The United States’ decision to send troops into Syria is an act of aggression because it does not have the government’s agreement, a Syrian member of parliament says.
The United States’ decision to send troops into Syria is an act of aggression because it does not have the government’s agreement, a Syrian member of parliament says.
(By Masaru Ikeda, The Bridge) – Tokyo-based Cerevo, the Japanese startup behind a variety of smart consumer electronics devices, unveiled a smart key switch called Hackey on Wednesday. The product is available for 9,980 yen (about $82) on their website. In conjunction with the announcement, the company just started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogowhere backers can pre-order it for $59 plus shipping charge.
Hackey is a Wi-Fi-connected, palm-sized “key” switch. It is compatible with IFTTT and allows users to control various internet services via API by turning the key. Some examples of possible use cases include:
In addition to allowing trigger signal transmissions to IFTTT Maker Channel, Hackey can also receive requests from other web services so Hackey’s side LED indicators will flash in accordance with a user’s settings. The product will be also compatible with myThings, Yahoo Japan’s mobile app enabling users to integrate various web services with IoT (Internet of Things) products.
A day before Sunday’s parliamentary elections, Turkey’s prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu urged Turks to vote in stability by restoring his ruling party’s majority. Opposition parties were campaigning against a man not on the ballot: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
As digital commerce has evolved over the past decade to penetrate nearly every element of our lives, one category has largely been left in the dust: furniture. But in the past 12 months disruption has accelerated exponentially – with the industry suddenly under a broad-based assault from all key angles: manufacturing, delivery, assembly, and discovery.
A few months back, I noted that furniture was one of the remaining massive categories still struggling with finding a mass-market consumer fit online. In it, I cited a conversation I’d had with a well known venture capitalist:
Similarly, [the investor] noted at the time, furniture – sofas, mattresses, tables, etc – were one of those categories that hadn’t been cracked by e-commerce. The unit economics made delivery expensive. And, like shoes, consumers wanted to try them on. Is it comfortable? Do the colors match up with your room palette? What if, he proposed at the time, a furniture company offered the following value proposition: We’ll show up at your home, for free, with 10 different sofas of varying feels and colors, let you try them all out for free, and then you just keep the one you want and send all the rest back for free?
Under the legacy model, e-commerce furniture sales were simply a digital extension of traditional product purchasing and sampling. Further, the thinking continued, the legacy retailers were actually capable of avoiding disruption because of the complexity in the supply chain and delivery logistics that made it expensive, if not impossible, for startups to compete.
But this is all changing.
To be fair, it’s still exceedingly early in the disruption cycle – two of the emerging brands, Campaign and Greycork, for example, haven’t even begun shipping their product yet – but taking into account the strength of their pre-sales and the growing traction among other disrupters, its hard to dispute that there is a fundamental shift underway:
At Chicago Ventures, we’ve categorized the disruption from these new, vertically integrated brands into four categories: Delivery, Assembly, Price, and Design.
We view Delivery and Assembly as the two most intriguing and sustainable angles being attacked. Although our internal consumer surveying has shown that price is ultimately the #1 most important variable for buyers, we fear that — given the healthy gross margins in the category (42.9% at Ikea, ~38.3% at Pottery Barn*) and de minimus return rates — incumbent retailers will quickly be able to adapt on price undercutting or free shipping/returns offers.
What appears hardest for legacy retailers to respond to are fundamental reimaginations of the production line, product design, and supply chain.
Outside of the millenial manufacturers, there’s an equal amount of momentum in the next generation of retail models. Right now, the process for actually purchasing a piece of furniture online is cluttered, as most product exists in an environment of millions of SKUs with minimal effective filters. And while the companies listed in the Pottery Barn graphic above are trying to reimagine the next generation of vertically integrated brands, that doesn’t solve the wider discovery problem for consumers.
The problem for consumers is that the increase in SKUs across all furniture categories has made shopping on the aggregators an utter nightmare. Comparing from vendor to vendor is also a time-consuming, high-friction experience. These are the reasons that, according to Upfront Ventures’ Greg Bettenlli, the only growth driver at Wayfair is Joss & Main, their ultra-curated flash sales site.
Thus, the furniture category appears to be mirroring the quintessential e-commerce curve that I detailed earlier this year:
Th[e] same catalog of infinite SKUs caused real pain for all but the most specific of product searches. This pain led to the birth of discovery- and push-curation focused platforms. On a macro level, the [present] move towards connection makes a lot of sense. Consumers are overwhelmed by email, social, and retargeted marketing, while at the same time flocking to platforms such as Uber and HotelTonight, whose focus is on constraining choice and cognitive noise.
For example, we’ve witnesses this process play out in the fashion industry – first with discovery-focused platforms (Gilt, Fab, Wish, RueLaLa) and now with personalization experiences (TrunkClub, Stitchfix, Wantable). The following chart illustrates how the same dynamic is now emerging in the furniture world:
And yet in spite of the increasing focus on the sector, only about $20 billion of the $160 billion U.S. market for furniture and home accessories is being transacted online:
Put together, the category represents a tremendous opportunity for venture investors: demonstrable consumer pain points, broken processes and experience, and a market size well over a hundred billion dollars. Few of the companies noted have material traction or brand equity – but it’s the early innings; it’s one of the most exciting categories to watch in consumer Internet and is poised for outsized growth.
At Chicago Ventures, we’re definitely looking for entrepreneurs focused on reimagining the furniture space. If you’re one of them, please reach out!
* This is blended and includes results from Williams-Sonoma and a number of other properties. As PB sales have increased, GM has contracted, implying their GM on their PB business is probably closer to 35% than 40%.
The week in pictures gallery features images on a theme picked by the editors on the CBC News photo desk. For the week of Oct. 24-30, 2015, we focus on individuals caught in moments of solitude from around the world.
(Reuters) – Vodafone U.K. said on Saturday hackers had accessed the accounts of 1,827 of its customers this week, the second cyber attack on a British telecoms company this month.
The attackers had potentially gained access to the victims’ bank sort codes and the last four numbers of their bank accounts, along with their names and mobile telephone numbers, a Vodafone spokesman said.
“This incident was driven by criminals using email addresses and passwords acquired from an unknown source external to Vodafone,” he added in a statement.
Only a handful of those affected in the Thursday morning attack had seen any attempts to use their data for fraudulent activity on their Vodafone accounts.
“No credit or debit card numbers or details were obtained. However, this information does leave these 1,827 customers open to fraud and might also leave them open to phishing attempts,” the spokesman said.
The company was contacting all those involved and that other customers need not be concerned, he said.
Last week broadband, TV, mobile and fixed-line service provider TalkTalk said it had been hacked, potentially putting the private details of its 4 million customers into the hands of criminals.
Less than 21,000 unique bank account numbers and sort codes had been accessed. Two teenagers have been arrested in connection with that attack.
(Reporting by Stephen Addison; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)
The crash of a Russian jetliner in the Sinai Peninsula once again raises concerns about planes flying near combat zones, which have been a growing worry for aviation regulators.
Greece’s top four lenders will need to inject up to $15.8 billion in fresh funds to strengthen their capital base, according to the results of a health check performed by the European Central Bank.
A Russian aircraft carrying 224 people crashed Saturday in a remote mountainous region in the Sinai Peninsula about 20 minutes after taking off from a Red Sea resort popular with Russian tourists, the Egyptian government said. There were no survivors.
Earlier this week in Boulder, Colo., 11 Republican presidential hopefuls took their third shot on CNBC’s national stage of 13 million viewers to expand their support base with new campaign messages and tactics.
As we head deeper into election season, brand advertisers also have a high-stakes, high-reward opportunity to set themselves apart from their competitors by delivering relevant, timely messages to a captivated political audience. As we saw from the last presidential election season, brands such as JetBlue, Pizza Hut and PBS jumped in with clever and entertaining campaigns that leveraged current events and effectively connected with consumers … but not without risk.
With political ad spend projected to reach $11.4 billion this season, brands will have to work hard to rise above the noise. Here are some ways to stay focused and build a story that will further expand your base of brand enthusiasts and loyalists.
For this season’s remaining 19 candidates, the presidential campaign represents a grueling, intricate labyrinth of paid and unpaid channels to engage various constituencies across 50 states. The venues range from local town halls in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and rallies in Mobile, Alabama, to national broadcast appearances on The Late Show or Meet the Press. And at any given moment, a candidate’s statement — a triumphant cry on income equality or a hiccup on religious beliefs — can go viral through social media and quickly gain national attention.
To identify the best opportunities for weighing in, brands must be equally adept at navigating the political arena and savvy about the nuanced dynamics and merits of various paid and unpaid media channels. For example, Fox News’ telecast of the first Republican debate in August drew 23.9 million viewers (16% of homes with TV sets), making it the highest-rated presidential primary debate ever and among the most-viewed events in cable TV history. In contrast, digital media represents a powerful channel to reach millennials, an increasingly powerful constituency for candidates. As a result, each candidate has turned to social media channels (including relative political newcomers Instagram and Snaphat) to engage millennials on very specific issues such as student loans and healthcare.
Instead of taking a reactive approach (i.e., scrambling to come up with a clever idea once a milestone moment has gone viral), brands should take a proactive approach and organize ahead of time. To start, you should understand which candidates your brand is better positioned to play off of (positively or negatively). Next, you should game out topical responses and be ready for a candidate to use a trigger phrase or question at the next debate. Once you have established a clear approval chain, be ready to go when an opportune moment hits. If you can’t be timely, don’t bother.
What does 7-Eleven have to do with the presidential election season? Normally, nothing. But in 2012, the company held its third ‘7-Election’ campaign, where customers could show support for either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney by choosing a red or blue cup. By keeping tally and posting state-by-state results of cup choices on its site, 7-Eleven successfully “polled” 6 million consumers and garnered major media attention.
In another example, when Mitt Romney claimed that, despite his love for Big Bird, he would cut PBS funding if elected, PBS quickly purchased promoted tweets related to “Big Bird” searches on Twitter. As a result, it was able to drive traffic to its site and educate consumers about the value of PBS.
These campaigns illustrate how brands can develop creative campaigns that engage audiences by taking a lighthearted, entertaining approach. Again, if you can plug into a timely moment or trend, consumers will appreciate the context and relevance and respond with engagement.
While the presidential election season presents significant opportunities to participate in a politically driven conversation, brands need to be strategic and selective about when to chime in. Brand-driven geo-political campaigns don’t always represent a good idea, as clothing retailer Kenneth Cole now knows.
As you evaluate marketing opportunities, be sure to constantly question the potential merits of an investment and allocation of resources. Ask: Does this align with our brand? Does this campaign further our brands’ broader marketing goals and objectives? What KPIs will we track to evaluate effectiveness? Why is this important?
You should also remain acutely aware of the social conventions of the time, and constantly assess the risk versus rewards of pushing the marketing envelope. It’s one thing to make light of the ridiculousness of politics with benign memes; it’s another to poke at hot button issues that remain sensitive in today’s social fabric.
The primaries present a perfect time for brands to test and refine messaging with a smaller set of tuned-in voters. If you take advantage of these opportunities now, you will be able to deliver relevant, on-message campaigns in the general election. By asking these kinds of questions ahead of time and staying focused, you will be able to rise above a crowded advertising landscape and continue blazing trails with engaging brand messages.
Michael Horn is SVP and Chief Analytics Officer at Resonate.
The FBI said it had found no evidence an explosive device had caused an explosion aboard a boat carrying the president of the Maldives, a case in which the country’s vice president has been detained.
Machete-wielding assailants hacked to death an owner of a publishing company and injured another publisher, heightening fears about growing radicalism.
Bahrain officials accused Iran of training and supplying people who sought to carry out terror attacks and create political turmoil on the tiny Gulf island.
Ersatz Labs, a startup specializing in a trendy type of artificial intelligence called deep learning, has suspended development of its cloud service and application programming interface (API).
The startup has dropped its headcount from around 13 to five, with three working part-time, in recent months. Earlier this month it began focusing exclusively on consulting, which is what cofounder and chief executive Dave Sullivan was doing before he started Ersatz Labs in 2013.
Other startups, like Clarifai and Metamind, offer cloud services for deep learning. The CEOs of both of those startups have PhDs and are widely recognized for their work in academic circles; both have succeeded in landing institutional venture capital backing for their startups. Ersatz by contrast, does not have PhDs onboard; Sullivan is effectively self-taught, and he suspects that could be one reason Ersatz wasn’t able to raise funding. Hence the scaling back.
“We just don’t have a big enough team to make a real go of it,” Sullivan said of the cloud service during an interview with VentureBeat. With its smaller workforce and its complete dedication to consulting, the startup is now breaking even, Sullivan said.
One would think venture capitalists would be more interested in giving checks to startups like Ersatz. Apple is on an AI acquisition rampage. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Baidu are all building up formidable AI teams. Pinterest, Snapchat, Spotify, and other startups have considering using deep learning for certain purposes.
Deep learning involves training artificial neural networks on pools of data — such as images — and having the networks make inferences about new data. Interest in the field has accelerated in the past three years, especially after researchers discovered that GPUs could potentially perform these computations in a more economical way than standard x86 chips.
Some people think interest in deep learning will eventually die down and lead to another so-called AI winter, with young companies going out of business. “Today the cycle is likely to repeat itself again,” as New York Times reporter John Markoff predicted in his 2015 book Machines of Loving Grace.
Sullivan, of course, is more optimistic than that.
“We’ve got a pretty big pipeline at this point,” he said. “A lot of these companies just don’t have it in their budgets yet. Next year I really think a lot of people have money earmarked for these types of services, much more so than last year.”
Ersatz launched in June 2014 and is based in Pacifica, California, just south of San Francisco.
A Muslim Montrealer is filing a human rights complaint against Costco after what she says was an Islamophobic incident at l’Acadie Boulevard store on Oct. 18.
Brad Gushue was taken to hospital for stitches, then made his return to the ice after he slipped and fell during his team’s quarter-final match at the Grand of Curling Masters tournament in Truro, Nova Scotia.
From zombie walks to trick-or-treating at the White House, here’s how the globe got its Halloween fix.
As Halloween trick-or-treating preparations were underway Saturday afternoon, a dead comet bearing remarkable resemblance to a massive human skull hurtled safely past Earth. The comet was originally thought to be a giant asteroid.
This is an exciting time for those of us in robotics. We are finally starting to see sales in the service robot category after years of predictions. Silicon Valley companies such as Fellow Robots, whose OSHBot assists Orchard Supply Hardware shoppers, and Savioke, whose Relay robot makes deliveries to hotel guests, are leading the way into the emerging personal and service robotics industry.
And there are plenty more. Fetch Robotics, for example, builds robots that pack boxes for e-commerce deliveries. Bossa Nova Robotics is building a new service robot. Adept produces an all purpose mobile base that can autonomously navigate around. SRI International, Eksobionics, and Pneubotics are all working on assistive technology suits to make workers stronger, or help people with disability or injury. Catalia Health and RobotsLab are incorporating AI into social robots to help people manage their medication or even act as a personal stylist. And more are on the way.
See VentureBeat’s recent webinar on The Future of Robotics
Until now, industrial has been the dominant sector for robots, particularly in the car industry and consumer electronics. In fact, the industrial robotics market is worth more than $32 billion dollars.
Meanwhile, service robotics has, to date, seen a huge gap between research and commercialization. And we’ve seen very few successful personal or service robotics companies, in spite of the pressure of labor shortages and an aging population.
However, the service robotics industry is now growing strongly and encompasses all of the new market areas not defined as industrial robotics. It is hard to accurately predict growth here when there is such potential for rapid growth as costs drop, new systems are introduced, and new suppliers start to proliferate.
The International Federation of Robotics has tracked overall annual growth at around 11.5 percent so far and projects more than 20 percent annual growth to come. But some niche areas have already demonstrated growth of between 150 percent (mobile platforms) and 650 percent (assistive technology) in the last year. The primary market areas for service robots so far have been in defense, field (agriculture and inspection), logistics, and health/medical applications.
One of the new categories to emerge in the last year is the humanoid helper, kiosk robot or retail robot. Hot on the heels of this professional service robot category has come a wave of affordable social personal robots, like Jibo, Pepper, Buddy, and Mabu.
The early 21st century saw the first wave of companionable social robots. They were small cute pets like AIBO, Pleo, and Paro. But the novelty of robot toys and pets wore off and for the last 10 years the consumer robotics market has been dominated by utilitarian drones and vacuum cleaners.
But the second wave of social robots has started, driven by the development and spread of smart phone technology and more sophisticated user interfaces. A key factor in a robot’s ability to be social is its ability to correctly understand and respond to people’s speech and to guess at the underlying context or emotion.
Improvements in cloud robotics, computer vision, and AI speed up the likelihood that we will all soon be in daily interaction or conversation with robots. These robots might be our vehicles, our houses, or more anthropomorphic robot friends.
We are starting to see market pull matching technology push in robotics. New market opportunities are arising, partly due to continual improvements in the safety and compliance of robot systems, alongside their simpler more intuitive user interfaces. And the cost of service robotics systems is dropping significantly, putting service robots in reach of many new market partners.
We have the opportunity to democratize health care and many other services with robotics, in roles where our access to human experts and service providers is already limited. Imagine if everyone had access to the experts we needed, whenever we needed them? At the end of the day, the value proposition for service robotics is supporting workers to do existing jobs better, faster, safer, and at scale.
The robots we are looking for don’t actually replace people but augment aspects of our lives or jobs that are unpleasant or just not getting done. We don’t want Rosie the robot maid, because most of us don’t have maids anymore. We want extra robot hands in the kitchen or smart moving tables in the house. We want robot vacuum cleaners and laundry folders.
And what is becoming clear, as robotics catches up to computerization, is that we don’t just want faceless AI and automation. We already have robocallers, auto shopping suggestions, personalized advertising, and tailored health programs.
We want to keep a level of sociability in our lives and real people aren’t available then maybe a robot assistant will do. We know that pets improve the quality of our lives significantly. It turns out that robots can too.
Andra Keay is Managing Director of Silicon Valley Robotics, a not-for-profit industry group supporting the innovation and commercialization of robotics technologies.
Loved ones of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls are calling on prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau to put families at the forefront of a national inquiry into the issue.