popular DJ deadmau5 and streamers including Shroud, the controversial Dr DisRespect, Anne Munition and more.

Prime Day may be a made-up corporate holiday, but the entertainment looks pretty good. While you’re there, grab your TwitchCon 2018 tickets — they just went on sale.

Deadmau5 will perform his new single, “Monophobia Ft Rob Swire,” along with music from his Mau5ville Vol. 1 CD and other new music.

The festivities start at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time on July 13 on Twitch. Viewers get in-game PUBG goodies, and Twitch promises killer squad action between celebrities and streamers. The full streamer lineup: Shroud, Dr DisRespect, Anne Munition, Chocotaco, chad, anthony_kongphan, Ashek, Lil_Lexi, DizzyKitten, Tsm_viss, Luzu, Tsm_smak, GoldGlove, GiantWaffle, N0thing, and Trick2g.

Details are posted on the Twitch blog. The company is offering daily free games for Twitch Prime members, as well as Twitch and deadmau5 merchandise.

I’ve covered gaming for more than two decades, and I cover PC games, VR games and Blizzard eSports for Forbes. Sign up for email alerts when my stories run. Follow me @gbitses.

Venture firm Atomico signs up ex-Uber and Google managers

LONDON (Reuters) – Atomico, which runs Europe’s largest independent venture fund, has hired former managers from Google and Uber to help drive international expansion for its portfolio of more than 50 start-ups and growth stage firms, it said on Thursday.

Jambu Palaniappan and Steve Crossan who have both just been employed by Atomico, which runs Europe’s largest independent venture fund, are seen here at Atomico’s offices in London, Britain, July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Auchard

Jambu Palaniappan, an early Uber [UBER.UL] executive who spearheaded the company’s expansion into Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) and India, will be an adviser on international expansion for Atomico companies.

Atomico also named former Google manager Steve Crossan as an entrepreneur in residence and adviser on artificial intelligence, “deep tech” engineering (AI) and industrial internet strategies.

London-based Atomico, co-founded by Skype pioneer Niklas Zennström, has been an outspoken advocate of the idea that Europe can develop world-class companies in emerging technology categories to compete with U.S. and Chinese tech giants.

It argues that Europe is now funding ambitious entrepreneurs and technical talent, but needs more executives with operating experience to build bigger, more globally competitive firms.

“There’s a huge opportunity for companies to internationalize from their beginning,” Palaniappan said of the impact of cheap, cloud-based software, standard mobile software platforms and the rise of cross-border payment mechanisms.

“There is now so much of an infrastructure out there for new businesses to draw on,” Crossan added.

Palaniappan, who left Uber as EMEA regional manager for its food delivery business, Uber EATS, late in 2017, will focus on the venture fund’s marketplace start-ups, which include investments such as second-hand goods exchange Fat Llama.

As Google’s first product manager recruited in Europe, Crossan launched Google Maps in the region, ran its Cultural Institute and led Google’s integration of AI firm DeepMind into Google products and datacentres.

Crossan led a team of Google engineers who created “speak2tweet” one weekend at the height of the Arab Spring protests in 2011. It provided a bypass to Egyptian government efforts to block social media, allowing people in Egypt and later Syria to dial an international number and leave a voice message that was converted into text and posted to Twitter.

Early last decade, Crossan also ran or founded a series of UK start-ups including Runtime Collective, which later became social media monitoring site Brandwatch.com.

Reporting by Eric Auchard; Editing by Mark Potter

Britain's £40 Million Video Game King Lives As A Medieval Knight

Credit: Kasumi Kitano.

Rebellion CEO Jason Kingsley and one of his 14 trusty warhorses.

Trumpets blare as Jason Kingsley’s trusty steed gallops across Oxfordshire’s rolling green hills.

Proficient in swordsmanship, a keen archer and an expert in all kinds of medieval combat, Kingsley definitely isn’t what you would expect from one of Britain’s most successful and decorated entrepreneurs.

By day he’s CEO of Rebellion Developments. A 25-year-old video game studio in Oxford that Kingsley and his brother built up from nothing to sales of nearly £40 million last year.

In 2012 he was awarded an OBE by the Queen for his services to the British Economy.

But step inside Kingsley’s office and you’ll quickly realize, this is no ordinary CEO.

Suits of armor deck the office walls, while spears, lances and all kinds of tortuous-looking instruments glisten around the room.

That’s because Jason Kingsley leads a double life, as a medieval British knight.

“I’ve got 14 horses, I live on a farm, I muck out, I joust, follow the chivalric code, and I don’t need to go to the gym because I’m literally trundling wheelbarrows filled with shit every day of my life,” the entrepreneur tells Forbes.

Kingsley even directs and stars in his own Modern History TV YouTube channel.

Arise, Sir Kingsley

The roots of Kingsley’s unusual pastime date back to his childhood, when his obsession with horses and history “caused Mum and Dad all sorts of problems”.

By 8 he was a keen rider and a clear shoe-in for captain of the British student riding team once he reached Oxford University.

But it was a jousting competition which brought Kingsley’s worlds of history and horses together, he knew this was the life he wanted to live.

“To have armor made to a museum quality and wear it on a horse in the heat in simulated battle, there’s nothing else like it,” he breathlessly explains.

“When I’m jousting in fantastic places like the Tower of London or Kenilworth Castle, you are practically traveling through time.”

Obviously it’s not the safest of sports, jousting injuries are on the rise, spurred by interest in shows like Game of Thrones.

Although Kingsley insists “the danger comes because people see it and aren’t properly prepared to do it,” Rebellion has a “key man insurance” policy in place to protect against its CEO’s risky hobby, should the worst happen.

Credit: Oliver Smith/Forbes.

Kingsley’s office is filled with medieval armor, shields and spears.

Back to the future

Walking around Rebellion’s headquarters, just a short walk from Oxford University, it’s clear that Kingsley’s unusual pastime still has the power to cause a stir in the office.

One developer warns that the boss’s collection of sharp, pointy objects certainly adds an extra level of caution when you’re called into his office.

Most clearly have accepted and warmed to his eccentric behavior—when Rebellion launched its first mobile game in 2013, Joust Legend, the team made “Sir Jason Kingsley” its final boss.

But Kingsley insists his present-day successes are directly linked to his medieval interests.

What I’ve always wanted is to create landscapes for people to explore, and all of our games are landscapes with games overlaid.”

Going against the status quo has also been core to Kingsley’s business life.

Rebellion has no outside investors, has never issued shares or raised any venture capital—something almost unheard of in the $100 billion global video games industry.

Kingsley is also on the warpath to turn Rebellion into more than just a video games company, he has aspirations to turn his 300 person business into a British entertainment powerhouse.

Credit: Kasumi Kitano.

Kingsley aspires to turn Rebellion into a British entertainment powerhouse.

Building Britain’s Disney

Rebellion is already about much more than just video games.

Over the years the Kingsley brothers have quietly acquired a magazine publishing business, 2000AD, which owns a number of comic book franchises including Judge Dredd, a book publishing arm, Abaddon Books, which publishes six cult book series, and several rival video game studios to bolster their portfolio.

“We now have a catalog that is arguably deeper and richer than Marvel’s, with more varied stories,” the CEO says.

Comparing Rebellion to Marvel—which was acquired by Disney for $4 billion in 2009—is a big stretch, but Rebellion has some form having licensed out its Judge Dredd character for the big screen.

1995’s Judge Dredd with Sylvester Stallone and 2012’s Dredd with Karl Urban made more than $155 million at the box office combined, and now Kingsley says Rebellion is poised to launch several joint ventures working directly with TV and movie creators.

“We have a number of projects with fairly major international film and TV partners to get our titles to the market as directly as possible,” he says.

We are talking to Netflix, we are talking to Google, Amazon and Apple, and we are writing scripts.”

Kingsley is tight-lipped about what he can announce today, but clearly this video game king is mulling the possibility of turning Rebellion into an all-singing, all-dancing British entertainment powerhouse.

Yet another string to his medieval bow.

What Is A Blockchain Operating System?

, I track enterprise software application development & data management. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Nynja

The Nynja blockchain-enabled virtual operating system has a communications layer and a secure payments layer, with a multi-currency wallet.

</div> </div> <p>Blockchain, as more and more people are finding out, is a ledger system for keeping records. More specifically, blockchain is an open (i.e. public, not held inside one company, unless it’s a private blockchain) distributed (it exists on many computers) immutable (it can not be altered, in theoretical terms, although it can be reverse-engineered and compromised to degrees) and permanent (needs no explanation) ledger system to record transactions between two parties.</p> <p>Built initially as the underpinning foundation for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, blockchain has since been applied to other use transaction-focused use cases.</p> <p><strong>What is a blockchain Operating System?</strong></p> <p>So if blockchain is blockchain and your computer, tablet and smartphone has an Operating System (OS) such as Windows, Apple OS X or iOS, Linux or Android… then what is a blockchain Operating System?</p> <p> </p> <p>Actually the question should be: what is mobile blockchain-enabled virtual Operating System? First emerging for smartphones (hence the mobile prefix), a blockchain-enabled virtual operating system is one that gives the mobile device the ability to combine communication and commerce in a single unified platform. The ‘virtual’ aspect meaning that the intelligent stuff happens back in the cloud datacenter, not on the device itself per se.</p> <p>The emergence of this newly unified technology proposition means that, in the theory at least, users can start engaging with blockchain-based services on smartphones with security and privacy already locked down.</p>

” readability=”43″>

Nynja

The Nynja blockchain-enabled virtual operating system has a communications layer and a secure payments layer, with a multi-currency wallet.

Blockchain, as more and more people are finding out, is a ledger system for keeping records. More specifically, blockchain is an open (i.e. public, not held inside one company, unless it’s a private blockchain) distributed (it exists on many computers) immutable (it can not be altered, in theoretical terms, although it can be reverse-engineered and compromised to degrees) and permanent (needs no explanation) ledger system to record transactions between two parties.

Built initially as the underpinning foundation for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, blockchain has since been applied to other use transaction-focused use cases.

What is a blockchain Operating System?

So if blockchain is blockchain and your computer, tablet and smartphone has an Operating System (OS) such as Windows, Apple OS X or iOS, Linux or Android… then what is a blockchain Operating System?

Actually the question should be: what is mobile blockchain-enabled virtual Operating System? First emerging for smartphones (hence the mobile prefix), a blockchain-enabled virtual operating system is one that gives the mobile device the ability to combine communication and commerce in a single unified platform. The ‘virtual’ aspect meaning that the intelligent stuff happens back in the cloud datacenter, not on the device itself per se.

The emergence of this newly unified technology proposition means that, in the theory at least, users can start engaging with blockchain-based services on smartphones with security and privacy already locked down.

Page 1 / 2

Facebook Is Killing Off an Anonymous Social App That Turned Out to Be a Failure

Last year, Facebook bought an anonymous social app called tbh, which was apparently popular with teenagers—a crucial demographic for Facebook, which is seeing engagement drop among its younger users.

At the time, tbh—a platform for providing positive feedback to friends—was enjoying a terrific rise in popularity, but that doesn’t seem to have lasted. On Monday, Facebook announced that it was killing off tbh, along with two other apps that it bought or launched in recent years. The reason for closing all three apps was “low usage.”

“We know some people are still using these apps and will be disappointed—and we’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their support. But we need to prioritize our work so we don’t spread ourselves too thin. And it’s only by trial and error that we’ll create great social experiences for people,” the social networking and advertising giant said in its announcement.

The other two apps were Hello, a service that was developed in-house in 2015 to help Android users combine information from Facebook with their phone contacts data, and a fitness app called Moves that Facebook (fb) bought in 2014.

The company said it would be deleting the user data from all the apps over the next three months.

Recent research has shown that teenagers are using Facebook less these days, in the U.S. at least. Back in 2014-2015, the Pew Research Center found 71% of American teens were using the service, but now that figure is down to 51%.

The researchers reckon that teens these days typically use more than one platform. The good news for Facebook is that, while its core app has lost its lustre among the young, its Instagram image-sharing service is riding high, being used by 72% of American teens.

British app-bank Monzo counts cost of growing popularity

LONDON (Reuters) – Digital bank Monzo, whose distinctive coral-colored card has become a common feature in the wallets of young, tech savvy and mainly urban Britons, could hit 1 million users within months.

But the app-only bank, which has already reached 750,000 users and is valued at $336 million by its investors, needs them to do more than just sign up or encourage friends to join in order to “Monzo” one another funds and split restaurant bills.

To succeed in taking on Britain’s big banks, Monzo needs customers to treat it as their main account, where they deposit their salary and pay their bills. At present only 1 in 5 of its users deposit their salary, with average balances of 1,400 pounds per month, its chief executive Tom Blomfield said.

And popularity comes at a cost for Monzo, whose annual losses had more than quadrupled to 33.1 million pounds ($44 million) by February – when its user base stood it had around 500,000 users, its annual report released on Monday shows.

Blomfield said Monzo, which launched in 2015, had made “real progress toward building a sustainable business” by cutting its costs from 65 pounds per account in September 2017 to 15 pounds per account this month. But net operating income, at 1.8 million pounds, fell far short of covering its overall costs,

Blomfield said the bank could hit the million user mark by September or October. To make money, it hopes to use their spending data to nudge its customers toward third party products or services and to take a commission every time it is successful.

It does this by tracking customer spending habits in order to understand, for instance, how moving to a different provider for services like energy can save them money.

But to do this, it needs its customers to pay for things like energy from their Monzo account. It had hoped that a switch from a pre-paid card – its beta product – to a fully-fledged current account by April this year, would encourage this.

However, Blomfield said 40 percent of its users were depositing at least 500 pounds per month, suggesting for those people Monzo is still a place to manage spending money rather than all of their finances.

Reporting by Emma Rumney; Editing by Alexander Smith

Big Airlines Just Filed a Legal Document to End Ridiculous Emotional Support Animals. It's Absurdly Brilliant

When it comes to emotional support animals on airplanes, truth is stranger than fiction. You’ve seen the headlines–from Southwest, Delta, and United and others:

Now the biggest U.S. airlines have banded together to try to do something about the situation. The result is a 39-page legal document that starts out earnestly, and ultimately makes clear just how crazy it’s all become.

Officially entitled, “Comments of Airlines for America and the International Air Transport Association,” the airlines filed it earlier this month with the U.S. Department of Transportation. It reads like a legal brief, but it’s more like a position paper, and it starts out dryly enough.

By the time we get to the end, however, it’s clear that emotional support animals have gotten way out of hand. The absurdity of the descriptions in this lobbying document might just be enough to finally get the government to do something.

“Barking, biting, urinating and defecating…”

Airlines for America includes most big carriers, such as Alaska, American, JetBlue, Southwest, United, and others. Its filing starts by laying out some of the raw numbers:

  • A 56 percent increase in one year, in the number passengers traveling with emotional support animals. One member airline reports an 8x increase since 2012.
  • An almost uncontrollable surge in passengers trying to travel with “wild and/or untrainable species” that they claim as emotional support animals.
  • A “surge in the number of incidents involving animals manifesting aggressive behavior (including barking, biting, nipping, growling, and fighting) and uncontrolled urinating and defecating…)”
  • Finally, “the cheap and easy availability of fraudulent credentials … via unscrupulous vendors,” that let people with untrained and unsuitable animals claim they’re medically necessary support animals.

?But wait, the unsuspecting reader might think, reading this for the first time: Aren’t there laws that cover all of this? That’s where the absurdity really kicks in.

The big, obvious problem

There are a lot of different laws that seem cover emotional support animals, and they sometimes conflict. But Problem #1, according to the big airlines, is that the DOT requires them to let a wide variety of service animals fly, but then never actually defines what a service animal is, or what training or qualifications it needs to have.

Ironically, Other federal agencies do define service animals–for example the Justice Department says “dogs only,” but those definitions don’t apply to airlines. As a result, you can’t bring an emotional support peacock or iguana on a train or a bus or into a retail store, but airlines are on much shakier ground to stop you.

“It strikes most people as absurd that, under DOT’s current rules, airlines must consider allowing, for example, pigs and birds to travel in cabin on a case-by-case basis,” the airlines wrote.

Instead, they want DOT to copy the Justice Department, and also limit the definition of service animals to include only dogs.

Can we at least agree on endangered species?

You can almost feel the frustration behind the authorship of this document. It starts raising some ridiculous scenarios that appear to be authorized technically under current DOT rules, and asks for guidance or at least an assurance that airlines won’t be prosecuted.

For example, the current federal rules seems to allow an individual passenger to travel with as many as three different support animals at once. How is that supposed to work?

“For example, can the passenger control up to three animals simultaneously throughout the journey?” the document asks. “Are the animals trained to behave, including within the confines of an aircraft cabin?”

And, the airlines list some restrictions its members want to start using unilaterally, for example barring passengers from claiming animals like goats, hedgehogs, insects, birds, and any animal on the endangered species list, among others.

Would DOT at least consider exercising its “prosecutorial discretion” not to enforce laws against airlines that “refus[e] to transport animals other than dogs, cats, and miniature horses?” (We don’t yet know.)

Emotional support spiders and armadillos

There are some other requests as well–things that I think will seem almost overly reasonable in comparison to the current situation.

The airlines want to be able to require people traveling with support animals to actually check in with a person, rather than simply showing up with an online boarding pass.

And they want the right to ask passengers more questions about the animals, and require them to provide documentation of “vaccination, training and behavior.”

But eventually we get to the point that it seems as if the airlines are arguing with an invisible person. 

Because there can’t really be anyone at the DOT who thinks that the laws are truly set up to protect a passenger who wants to fly with an emotional support spider, for example, or an armadillo. 

That would be patently absurd, wouldn’t it? I think that’s exactly what the airlines want the public to know.

Google Wants Employees to Work Instead of Arguing Politics

In the past few months,  2,600 Google employees have signed a petition asking the company to do more about harassment–and to make HR investigations transparent, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

It’s one of the many changes going on at Google when it comes to employee communications. Google has encouraged dialogue unrelated to the workplace for years, and now it’s not working out so well. 

Last year, Google fired James Damore for expressing his views about how choice and biology may be the true driver for the lack of women in tech, saying that his views perpetuated gender stereotypes and violated the code of conduct. 

But, not everyone at Google agreed with the decision. And, it seems, that there is very little at Google that everyone agrees on. Because the company encouraged message boards and the like to discuss non-work issues, they are dealing with trolls and hurt feelings and it’s a big mess. 

It was a nice idea–let’s make the workplace your whole world, where you can bring your “whole self.” But, as I’ve written before, that doesn’t work out so well in practice. Google is finding it necessary to create clear policies about what constitutes harassment, including rules against doxxing–releasing personal information–as retaliation.

While this is a good idea–employees shouldn’t be attempting to punish each other for political and other views that someone finds offensive–the fact that Google reached this level indicates an overall culture problem. 

Google has long been praised for innovative practices and former Head of People Operations, Lazlo Bock, received praise in many circles. But, perhaps some of that praise was too early–when you have a culture that has employees trolling and doxxing each other, perhaps there is an HR problem. 

The solution is to focus on work and tell people to find their social life elsewhere. But that requires people to leave the office. Bock claimed that the reason for all the on-campus perks was to increase conversations and innovation, it also kept people on campus. It’s difficult to build relationships with people outside of work when you’re never gone. As a result, you need your co-workers to meet all your needs, including your need to discuss politics. Which, as anyone could guess, can be a disaster.

Google needs to get back to work, shut down the non-work related boards, and make sure people gain outside social lives. You know, like a traditional business. Turns out those stodgy old fogies were on to something.  

China's Xiaomi prices HK IPO at bottom of range, raises $4.72 billion: sources

HONG KONG (Reuters/IFR) – China’s Xiaomi Corp (1810.HK) priced its Hong Kong initial public offering (IPO) at the bottom of an indicative range, raising $4.72 billion in the world’s biggest tech float in four years, people close to the transaction said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Xiaomi logos are seen during a news conference in Hong Kong, China June 23, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

Xiaomi priced its share offering at HK$17 per share ($2.17), the bottom of a price range of HK$17 to HK$22, the people said. It is selling about 2.18 billion shares, one of the people said, making the IPO the largest in the technology sector since Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N) raised $25 billion in New York in 2014.

Xiaomi declined to comment on the IPO pricing. The people declined to be identified as the information was not public.

The pricing comes at a delicate time for Hong Kong’s stock market, with the benchmark Hang Seng index falling 6.5 percent this month and 4.8 percent this year amid escalating trade tension between the U.S. and Chinese governments.

Brochures on the IPO of Xiaomi are shown at a news conference in Hong Kong, China June 23, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

The share sale is widely seen as a test of market sentiment for what is expected to be a packed second-half of the year in terms of IPOs in Hong Kong including offerings by China Tower, the world’s largest mobile mast operator, and Meituan Dianping, a massive online food delivery-to-ticketing services platform.

Several Chinese IPO candidates preparing to float in Hong Kong and New York could be met with cautious investors if tension persists between the world’s two biggest economies, potentially dragging on capital raising amounts after a stellar first half.

China Tower has won approval in Hong Kong for an IPO that could raise up to $10 billion. Its listing timing will, however, depend somewhat on how well Xiaomi’s deal is received, sources have told Reuters.

Xiaomi’s IPO adds to the $6 billion of new listings so far in 2018 in Hong Kong and is set to be the first under the city’s new exchange rules permitting dual-class shares common in the tech industry in an attempt to attract tech floats.

The firm lined up $548 million from seven cornerstone investors for its share sale including U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) and telecom service provider China Mobile Ltd (0941.HK).

Set up in 2010, Xiaomi doubled its smartphone shipments in 2017 to become the world’s fourth-largest maker, according to Counterpoint Research, defying a global slowdown in handset sales. It also makes dozens of internet-connected home appliances and gadgets, including scooters, air purifiers and rice cookers.

Xiaomi had been expected to raise up to $10 billion, split between Hong Kong and mainland China, but last week shelved the mainland offering until after listing in Hong Kong.

The decision was mainly because of a dispute between Xiaomi and Chinese regulators over the valuation of the company’s China depositary receipts (CDRs), people close to the matter told Reuters.

Xiaomi said last week there was no such dispute. But it also said there was no time frame for the CDR issuance, casting doubt on government efforts to lure foreign-listed Chinese tech giants back home.

Beijing-based, Cayman-domiciled Xiaomi is due to start trading in Hong Kong on July 9.

Reporting by Fiona Lau of IFR and Julie Zhu;Editing by Christopher Cushing

Japan's Sharp ditches $2 billion share issue plan after investor backlash

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Sharp Corp scrapped a plan to issue up to $2 billion in new shares, changing its mind in a matter of weeks after the initial announcement prompted investors to dump its shares on fears of earnings per share dilution.

FILE PHOTO: A logo of Sharp Corp is pictured at the CEATEC JAPAN 2017 (Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies) at the Makuhari Messe in Chiba, Japan, October 2, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

In a statement on Friday, Sharp cited worries about trade frictions between the United States and China. “Due to increasing market uncertainties, the company decided that carrying on with the plan to issue new shares would not yield maximum benefit for shareholders,” it said.

Sharp shares rose 17 percent by early afternoon as investors cheered the about-face. The plans to issue new shares, announced on June 5, had sparked a sell-off on the market as they would have eroded Sharp’s earnings per share by about 20 percent.

“The shares fell after the announcement, so they decided to quit. It’s that simple,” said Masayuki Otani, chief market analyst at Securities Japan.

“To announce a new share issue, and then say ‘we changed our mind’ because the shares fell… that’s not common but not unprecedented.”

Sharp had previously said it would use funds from the new shares to buy back preferred shares that were issued to banks in return for a financial bailout in 2015. The plan was finalised just a week ago.

FILE PHOTO – A logo of Sharp Corp is pictured at CEATEC (Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies) JAPAN 2016 at the Makuhari Messe in Chiba, Japan, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

The company had tried to persuade investors that the issuance would benefit them in the long run, saying dilution would be more if the preferred shares were converted into regular stock.

Sharp’s shares sank 21 percent since the June 5 announcement until Friday’s open, compared with a 1 percent fall in the broader Tokyo stock market over the same period.

The company said it would continue to discuss with the banks to dissolve the preferred shares.

Sharp has been showing signs of recovery under Taiwan’s Foxconn, the world’s biggest contract manufacturer which is formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd.

It recently posted its first annual net profit in four years, helped in large part by cost cuts but also by Foxconn’s sales network in China. It has also said it will buy Toshiba Corp’s personal computer business for $36 million.

Some analysts said the Osaka-based electronics maker had become more decisive and responsive to shareholders since it was taken over by Foxconn two years ago.

“My impression is that Sharp has really changed as a company,” said Hajime Nakajima, chief strategist at investment advisory firm AsLink, adding the management’s decision on the matter was a speedy one.

Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Additional reporting by Chang-Ran Kim, Shinichi Saoshiro and Yoshiyuki Osada; Writing by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Richard Pullin and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Amazon wants to foster small independent delivery fleets

SEATTLE (Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc on Wednesday said it would offer incentives to entice entrepreneurs to set up their own small package-delivery businesses as part of Amazon’s latest effort to solve the challenge of getting goods the last mile to customer doorsteps.

An Amazon Prime van sits on a hill overlooking downtown Seattle during a press conference announcing Amazon.com’s new program to help entrepreneurs build businesses delivering Amazon packages, including $1 million to fund startup costs for military veterans, at an event space in Seattle, Washington, U.S., June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

At a press event in Seattle, Amazon unveiled one of the dark gray Prime-logoed vans that it wants to lease to delivery businesses on what it says are attractive terms. It also said it would provide uniforms, fueling plans and insurance programs for fleet operators and even offer classes on tax, payroll and other small-business challenges.

The new program promises more competition for delivery companies like United Parcel Service Inc and FedEx Corp.

An Amazon Prime van during a press conference announcing Amazon.com’s new program to help entrepreneurs build businesses delivering Amazon packages, including $1 million to fund startup costs for military veterans, at an event space in Seattle, Washington, U.S., June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

Amazon says qualified entrepreneurs could start businesses with as little as $10,000, although that does not include the cost of hiring drivers. “A 40-vehicle fleet could earn as much as $300,000 a year in profits,” said Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations.

Clark said he would expect to see operators with 20 to 40 vans employ 100 drivers. Amazon did not offer any details on the incentives or say whether it would pay per delivery, per mile driven or per month.

The branded vans can only be used for Amazon deliveries, an Amazon spokeswoman said. Last-mile delivery is among the retail industry’s biggest challenges as customers increasingly expect quick and cheap delivery of almost anything ordered online.

Amazon rivals like U.S. grocery chain Kroger Co and retail giant Walmart Inc are also experimenting with different delivery models.

Slideshow (14 Images)

Earlier this year, Reuters reported that Walmart had ended grocery delivery partnerships with ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft. Walmart has also offered to pay its store employees to complete deliveries on their way home from work. Walmart is now doing grocery delivery with DoorDash and Postmates.

Meanwhile, Amazon has for nearly three years had its Flex program where drivers can get paid for deliveries using their personal cars. That program will continue, Clark said, but only solves part of the problem.

“Flex is all about leveraging available capacity,” said Clark. Salting the landscape with new delivery operators offers scale.

“We looked at our history with small business” on the Amazon marketplace platform, Clark said, “and we said we can do the same thing in last mile and people can own a manageable size business.”

Reporting By Jane Lanhee Lee; Editing by Greg Mitchell and Cynthia Osterman

Waymo needs 'large number' of cars for European robo-taxis: CEO

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s self-driving unit Waymo will need “a large number” of cars to expand its robo-taxi service to Europe, its chief executive told a newspaper, declining to say who could supply the vehicles.

A Waymo self-driving car is seen during the annual Google I/O developers conference in Mountain View, California, May 8, 2018. REUTERS/ Stephen Lam

“Everything we have announced so far is just for the United States. We need many more vehicles,” German daily Handelsblatt cited John Krafcik as saying in an interview published on Thursday.

“I cannot give you an exact figure, but it is a large number,” he added.

Waymo is set to launch its ride-hailing service in areas of Phoenix, Arizona, in coming months, with plans to subsequently roll out the program more widely in the United States using vehicles made by Fiat Chrysler (FCA) and Jaguar Land Rover.

Fiat Chrysler will supply up to 62,000 more cars to Waymo.

Krafcik told Handelsblatt he wanted to keep the carmakers he was in talks with about vehicles for Europe confidential for now.

He reiterated that the service would likely not carry the Waymo brand in Europe.

“In Phoenix, we are launching under the Waymo brand. In Europe we would choose a different approach because our brand is not well known in Europe. We would cooperate with a European car brand,” he said.

Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Nick Macfie

New Zealand's Z Energy flags possible data breach in online card system

(Reuters) – New Zealand-based fuel supplier Z Energy Ltd on Wednesday said it has been presented with evidence that customer data from its Z Card Online database was accessed by a third party in November 2017.

The database held customer data such as names, addresses, registration numbers, vehicle types and credit limits with the company, Z Energy said in a statement. The data accessed did not include bank details, pin numbers or information that would put customer finances directly at risk, it said.

Z Energy did not specify the extent to which its customer data had been compromised.

The company said it had notified affected customers and advised the Privacy Commissioner of the breach. It said the system in question had been closed since December 2017.

The Z Card allows customers to manage fuel accounts online, and is used primarily by companies with vehicle fleets.

Z Energy said it had been made aware of a potential vulnerability in the system in November, but had not found evidence of any data breaches at that time.

Z Energy operates in both New Zealand and Australia. New laws in Australia requiring companies to report data breaches took effect in late-February this year.

Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru

'NBA Live 19' News: Joel Embiid Revealed As Cover Athlete

, Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Credit: EA Sports

Joel Embiid on the ocver of NBA Live 19

</div> </div> <p>Apparently, EA does, because on Monday night during the NBA Awards, Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid was revealed as the cover athlete for <em>NBA Live 19</em>. It was a big night for the 76ers as Embiid’s teammate Ben Simmons took home the Rookie of the Year award as well.</p> <p>This image leaked via Twitter:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Introducing the new face of NBA LIVE, <a href="https://twitter.com/JoelEmbiid?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/JoelEmbiid?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw" rel="nofollow">@JoelEmbiid</a> in The ONE Edition.</p> <p>Available September 7th <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBALIVE19?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBALIVE19?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw" rel="nofollow">#NBALIVE19</a> <a href="https://t.co/Z2TGZDDLBl" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://t.co/Z2TGZDDLBl" rel="nofollow">pic.twitter.com/Z2TGZDDLBl</a></p> <p>— EA SPORTS NBA LIVE (@EASPORTSNBA) <a href="https://twitter.com/EASPORTSNBA/status/1011433887111827456?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/EASPORTSNBA/status/1011433887111827456?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw" rel="nofollow">June 26, 2018</a></p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p>Embiid replaces James Harden, who was the face of the franchise&nbsp;for <em>NBA Live 17</em> and <em>NBA Live 18</em>. Harden is still likely a member of EA’s overall marketing program for the game as he appears in a few of the screenshots for <em>Live 19</em> already, but that hasn’t been confirmed.</p> <p>Embiid is coming off the best season of his young career. The 24-year-old averaged 22.9 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.8 blocked shots per game while helping the 76ers to their first postseason berth in six years. Embiid is the first 76ers player in history to grace the cover of an <em>NBA Live</em> game, and just the third in franchise history to appear on the cover of any game.</p>

<p>Allen Iverson was the cover athlete for the first five versions of the&nbsp;<em>NBA 2K&nbsp;</em>series. Way back in 1983, 76ers great Julius Erving was on the cover of <em>One on One</em> with Larry Bird, one of the earliest hoops video games. The full demo for <em>NBA Live 19</em> will release on August 24. The full release hits stores for PS4 and Xbox One on September 7, but Xbox owners who subscribe to EA Access will have access as early as September 2.</p>” readability=”38.5356924954″>

Trust the Process.

Credit: EA Sports

Joel Embiid on the ocver of NBA Live 19

Apparently, EA does, because on Monday night during the NBA Awards, Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid was revealed as the cover athlete for NBA Live 19. It was a big night for the 76ers as Embiid’s teammate Ben Simmons took home the Rookie of the Year award as well.

This image leaked via Twitter:

Embiid replaces James Harden, who was the face of the franchise for NBA Live 17 and NBA Live 18. Harden is still likely a member of EA’s overall marketing program for the game as he appears in a few of the screenshots for Live 19 already, but that hasn’t been confirmed.

Embiid is coming off the best season of his young career. The 24-year-old averaged 22.9 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.8 blocked shots per game while helping the 76ers to their first postseason berth in six years. Embiid is the first 76ers player in history to grace the cover of an NBA Live game, and just the third in franchise history to appear on the cover of any game.

Allen Iverson was the cover athlete for the first five versions of the NBA 2K series. Way back in 1983, 76ers great Julius Erving was on the cover of One on One with Larry Bird, one of the earliest hoops video games. The full demo for NBA Live 19 will release on August 24. The full release hits stores for PS4 and Xbox One on September 7, but Xbox owners who subscribe to EA Access will have access as early as September 2.

OnePlus 6 Review: A Fast And Smooth Phone For Half The Price Of Apple Or Samsung

Ben Sin

The OnePlus 6.

Over the past five years, Shenzhen-based OnePlus has managed to do something that most Chinese tech brands have struggled to accomplish: build a hip image in the west, and gain a devoted following to boot (people were actually lining up around the block to buy the phone at launch).

The company was able to do this by offering two things: flagship-quality handsets at almost half the price of other big brands; and a very clean Android experience that westerners tend to prefer.

With the OnePlus 6, the story is mostly the same. I’ve been testing the phone thoroughly for two weeks, and the two thoughts that constantly came to mind were:

Is the 6 every bit as polished as the absolute top dogs? Not quite all the way there. It can’t charge wirelessly; it has no official IP water and dust resistance certification (though tests have shown it will survive being submerged in water briefly); its 6.3-inch OLED display doesn’t get as bright as the Galaxy S9’s; and its camera can’t quite produce night shots as stunning as the current king, the Huawei P20 Pro.

Are these things worth the extra three or four hundred bucks though? It depends on who you are. I think most people would say no.

Ben Sin

Glass all around.

Ben Sin

The bottom of the phone houses a single speaker grill and a USB-C charging port.

The fast and the familiar

If there’s one area to nitpick the OnePlus 6, it’d have to be the hardware design. Don’t get me wrong, the OnePlus 6 is a beautiful, well-built, premium-feeling glass sandwich handset. It’s just that the phone not only has notch design that’s found on almost all other phones, but the overall look and in-hand feel of the 6 is very similar to the Oppo R15 Pro and Vivo X21. There are superficial differences such as the shape of fingerprint scanner and camera module positioning, but for the most part all three phones feel eerily similar in the hand. There’s a good explaination for that—all three companies are owned by the same parent company hence the likelihood of shared production lines—and considering that OnePlus markets to a very different crowd as Vivo and Oppo, I am not going to hold it against OnePlus too much, but it’s still something worth mentioning.

But move past the physical similarities and you’ll be greeted by what makes the 6 special: the speed. The speed is a combination of three factors: there’s a whopping 8GB of RAM in my demo unit, with the most powerful Qualcomm chipset (845), plus OnePlus’ software, OxygenOS, is the cleanest and leanest of all Android skin. I’ve been on the road for the past three weeks and bouncing between multiple phones, and the speed of the OnePlus 6 is noticeable. The iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy S9 aren’t slow phones by any means, but the OnePlus 6 is noticeably zippier when I’m jumping between apps. On the iPhone X, specifically, re-opening an app I had opened a couple hours ago will result in a second of load time. On the 6? It’s almost instantaneous.

I’ve gone on record calling OxygenOS my favorite version of Android, even more than stock Android, and that still holds true.

I do wish, however, that OxygenOS would offer some form of one-hand mode, as phones today are mostly too large to fully use completely one-handed. Other than this, I have no complaints about OxygenOS at all. I love the ambient display that shows notifications and time in low-powered black and white format whenever I pick up the phone, and I love all the customization options such as the ability to change the entire color scheme of my phone’s settings and notifications panels.

Pixel almost-perfect

OnePlus phones have been very good since, well, day one. The area that’s kept them from being the best have been the cameras, which tend to fall far short of whatever Huawei or Samsung is on the market at the time. The 6 fixes this mostly by further fine tuning its image processing software and giving its main 16-megapixel sensor a larger pixel size of 1.22-microns. The larger pixels results in noticeably more details and light in low light shots. During the day, the 6’s images are well-balanced if a bit muted, as the auto HDR mode seems to be a bit hesitant to go all out.

Ben Sin

The OnePlus 6 has a 16-megapixel camera with a 20-megapixel secondary lens.

A big win for the 6’s camera is that it can shoot videos at 4k 60fps, which most phones aside from the iPhone 8/X and Samsung Galaxy S9 can’t do. Videos in this mode do come out a bit shaky, as the OIS doesn’t work here. Shoot in 1080p or 4k 30fps, though, and OIS is there to help jitters significantly.

Ben Sin

A night shot captured by the OnePlus 6.

Ben Sin

A macro shot, taken with the 6’s manual controls.

The secondary 20-megapixel lens helps detect depth, which really helps produce natural-looking bokeh shots.

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A bokeh shot taken of a stray dog in Cuba.

Ben Sin

Notice the depth of field around the statue is spot on, but the two women who walked by messed with the camera’s depth sensors.

As I mentioned earlier, if I wanted to blow up the images and pixel peep, or really compare night shots side by side, the 6’s image still fall short to something coming out of the Huawei P20 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S9, but the 6 is inching closer to equaling those much pricier handsets.

I also think OnePlus’ camera software app layout is among one of the best. Switching between modes requires just swiping left or right or hitting buttons in the lower part of the disdplay, which makes the camera easy to use even with one-hand.

Ben Sin

The Pro mode offers manual controls and is easy to use with one hand.

Punches above its weight class 

Elsewhere, the OnePlus 6 offers more than its price tag suggests. The 6.3-inch OLED panel is not quite as bright or punchy as what’s found on Samsung’s Galaxy S9, but it’s every bit as good as everything else on the market. The notch doesn’t get in the way, as enough Android apps have worked around the slight cutout. Gaming performance and battery life are also top notch, with the latter giving me five hours of screen-on time, which is just enough to go a whole day.

There are two things I have to nitpick: the bottom firing speaker is weak, but given that there is a headphone jack and bluetooth 5.0 support, that is not a huge deal. I’m more annoyed by the mediocre haptic engine. Generally, I love typing on Android more than on iPhones because I enjoy vibration feedback as I type on each key (Apple doesn’t allow this). On a phone with a great haptic engine (LG G7 and LG V30), it feels almost as though each key my thumb hits is vibrating individually. It’s a great tactile experience. On the OnePlus 6, the vibration feedback is so mushy and all over the place that it actually resulted in me getting more typos. After a couple of days I turned off the vibrating keyboard altogether and typed like I was on an iPhone.

I think the lame haptics bothers me more than it would most people though.

The price is right

OnePlus’ tagline for the OnePlus 6 is “the speed you need,” and while I can’t say I really “need” the 3% speed/smoothness boost over something like an iPhone X or Huawei P20 Pro, it is absolutely welcome. The OnePlus 6 is the fastest and smoothest phone I’ve ever used (yes, including the Pixel, which is surprisingly buggy given how much Android purists swear by stock Android), and I find myself scrolling through apps in overview mode sometimes just to watch the zippy animations.

More importantly for consumers, however, is that the OnePlus 6 is at the very least a top two best value in smartphone right now. Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 2S and Mi 8 both offer the same Snapdragon 845/8GB RAM combo at a relatively close price point, and other than these two nothing else offers the same level of power without a significant bump in price.

Ben Sin

The 6 is a great value.