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Monthly Archives: July 2018

Bird’s electric scooters are going international



Electric scooter startup Bird, the one worth $2 billion, is going international. This does not come as a surprise given TechCrunch’s June report that Bird was looking to expand to Europe. Today, Bird is launching a pilot program in Paris to see how the electric scooter service operates in a city with more than two million people.

“Paris is very forward-thinking on solving congestion issues and is one of the cities that’s dealing with the most congestion and pollution,” Bird Head of Europe, the Middle East and Africa Patrick Studener told TechCrunch.

Bird is also gearing up to deploy some scooters in Tel Aviv, where the company says it’s chatting with Tel Aviv University and some municipalities about making something work in those areas, Studener said. In Tel Aviv, Bird will charge 5 shekels to start and then 50 agorot per minute.

As Bird expands to international markets, it’s worth noting that competitor Lime has operated its bikes and scooters outside of the U.S. for quite some time. Last December, Lime brought its bikes to a number of European cities and then, in June, Lime brought its scooters to Paris. Lime also recently raised a $335 million round and teamed up with transportation behemoth Uber.

In Paris, Bird scooters will cost €1 to start followed by €0.15 per minute, which is exactly how much Lime charges. Bird says Paris city officials know the company is planning to deploy about 100 scooters in the city. But this isn’t an official partnership of sorts, Studener said.

“In both cities we’ve started conversations at the national and city levels with officials,” Studener said. “Our approach is to be very collaborative. Almost every city that I’m speaking to, their north star is very much aligned with our north star — and that’s reducing car ownership.”

Since launching last November in Santa Monica, Calif., Bird hasn’t always had the best relationships with city regulators. Upon deploying some scooters in Santa Monica, the city filed criminal complaints against Bird for the company’s failure to obtain a vendor permit. Fast forward to June, and the city implemented a pilot program to impose some regulations on scooter companies like Bird, Lime and others.

Studener and the rest of the European team is based in Amsterdam, though, Bird has not yet deployed its scooters in the Dutch city. As head of EMEA, Studener has his eyes on a number of markets but for this week, he is focused on “going from just being in the U.S. to going internationally. That’s step one.”

In response to a question about Africa, Studener said Bird is still evaluating which African markets would be ripe for Bird scooters.

He said, “I definitely am keen to get that solution there as well because there is especially a very young and innovative population there that are very quick to adopt new solutions.”

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The Rock gifted his stunt double a new truck and it's so wholesome



The Rock is too pure for this world. 

Dwayne Johnson — or as he called himself in an Instagram post on Monday, Dwanta Claus — gave his stunt double a new truck when he returned after suffering an injury on set. Tanoai Reed, who’s also Jonhson’s cousin, thought he was about to shoot a behind the scenes clip when he was surprised with the truck. 

“The truth is, he’s been an incredible partner and brother to me,” Johnson said in the clip. “I wanna say I love you, I thank you, and enjoy your new truck.” 

Reed was pretty hyped about the gift.  Read more…

More about Viral Videos, The Rock, Culture, and Web Culture

DJI is planning not one but two successors to the Mavic Pro



The drone known as the DJI Mavic Pro has aged well since 2016 — but guess what: There are two successors on the horizon.

Argos UK, a British catalog retailer, recently published a listing revealing two unreleased DJI Mavic Pro successors: the Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro. Twitter user @Chromonian found the advertisement and shared it. 

Of all places to confirm the Mavic 2 its Argos UK – 2 additions being released Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro (1” CMOS sensor) – both 31 mins of flight time, 8km range and 1080P live video transmission @OsitaLV @DroneDJ #mavic2 #djimavic2 #dji #mavic #news #dronedj #ositaLV #drone pic.twitter.com/uDY4luqP6n

— Brett Thake (@Chromonian) July 28, 2018 Read more…

More about Drones, Drone, Dji, Dji Drones, and Tech

DHS launches a new cyber hub to coordinate against threats to US infrastructure



Among the many things the current administration has been criticized for is its lack of a unified strategy to combat cyber threats, especially in light of ongoing election interference and psy ops perpetrated by Russia. The Department of Homeland Security is advancing the ball with the creation of the National Risk Management Center, intended on protecting critical infrastructure from attacks and subversion by online adversaries.

The NRMC was announced today at a cyber summit in New York held by the agency, where DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen explained the purpose and justification for this new entity. Remarkably, she directly contradicted the ongoing soft-pedaling by the Executive of Russian operations targeting the country.

“Let me be clear: Our intelligence community had it right. It was the Russians. It was directed from the highest levels. And we cannot and will not allow it to happen again,” she said.

DHS Secretary Nielsen in 2017.

Thus the creation of the NRMC, which will work directly with various entities and federal agencies to protect infrastructure like banking systems and the power grid (not to mention election systems). These are such obvious targets for foreign intelligence to attack, either for destructive or informative purposes, that they merit special attention from our side as well, and DHS is in fact the one to provide it.

The new center will be online and staffed tomorrow, though it will take some time to spin up completely as DHS allocates space, personnel and resources. Its exact duties, jurisdictions and connections with other units will no doubt be made clear as well.

Vice President Pence spoke at the event too, but naturally chose to lash out at the Obama administration, which he said “often chose silence and paralysis over strength and action.”

This is a strange thing to say when several prominent cybersecurity-related posts and offices have been abandoned and a report by the Office of Management and Budget found agencies around the country are utterly unprepared for even elementary cyberattacks.

One of the major moves to improve cybersecurity, elevating CyberCom to Unified Combatant Command level, was an Obama-era plan, and the president’s overall cyber strategy, announced last year, also cribbed liberally from the previous administration.

That said, the vice president was realistic on other points.

“The fact is Russia meddled in our 2016 elections,” he concurred. “This administration will not tolerate threats from Russia, China, Iran, North Korea or anyone else.”

The other countries on the list, it bears mentioning, have not been found to have interfered with American elections, though admittedly they might if they had the chance.

Pence also acknowledged states’ prerogative in running their elections how they like, but also said the federal government would be providing additional funding and technology for election security. He mentioned the “Albert sensors” being deployed to help monitor online systems, and a “virtual situation room” many states are already using that connects DHS with state authorities.

“I want to urge, with great respect, every state to take renewed action. Take advantage of the assistance offered by our administration,” Pence said.

That seems like a good idea, as Russian operations have already begun ahead of the 2018 midterms. Perhaps that joint Russo-American cybersecurity group proposed by Putin will help.

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Spotify now offers motion comics starring Archie



Spotify has been experimenting with incorporating non-musical formats over the last couple of years, including videos and multimedia podcasts. Next up: Motion comics based on new Archie stories.

For those of you who haven’t been keeping track of the comics incarnations of Archie and his friends, the title was recently rebooted by writer Mark Waid (Kingdom Come) and artist Fiona Staples (Saga). While I was initially skeptical about the need to mess with the characters’ classic designs, I found the first collection to be a perfectly enjoyable combination of teen comedy and soap opera.

Now, as announced in Nerdist, the first six issues have been transformed by digital comics startup Madefire with music and voice acting.

It’s still a comic book, and you can still see Staples’ gorgeous art, but it’s a story that you hit a “play” button to experience, rather than turning any pages. (Madefire and its CEO Ben Wolstenholme prefer the term “motion books” to distinguish the format from the cheesy motion comics of the past, but I suspect the distinction is lost on most readers.)

You can find them on Spotify as Spotlight: Archie — The New Riverdale.

Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater said told Nerdist that “Archie has always been about trying to find new ways to get comics to fans and readers,” and said that working with Spotify was “a perfect match.”

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Apple Pay is finally coming to CVS and 7-Eleven, and will soon expand to Germany



Longtime Apple Pay holdout CVS will finally be adding support for Apple’s mobile payments platform this fall, along with 7-Eleven, Apple CEO Tim Cook said this afternoon on the company’s earnings call. The news is particularly notable because CVS was one of the first major retailers to snub Apple Pay, choosing instead to launch its own barcode-based mobile payments solution “CVS Pay” back in 2016, following the failure of the retailer-backed Apple Pay rival CurrentC.

CVS Pay had become the first mobile payments solution the pharmacy chain adopted, after having purposefully avoided support for Apple Pay or any other rival NFC (tap to pay) technologies at its register. The company believed there was value in offering its own end-to-end solution to customers that combined both payments and loyalty, it had said.

In addition, CVS had earlier backed an Apple Pay alternative called CurrentC, which was developed by the merchant consortium MCX led by major retailers like Walmart, Best Buy, Rite Aid and others. The QR code-based payments solution was designed to challenge Apple’s potential dominance in mobile payments. Many of the retailers even blocked Apple Pay at their stores in advance of bringing CurrentC to market.

However, CurrentC eventually failed and the technology was sold off to JPMorgan Chase in 2017. Some of its backers – like Best Buy and Rite Aid – had also relented, by allowing Apple Pay into their stores. But CVS did not. It instead moved forward with its own solution.

That it has now decided to also support Apple Pay is a major win for Apple, as is the addition of 7-Eleven to the list of retailers that will soon offer Apple Pay at checkout.

The retail expansions weren’t the only big Apple Pay news announced on the call.

Cook also said that Apple Pay would launch in Germany – but didn’t offer a timeframe for this launch beyond “later this year.” And he noted that Apple Pay saw more than 1 billion transactions in the 3rd quarter of 2018. That’s triple the number from a year ago, and more mobile transactions than Square and PayPal, he noted.

With the expansions, Apple Pay’s global traction is growing. The news follows a new forecast released this week by Juniper Research which now estimates Apple’s Pay will account for 1 in 2 contactless mobile wallet users (in OEM-provided wallets) by 2020.

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Plantronics BackBeat Fit 500 review: balanced sound with big bass



Plantronics BackBeat Fit 500 Review
$99.99
The Good

Excellent sound for the price • Easy controls for playback and volume on the ear cups • Vibrant color choices differentiate the headphones from other models

The Bad

Falls short of promised battery life

The Bottom Line

The Plantronics BackBeat Fit 500 will surprise users with excellent sound that can handle bass like a champ, all at a sub-$100 price.

Mashable Score4.25
Cool Factor4.0
Learning Curve5.0
Performance3.0
Bang for the Buck5.0

There is no shortage of over-the-ear headphones, with manufacturers ranging from Bose to Bang & Olufsen and even Sony flooding the market with models. So where does a midrange brand like Plantronics fit in among those big hitters? Read more…

More about Reviews, Headphones, Plantronics, Tech, and Consumer Tech

Congressman tries to channel Trump's 'charm' in laughably bad new campaign ad



Even worse than President Trump himself are the political wannabes who love to cop his style.

Ron DeSantis, a Republican congressman who is currently running for governor of Florida, is a prime example. He released a cringe-y new campaign ad this week in which he uses his own children to slavishly highlight his loyalty to the president.

It is, of course, a nightmare.

“Build the wall,” DeSantis tells his 2-year-old daughter who’s playing with giant blocks.

The video is meant to be funny, according to a spokesman for the candidate. But mostly it just features DeSantis’ baby in a MAGA onesie, proving that the Congressman has … shopped at the Trump campaign store. Read more…

More about Watercooler, Campaign Ad, Ron Desantis, Culture, and Politics

Save $160 on Western Digital's 2TB portable solid-state storage drive on Amazon



Let’s face it!: Laptops never have enough storage.

So it’s always a good idea to get a portable storage drive to bring large video and photo files with you wherever you go, especially if you’re a professional. Luckily, the WD 2TB My Passport SSD Portable Storage from Western Digital is on sale for just $539.99, which is 23% off its retail price of $699.99.

The SSD (solid-state drive) portable and compact storage drive is lightweight at only 1.44 ounces, while it’s also blazing fast. It handles quick video and photo file transfers with ease, as if it were part of your computer. The shock-resistant drive is compatible with USB 3.0, 2.0, and USB-A ports, while it’s next generation-ready with USB 3.1 and USB Type-C for future-proofing.  Read more…

More about Ssd, Western Digital, Mashable Shopping, Shopping Skimlinks, and Shopping Amazon

Digital therapeutics are just what the doctor ordered for patients — and for global healthcare systems



It would be hard to argue that digital products have a net-positive impact on our health. Most are designed to provide the same dopamine hit as a slot machine. We all know someone who wasted their youth playing games that were designed to be all-consuming, with the World Health Organization recently going so far as to categorize video game addiction as a mental health disorder.

But this habit-forming power of digital products can be used for therapeutic benefit too, often by changing the behavior that causes disease or ill health. This new range of products is being commonly referred to as digital therapeutics. These apps and services offer evidence-based and personalized behavioral therapy, and cater to a broad cross-section of illnesses and conditions — from diabetes to loneliness, and everything in-between.

Given the difficulty developing traditional therapeutics, the likelihood of the next blockbuster treatment or cure emerging from digital therapeutics is ever-increasing. And thanks to their low cost, adaptability and speed-of-deployment, they could have a transformative impact on millions of lives, and on ailing healthcare systems.

I live and work in the U.K., so I will be using the NHS as a recurring reference point in this article — however, fee-for-service, or value-based healthcare systems equally stand to benefit.

Digital therapeutics work for patients…

A range of startups are leading the charge in digital therapeutics, tackling some of the biggest problems facing patients and our healthcare system today. And the evidence proves that these treatments work.

Type 2 diabetes, the type determined mostly by diet and lifestyle, has been called the “scourge of the 21st century” by the Royal College of Physicians. And rightly so: the NHS spends around £12 billion annually, or 10 percent of its budget, treating the condition. However, in many cases, lifestyle change alone is enough to prevent, or even cure it. OurPath has developed a digital program that does exactly that, with a recent study showing a mean 7.5kg weight loss in participants, which is enough to put type 2 diabetes sufferers into remission.

Another leader is QuitGenius, whose app helps 36 percent of its users to quit smoking completely — versus just 3 percent of smokers who are able to quit on their own. Smoking is a massive burden on our collective health, and global healthcare systems. In the U.K. alone, smoking cigarettes led to an estimated 16 percent of all deaths.

While one in four of us suffer from a mental health condition, we can all benefit from looking after our mental well-being.

For those suffering from a mental health condition, Ieso has been a leader in delivering psychological therapies digitally, and has shown that standard treatments (like cognitive behavioral therapy) are more effective when delivered digitally (e.g. via messaging app) than in person.

However, while one in four of us suffer from a mental health condition, we can all benefit from looking after our mental well-being. Newer entrants like HelloSelf are helping all of us be our best selves, initially by providing digital access to therapists, and by building an AI life coach that helps us deeply understand what makes us happy, and what we can do to improve our mental well-being.

Other players, like Soma Analytics, Unmind and SilverCloud, are helping users look after our mental well-being where most feel most stressed: at work. The data behind these products demonstrates a triple win: a reduction in stress levels for employees, boosted productivity for employers and reduced burden on our public healthcare system.

Digital therapeutics are also a great fit for notoriously complex conditions like IBS, a condition affecting 800 million people, 60 percent of whom go on to develop depression or anxiety, hitherto only treated imperfectly by a range of measures from restricted diet to antidepressants. Companies like Bold Health are using data to personalize treatments and improve outcomes, and pioneering the use of hypnotherapy to treat IBS.

… and our healthcare systems need digital therapeutics to work!

Bringing traditional therapeutics to market is becoming exponentially more expensive. The full explanation of this is Eroom’s law; however, in short: the cost to develop a new drug has doubled every nine years since 1950. And even after a lengthy testing and approval process, drugs may have unintended consequences. Or, quite simply, they might not work at all.

It now takes on average 14 years and $2.5 billion to develop a market-ready drug.

Additionally, healthcare systems are under pressure from aging populations and tightening purse strings. This is, of course, particularly true in the U.K.

Against this backdrop, digital therapeutics are a great solution. They are relatively cheap to develop — all the companies I have mentioned raised less than $5 million to develop their products. This is particularly true in contrast to traditional therapeutics — it now takes on average 14 years and $2.5 billion to develop a market-ready drug.

The digital delivery method means it is much easier to collect data, iterate and refine the treatment and evidence efficacy, allowing treatments to change with the needs of the population. Quantifying the resulting cost savings is tricky, but healthcare consultancy IQVIA recently released a report estimating the NHS would save £170 million if it adopted currently available digital therapeutics in five disease areas (with £131 million saved in diabetes alone).

Digital therapeutics companies have so far found success in selling direct to consumers, even in the U.K., where healthcare is theoretically free at the point of service for all. However, helped by the evidence that they work, the NHS is “learning” how to purchase and prescribe digital therapeutics. The NHS recently launched App Library (still in beta), showcasing trusted digital apps to consumers; and AppScript, a platform for doctors to discover, prescribe and track the best digital health apps, is being rolled out across GP surgeries in the U.K.

And if they were to develop their own digital therapeutic solutions, national health systems like the NHS would be at a tremendous advantage, thanks to the huge amounts of longitudinal health data they own (data relating to how patients, and their health, fare over time).

Consumers are discovering digital therapeutics, and the treatments are already transforming lives. Now that the body of evidence shows they work, it is my hope that healthcare systems, particularly the U.K.’s NHS, begin to reap the benefits offered by this new treatment mode.

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