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News Roundup: Snapchat wearables, billion-dollar immigrants, and AI job mortgages

A roundup of the week’s tech news including London Calling, political scorecards, and car hacking.

A Snapchat wearable?

Could Snapchat being making some sort of head-based wearable tech? “There's reason to believe” it, according to CNET. The ephemeral photo app has reportedly hired a spate of former wearable and Augmented Reality veterans. CNET couldn’t provide any actual evidence – not even from the usual unnamed “people familiar with the matter” types - and Snapchat themselves had nothing to say about the rumours.

BaselWord

BaselWorld, the watch industry’s major conference for the year, took place this week. Last year, there much an air of the dismissive over smartwatches. This year saw a very different attitude. Tag Heuer confirmed that they had “totally underestimated demand” for their Connected smartwatch and are expecting to sell 40,000-50,000 units this year on top of the initial run of 15,000.  Also showing new tech at the event were Michael Kors, Nixon, Tissot and Fossil.

Meanwhile, IDC predicts that Android Wear will catch up to Apple’s watchOS by 2020.

London Calling

London is the world’s favourite European tech hub, according to a new study. The YouGov poll of 800 international technology workers, commissioned by London & Partners, showed tech workers would rather relocate to London over the likes of Paris, Berlin or Amsterdam. Good travel connections, diversity and its creative environment led to the city being viewed as on par with New York and San Francisco. Obviously Mayor of London Boris Johnson was pretty pleased: “London is a technology powerhouse,” he said in an accompanying statement. “London has emerged as Europe’s fastest growing technology hub while cementing our status as a world-class destination to live and work.”

Trump and Hilary’s tech chops, scored

As we get ever-closer to confirming which candidates will be running for US President come November, it’s time to take a closer look at their policies. Political strategy firm Tusk Ventures and tech policy group Engine have drawn up some helpful scorecards to rate the candidates on their tech chops. The candidates were rated on their support, understanding, and familiarity with a number of tech issues including security, IP, education and infrastructure.

The report gave both Democratic candidates decent grades; B+ for Hilary Clinton “for her strong positions on net neutrality, broadband access and STEM education” while Bernie Sanders scored a respectable B largely due to his “support of net neutrality and a clear plan to improve broadband infrastructure.”

Donal Trump - currently leading the Republican nomination - earned a big fat F due to the fact he “has yet to announce clear policy agendas or offer public comments on a number of issues examined, including patent reform and access to broadband.” Ted Cruz, the only realist challenger left to contend with Trump, scored a D.

Meanwhile, the ever quotable “Cybersecurity Legend” and Libertarian Presidential candidate John McAfee thinks Trump will “come up with a coherent policy” once Anonymous unleash #OpTrump on April 1st, but admits he feels some sympathy for Trump and what’s coming.

McAfee also accused Obama’s cyber-advisors of either being “incompetent beyond all measure” or “subversive agents” working for foreign governments, based on the contents of the President’s recent speech at SXSW.

M&A

The subject of immigration and high-skilled visas are a hot topic in US politics right now. But a new study suggests they generate a lot of value and jobs to the economy. The National Foundation for American Policy found of that more than half of the US’s 87 $1 billion+ valued startups, over half had at least one immigrant founder. The collected value of the 44 immigrant Unicorns is over $168 billion and include Uber, Palantir, SpaceX, and AppDynamics. 14 of the 44 expat founders were Indian, with Canada, the UK, Israel and Germany among others also represented.

Alpha-Google is reportedly looking to offload Boston Dynamics. According to Bloomberg, Alphabet’s executives are looking to sell the robotics firm it bought in 2013 because it’s unlikely to “produce a marketable product in the next few years”. The report lists potential buyers as Toyota or Amazon, but none of the companies were willing to comment.

Yahoo! which recently hung up a “For Sale” sign, is due to axe its Games, Livetext, various Regional Sites and Build your Own Search Service (BOSS) divisions in order to streamline and focus on a core of Mail, Search, Tumblr, News, Sports, Finance, and Lifestyle.

General Motors has acquired autonomous vehicle startup Cruise Automation, IBM has snapped up Cloud-based CRM company Optevia, App Annie has bought AppScotch, and InVision now owns Silver Flows.

Crashing cars, hacking cars

Plenty of autonomous car-related headlines of late:

-          The Department of Transportation has said that software cannot fully qualify as being the driver of a car yet, and will still legally require pedals and steering wheels.

-          Google, fresh from crashing one of its cars into a bus, has patented “Bus Detection for an Autonomous Vehicle”.

-          Google says that crash was ‘down to assumptions’ about what the bus and car were both going to do, and those assumptions not matching. US transport secretary Anthony Foxx said the crash wasn’t a surprise but we shouldn’t be “comparing the automated car against perfection” but rather comparing to what we have on the roads right now.

-          Hacking AI cars was a big concern this week. One robotics expert this week claimed that “There is no question that someone is going to die in this technology, the question is when and what can we do to minimize that.”

Diversity

Over the last couple of years, technology companies have been publishing data showing what percentage of their workforces are male vs female, white vs black and other backgrounds. This is a good thing. “Level 3 Releases First Diversity and Inclusion Report” runs the headline. The company’s report makes the right noises about diversity and inclusion and talks a lot about programs and indicatives. But it doesn’t seem to actually include any data about how the company looks. This is odd.

The Woz speaks

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has been in the news again this week. During a Reddit AMA, Woz claimed that Apple “isn't the company that Apple was originally, or the company that really changed the world a lot,” he also admitted his love for Amazon’s Alexa, and voiced his approval of an Apple Car as it “makes total sense” for the company.

Job mortgages or universal income?

Builders, bakers, journalists, postmen, software developers. The robots are coming, we’re all doomed, let’s go join the dole queue. Given all the hype, there’s been some interesting arguments about what happens once there are no jobs left. Last week the MIT Review was writing about why Universal Basic Income was a bad idea, this week the Guardian is warning that the poor will end up with “Job Mortgages” – loans for people replaced by machines, taken out against future earnings (assuming they ever find a job a human can still do). Sounds like something akin to serfdom to me.

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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