Australia’s spy agencies caught collecting COVID-19 app data

Australia’s intelligence agencies have been caught “incidentally” collecting data from the country’s COVIDSafe contact tracing app during the first six months of its launch, a government watchdog has found.

The report, published Monday by the Australian government’s inspector general for the intelligence community, which oversees the government’s spy and eavesdropping agencies, said the app data was scooped up “in the course of the lawful collection of other data.”

But the watchdog said that there was “no evidence” that any agency “decrypted, accessed or used any COVID app data.”

Incidental collection is a common term used by spies to describe the data that was not deliberately targeted but collected as part of a wider collection effort. This kind of collection isn’t accidental, but more of a consequence of when spy agencies tap into fiber optic cables, for example, which carries an enormous firehose of data. An Australian government spokesperson told one outlet, which first reported the news, that incidental collection can also happen as a result of the “execution of warrants.”

The report did not say when the incidental collection stopped, but noted that the agencies were “taking active steps to ensure compliance” with the law, and that the data would be “deleted as soon as practicable,” without setting a firm date.

For some, fears that a government spy agency could access COVID-19 contact tracing data was the worst possible outcome.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries — and states in places like the U.S. — have rushed to build contact tracing apps to help prevent the spread of the virus. But these apps vary wildly in terms of functionality and privacy.

Most have adopted the more privacy-friendly approach of using Bluetooth to trace people with the virus that you may have come into contact with. Many have chosen to implement the Apple-Google system, which hundreds of academics have backed. But others, like Israel and Pakistan, are using more privacy invasive techniques, like tracking location data, which governments can also use to monitor a person’s whereabouts. In Israel’s case, the tracking was so controversial that the courts shut it down.

Australia’s intelligence watchdog did not say specifically what data was collected by the spy agencies. The app uses Bluetooth and not location data, but the app requires the user to upload some personal information — like their name, age, postal code, and phone number — to allow the government’s health department to contact those who may have come into contact with an infected person.

Australia has seen more than 27,800 confirmed coronavirus cases and over 900 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

#articles, #australia, #bluetooth, #contact-tracing, #exposure-notification, #fiber-optic, #government, #israel, #mass-surveillance, #pakistan, #policy, #privacy, #security, #software, #spokesperson, #united-states

0

Recycling robotics company AMP Robotics could raise up to $70M

AMP Robotics, the recycling robotics technology developer backed by investors including Sequoia Capital and Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, is close to closing on as much as $70 million in new financing, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the company’s plans.

The new financing speaks to AMP Robotics’ continued success in pilot projects and with new partnerships that are exponentially expanding the company’s deployments.

Earlier this month the company announced a new deal that represented its largest purchase order for its trash sorting and recycling robots.

That order, for 24 machine learning-enabled robotic recycling systems with the waste handling company Waste Connections, was a showcase for the efficacy of the company’s recycling technology.

That comes on the back of a pilot program earlier in the year with one Toronto apartment complex, where the complex’s tenants were able to opt into a program that would share recycling habits monitored by AMP Robotics with the building’s renters in an effort to improve their recycling behavior.

The potential benefits of AMP Robotic’s machine learning enabled robots are undeniable. The company’s technology can sort waste streams in ways that traditional systems never could and at a cost that’s far lower than most waste handling facilities.

As TechCrunch reported earlier the tech can tell the difference between high-density polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate, low-density polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene. The robots can also sort for color, clarity, opacity and shapes like lids, tubs, clamshells and cups — the robots can even identify the brands on packaging.

AMP’s robots already have been deployed in North America, Asia and Europe, with recent installations in Spain and across the U.S. in California, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

At the beginning of the year, AMP Robotics  worked with its investor, Sidewalk Labs on a pilot program that provided residents of a single apartment building representing 250 units in Toronto with detailed information about their recycling habits. Sidewalk Labs is transporting the waste to a Canada Fibers material recovery facility where trash is sorted by both Canada Fibers employees and AMP Robotics.

Once the waste is categorized, sorted and recorded, Sidewalk communicates with residents of the building about how they’re doing in their recycling efforts.

It was only last November that the Denver-based AMP Robotics raised a $16 million round from Sequoia Capital and others to finance the early commercialization of its technology.

 

As TechCrunch reported at the time, recycling businesses used to be able to rely on China to buy up any waste stream (no matter the quality of the material). However, about two years ago, China decided it would no longer serve as the world’s garbage dump and put strict standards in place for the kinds of raw materials it would be willing to receive from other countries.

The result has been higher costs at recycling facilities, which actually are now required to sort their garbage more effectively. At the time, unemployment rates put the squeeze on labor availability at facilities where trash was sorted. Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has put even more pressure on those recycling and waste handling facilities, despite their identification as “essential workers”.

Given the economic reality, recyclers are turning to AMP’s technology — a combination of computer vision, machine learning and robotic automation to improve efficiencies at their facilities.

And, the power of AMP’s technology to identify waste products in a stream has other benefits, according to chief executive Matanya Horowitz.

“We can identify… whether it’s a Coke or Pepsi can or a Starbucks cup,” Horowitz told TechCrunch last year. “So that people can help design their product for circularity… we’re building out our reporting capabilities and that, to them, is something that is of high interest.”

AMP Robotics declined to comment for this article.

 

#amp, #amps, #articles, #asia, #california, #china, #colorado, #denver, #europe, #florida, #machine-learning, #materials, #matter, #michigan, #minnesota, #new-york, #north-america, #pepsi, #recycling, #robot, #robotics, #sequoia-capital, #sidewalk-infrastructure-partners, #sidewalk-labs, #spain, #starbucks, #tc, #texas, #toronto, #united-states, #virginia, #water-conservation, #wisconsin

0

Relativity Space raises $500 million as its sets sights on the industrialization of Mars

3D-printed rocket startup Relativity Space has closed $500 million in Series D funding (making official the earlier reported raise), the company announced today. This funding was led by Tiger Global Management, and included participation by a host of new investors including Fidelity Management & Research Company, Baillie Gifford, Iconiq Capital, General Catalist and more. This brings the company’s total raised so far to nearly $700 million, as the startup is poised to launch its first ever fully 3D-printed orbital rocket next year.

LA-based Relativity had a big 2020, completing work on a new 120,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Long Beach. Its rocket construction technology, which is grounded in its development and use of the largest metal 3D printers in existence, suffered relatively few setbacks due to COVID-19-related shutdowns and work stoppages since it involves relatively few actual people on the factory floor managing the 3D printing process, which is handled in large part by autonomous robotic systems and software developed by the company.

Relativity also locked in a first official contract from the U.S. government this year, to launch a new experimental cryogenic fluid management system on behalf of client Lockheed Martin, as part of NASA’s suite of Tipping Point contracts to fund the development of new technologies for space exploration. It also put into service its third-generation Stargate 3D metal printers – the largest on Earth, as mentioned.

The company’s ambitions are big, so this new large funding round should provide it with fuel to grow even more aggressively in 2021. It’s got new planned initiatives underway, both terrestrial and space-related, but CEO and founder Tim Ellis specifically referred to Mars and sustainable operations on the red planet as one possible application of Relativity’s tech down the road.

In prior conversations, Ellis has alluded to the potential for Relativity’s printers when applied to other large-scale metal manufacturing – noting that the cost curve as it stands makes most sense for rocketry, but could apply to other industries easily as the technology matures. Whether on Mars or on Earth, large-scale 3D printing definitely has a promising future, and it looks like Relativity is well-positioned to take advantage.

We’ll be talking to Ellis at our forthcoming TC Sessions: Space event, so we’ll ask him more about this round and his company’s aspirations live there, too.

#3d-printing, #aerospace, #articles, #baillie-gifford, #ceo, #emerging-technologies, #fundings-exits, #iconiq-capital, #industrial-design, #lockheed-martin, #long-beach, #printer, #relativity-space, #robotics, #science, #science-and-technology, #space, #tc, #tiger-global-management, #tim-ellis, #u-s-government, #united-states

0

LA-based Boulevard raises $27 million for its spa management software

Boulevard, a spa management and payment platform, has raised $27 million in a new round of funding despite a business slowdown caused by the COVID0-19 pandemic.

Founded four years ago by Matt Danna and Sean Stavropoulos, Boulevard was inspired by Stavropoulos’ inability to book a haircut and Danna’s hunch that the inability of salons and spas to cater to customers like the busy programmer could be indicative of a bigger problem.

The two spent months pounding the pavement in Los Angeles pretending to be college students doing research on the industry. They spoke with salon owners in Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and other trendy neighborhoods trying to get a sense of where software and services were falling short.

Through those months of interviews the two developed the booking management and payment platform that would become Boulevard. The inspiration was one part Shopify and one part ServiceTitan, Danna said.

The idea was that the Boulevard could build a pretty large business catering to the needs of a niche industry that hadn’t traditionally been exposed to a purpose-built toolkit for its vertical.

Investors including Index Ventures, Toba Capital, VMG Partners, Bonfire Ventures, Ludlow Ventures and BoxGroup agreed.

That could be because of the size of the industry. There’s over $250 billion spent per year across roughly 3 million businesses in the salon and spa category, according to data provided by the company. By comparison, fitness attracts roughly $34 billion in annual spending from 150,000 businesses.

“With limited access to the professionals that help us look and feel our best, I think the world has realized something that our team has always recognized: salons and spas are more than a luxury, they are essential to our well-being,” said Danna, in a statement. “We are humbled that so many businesses are placing their trust in us during such a turbulent time. This new capital will help accelerate our mission and deliver value to salons and spas that they never imagined was possible from technology.”

According to data provided by the company, Boulevard is definitely giving businesses a boost. On average, businesses increase bookings by 16%, retail revenue jumps by 18%, and gratuity paid out to stylists jumps by 24% for businesses that use Boulevard, the company said. It also reduces no-shows and cancellations, and halves time spent on the phone.  

“Boulevard is revitalizing the salon and spa industry, as evidenced by the company’s sustained 300-400% revenue growth over the last three years,” said Damir Becirovic of Index Ventures, whose firm led the company’s Series A round and has doubled down with the new capital infusion. 

Customers using the company’s software include: Chris McMillan the Salon, Heyday, MèCHE Salon, Paintbox, Sassoon Salon, SEV Laser, Spoke & Weal, and TONI&GUY.

Boulevard now has 90 employees and will look to increase that number as it continues to expand across the country.

Investors have taken a run at the spa market in the past, with company’s like MindBody valued at over $1 billion for its software services. Indeed, that company was taken private two years ago in a $1.9 billion transaction by Vista Equity Partners.

As Boulevard expands, the company may look to get deeper into financial services for the salons and spas that it’s already working with. Given the company’s window into these businesses’ financing, it’s not impossible to image a new line of business providing small business loans to these companies.

It’s something that the founders would likely not rule out. And it’s a way to provide more tools to entrepreneurs that often fall outside of the traditional sweet spot for banks and other lenders, Danna said.

 

#articles, #bonfire-ventures, #boulevard, #boxgroup, #business, #business-software, #economy, #financial-services, #laser, #los-angeles, #ludlow-ventures, #mindbody, #shopify, #small-business, #tc, #toba-capital, #vista-equity-partners

0

Index ventures into Latin America to back Sofia, a Mexico City-based telemedicine and health insurer

Arturo Sanchez and his co-founders have spent the past two years developing the telemedicine and insurance platform, Sofia, as a way to give customers across Mexico better access to quality healthcare through their insurance plan.

Along with his co-founders, Sebastian Jimenez, a former Google employee who serves as the company’s chief product officer, and Manuel Andere an ex-Patreon employee who’s now Sofia’s chief technology officer, Sanchez  (a former Index Ventures employee) is on a path to provide low-cost insurance for middle class consumers across Latin America, starting in Mexico City.

Backing that vision are a clutch of regional and international investors including Kaszek Ventures, Ribbit Capital, and Index Ventures. When Index Ventures came in to lead the company’s $19 million round earlier this year, it was the first commitment that the venture firm had made in Latin America, but given the strength of the market, it likely won’t be their last.

In Sofia, Index has found a good foothold from which to expand its activity. The company which initially started as a telemedicine platform recently received approvals to operate as an insurer as well — part of a long-term vision for growth where it provides a full service health platform for customers.

Founded by three college friends who graduated from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (Mexico’s version of MIT), the company initially launched with COVID-19 related telemedicine service as the pandemic took hold in Mexico.

That service was a placeholder for what Sanchez said was the broader company vision. And while that product alone had 10,000 users signed up for it, the new vision is broader.

“We registered as an insurance company because we want to go deeper into people’s health. We have built a telemedicine solution, which is a core component of the product. The goal is to be an integrated provider that provide primary care and handles more significant types of illnesses,” said Sanchez.

The company already has a core group of 100 physicians in Mexico City and initially will be serving the city with 70 different specialist areas.

All the virtual consultations are covered without an additional payment and in-person or specialty consultations come at a 30% reduced rate to an out-of-pocket payment, according to Sanchez.

Fees depend on age and gender, but Sanchez said a customer would typically pay around $500 per-year or roughly between $40 and $50 per-month.

The company covers 70% of the cost of most treatments that’s capped at $2,000 per-year and coverage maxes out at $75,000. “In Mexico that covers north of 98% of all illnesses or treatment episodes,” said Sanchez.

In Mexico, insurance is even less common than in the US.

90% of private health spend happens out of pocket. The problem that we’re trying to solve is for these people that are already spending money on healthcare but doing it in an unpredictable and risky way,” said Sanchez. “They buy [our service] and they have access to great quality healthcare that they buy it and it’s a significant step up from what they’ve been living with.”

 

#articles, #chief-technology-officer, #google, #heal, #healthcare, #insurance, #kaszek-ventures, #latin-america, #mexico, #mexico-city, #mit, #ribbit-capital, #science-and-technology, #tc, #technology, #telehealth, #telemedicine, #united-states

0

Astanor Ventures launches $325M Impact Fund aimed at FoodTech and AgTech startups

We can all, by now, ascribe to the idea that something has changed in the last few months. Like it or not, business is not as it was. If we were true to ourselves, we would admit that our lives will never be the name again. But parallel to this visceral feeling, is the quite clear and objective truth that the planet that sustains our existence is in trouble. So, surely, is it not beholden upon us to step up? Is this both a moral and a commercial opportunity?

Today Astanor Ventures is launching a $325m ‘Global Impact fund’ concentrating on food and agriculture technology. These are two of the most pressing areas in the climate debate,  The aim is to deploy funds across Europe and North America.

Astanor‘s fund is a multi-stage tech investor that unites both knowledge and experience of scaling new technology companies with food, cross-sector expertise and agriculture.

Speaking to TechCrunch, Eric Archambeau, co-founder and partner of Astanor Ventures said: “There is now an urgent need for an impact investor like Astanor which is using tech and capital to bring about a revolution in food and farming.”

Archambeau told TechCrunch that the fund will rigorously apply the ideas behind the UN’s seventeen SDGs to ints investments.

“There is a new generation coming on board at LPs and family offices today and new funds understand the imperative this generation now raises. It’s time to stop up and be counted for the future,” said Archambeau.

Within its network, Astanor counts entrepreneurs, impact investors, farmers, chefs, policymakers, food scientists and high-profile sector experts, such as Kathleen Merrigan, Professor in the School of Sustainability and Executive Director of the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University (an Astanor Venture Partner).

The background opportunities to shift the economy are, by now, obvious. Multiple studies show there are booming greenhouse gas emissions and some 70% of the world’s freshwater resources are consumed by agriculture. The earth’s soil is degrading (fertile soil is being lost at rate of 24bn tonnes a year. Food waste is a huge issue and some 40% of food goes to waste); most fruit or vegetable has 15% less nutrients than it did in 1950.

 

Eric Archambeau, Astanor Ventures

Eric Archambeau, Astanor Ventures

Since its founding in 2017, Astanor has invested in more than 20 European and US startups that are working to accelerate regenerative agriculture, innovate food production techniques and farming, as well as promote food culture and the enjoyment of food.

Portfolio companies include French insect farming pioneer Ϋnsect, in which Astanor is the lead investor; Infarm, the Berlin -based on-demand vertical farming company; La Ruche Qui dit Oui, a French farm to table supplier; and Notpla, a UK-based company seeking to eliminate plastics by creating a highly functional packaging material from seaweed. California food waste reduction company Apee created plant-based protection for fresh fruit and vegetables, allowing produce to stay fresh twice as long as without it.

#agriculture, #arizona-state-university, #articles, #astanor-ventures, #berlin, #california, #europe, #food, #food-and-drink, #food-waste, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #infarm, #la-ruche-qui-dit-oui, #north-america, #plastics, #sustainability, #tc, #technology, #united-nations, #united-states, #waste

0

Medable raises $91 million for its clinical trial management software

The clinical trial management software developer Medable has raised $91 million in a new round of financing as life sciences companies struggle with how to conduct the necessary validation studies of new drugs and devices in a pandemically challenged environment.

Digital and decentralized clinical trials are becoming a necessity given the health and safety guidelines that have been adopted to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company said. And those changes are driving a shift to services like Medable’s as companies move through the approval process, the company said in a statement.

The company’s new $91 million financing was led by Sapphire Ventures, with follow-on investment from existing investors GSR VenturesPPD, Inc. and Streamlined Ventures.

Medable’s software manages recruitment, remote screening, electronic consent, clinical outcomes assessment (eCOA), eSource, telemedicine, and connected devices, the company said.

Its software is already being used to work on vaccines and therapeutics targeting COVID-19 specifically in addition to facilitating the development of other potentially life-saving therapies and treatments.

“The pandemic has made the world aware of the importance of clinical drug development,” said Dr. Michelle Longmire, CEO and co-founder of Medable, in a statement. “We need transformative technologies that break down critical barriers to improve patient access, experience and outcomes. This new funding will enable Medable to continue our aggressive pursuit of new technologies that improve clinical trials to benefit all patients.”

Trials underway in more than 60 countries are using the service and Medable has inked partnerships with companies like Datavant, to integrate multiple data sources for decentralized trials; MRN, to handle home and remote visits, and AliveCor, to track in-home health with electrocardiograms. 

 

#alivecor, #articles, #drug-development, #gsr-ventures, #health, #medable, #sapphire-ventures, #streamlined-ventures, #tc, #telehealth, #telemedicine

0

Investors including Microsoft’s climate fund back hyperlocal environmental monitoring tech developer Aclima

Mitigating the effects of climate change and pollution is a global problem, but it’s one that requires local solutions.

While that seems like common sense, most communities around the world don’t have tools that can monitor emissions and pollutants at the granular levels they need to develop plans that can address these pollutants.

Aclima, a decade-old startup founded by Davida Herzl, is looking to solve that problem and has raised $40 million in new funding from strategic and institutional venture capital investors to accelerate its growth.

“We’ve built a platform that enables hyperlocal measurement. We measure all the greenhouse gases as well as regulated air pollutants. We deploy sensor networks that combine mobile sensing where we use fleets of vehicles as a roving network. And we bring that all together and bring that into a back end,” Herzl said. 

The networks of air quality monitoring technology that exists — and is subsidized by the government — is costly and lacking in the kinds of minute details on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis that communities can use to effectively address pollution problems.

“A typical air quality monitoring station would cost somewhere between $1 million to $2 million. Here in the Bay Area, the regulator is paying less than $3 million for access to all of this for the entire Bay Area,” Herzl said. 

Aclima’s technologies are already being deployed across California, and some of the company’s largest customers are municipalities in the Bay Area and down south in San Diego. 

GettyImages 1155300963

Image Credits: Getty Images under a license.

The company has two main offerings: an enterprise professional software product that’s geared toward regulators, experts, and businesses that want to get a handle on their greenhouse gas emissions and environmentally polluting operations and a free tool that’s available to the public.

A third revenue stream is through partnerships with companies like Google, which have attached Aclima’s sensors to its roving mapping vehicles to capture climate and environmental quality data alongside geographic information.

“You’re seeing a lot of large companies in traditionally who are now investing significant amount into really trying to understand their emissions profile and prioritize emission reductions in a data driven way,” Herzl said.

The company’s data is also providing real world tools to communities that are looking to address systemic inequalities in locations that have been hardest hit by industrial pollution.

West Oakland, for instance, has used Aclima’s data to develop community intervention plans to reduce pollution in the communities that have been most impacted by the regions industrial economy.

“The interconnected crises of climate change, public health and environmental justice urgently require lasting solutions,” said Herzl, in a statement. “Measurement will play a key role in shaping solutions and tracking progress. With this coalition of investors, we’re expanding our capacity to support new and existing customers and partners taking bold climate action.”

As a result of the new round of funding, led by Clearvision Ventures, the fund’s founder and managing partner, Dan Ahn will take a seat on the board of directors.

Photo: Greg Epperson/Getty Images

“They are the clear category leader in an important and emerging field of data and standards at the intersection of climate, public health and the economy,” Ahn said in a statement. “Both governments and industry will need Aclima’s critical data and analytics to benchmark and accelerate progress to reduce emissions.”

Other investors in Aclima’s latest round include the corporate investment arm of the sensor manufacturer Robert Bosch, which views the company as a strategic component of its efforts to use sensor data to combat climate change. 

“Aclima has built an expansive mobile and stationary sensor network that generates billions of measurements about our most critical resources every week,” says Dr. Ingo Ramesohl, Managing Director of RBVC, in a statement. “Bosch invents and delivers connected solutions for a smarter future across transportation, home, industrial, and many other fields. What Aclima has achieved in connected environmental sensing is an impressive feat. Together, we can accelerate Aclima’s ability to support customers in taking decisive and data-driven climate action.”

Another key investor is Microsoft, which has backed the company through one of the first direct investments from the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund. 

“We established our Climate Innovation Fund earlier this year to accelerate the development of environmental sustainability solutions based on the best available science,” said Brandon Middaugh, Director, Climate Innovation Fund, Microsoft, in a statement. “We’re encouraged by Aclima’s pioneering approach to mapping air pollution sources and exposures at a hyperlocal level and the implications this technology can have for making data-driven environmental decisions with consideration for climate equity.”

Other investors also adding Aclima to their portfolios in this round include Splunk Inc. GingerBread Capital, KTB Network, ACVC Partners, and the Womens VC Fund II. Existing shareholders participating in the round include Social Capital, Rethink Impact, Kapor Capital, and the Schmidt Family Foundation, the company said in a statement.

 

#aclima, #articles, #bosch, #brandon-middaugh, #california, #climate-change, #davida-herzl, #director, #google, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #kapor-capital, #managing-partner, #oakland, #pollution, #san-diego, #schmidt-family-foundation, #social-capital, #soil, #tc

0

Portugal’s Faber reaches $24.3M for its second fund aimed at data-driven startups from Iberia

Portuguese VC Faber has hit the first close of its Faber Tech II fund at €20.5 million ($24.3 million). The fund will focus on early-stage data-driven startups starting from Southern Europe and the Iberian peninsula, with the aim of reaching a final close of €30 million in the coming months. The new fund targets pre-series A and early-stage startups in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Data Science.

The fund is backed by European Investment Fund (EIF) and the local Financial Development Institution (IFD), with a joint commitment of €15 million (backed by the Investment Plan for Europe – the Juncker Plan and through the Portugal Tech program), alongside other private institutional and individual investors.

Alexandre Barbosa, Faber’s Managing Partner, said “The success of the first close of our new fund allows us to foresee a growth in the demand for this type of investment, as we believe digital transformation through Intelligence Artificial, Machine Learning and data science are increasingly relevant for companies and their businesses, and we think Southern Europe will be the launchpad of a growing number.”

Faber has already ‘warehoused’ three initial investments. It co-financed a 15.6 million euros Series A for SWORD Health – portuguese startup that created the first digital physiotherapy system combining artificial intelligence and clinical teams. It led the pre-seed round of YData, a startup with a data-centric development platform that provides data science professionals tools to deal with accessing high-quality and meaningful data while protecting its privacy. It also co-financed the pre-seed round of Emotai, a neuroscience-powered analytics and performance-boosting platform for virtual sports.

Faber was a first local investor in the first wave of Portugal’s most promising startups, such as Seedrs (co-founded by Carlos Silva, one f Faber’s Partners) which recently announced its merger with CrowdCube); Unbabel; Codacy and Hole19, among others.

Faber’s main focus is deep-tech and data science startups and as such it’s assembled around 20 experts, researchers, Data Scientists, CTO’s, Founders, AI and Machine Learning professors, as part of its investment strategy.

In particular, it’s created the new role of Professor-in-residence, the first of whom is renowned professor Mário Figueiredo from Lisbon’s leading tech university Instituto Superior Técnico. His interests include signal processing, machine learning, AI and optimization, being a highly cited researcher in these fields.

Speaking to TechCrunch in an interview Barbosa added: “We’ve seen first-time, but also second and third-time entrepreneurs coming over to Lisbon, Porto, Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid and experimenting with their next startup and considering starting-up from Iberia in the first place. But also successful entrepreneurs considering extending their engineering teams to Portugal and building engineering hubs in Portugal or Spain.”

“We’ve been historically countercyclical, so we found that startups came to, and appears in Iberia back in 2012 / 2013. This time around mid-2020, we’re very bullish on what’s we can do for the entrepreneurial engine of the economy. We see a lot happening – especially around our thesis – which is basically the data stack, all things data AI-driven, machine learning, data science, and we see that as a very relevant core. A lot of the transformation and digitization is happening right now, so we see a lot of promising stuff going on and a lot of promising talent establishing and setting up companies in Portugal and Spain – so that’s why we think this story is relevant for Europe as a whole.”

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #barcelona, #crowdcube, #cto, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #european-investment-fund, #machine-learning, #madrid, #managing-partner, #neuroscience, #portugal, #private-equity, #seedrs, #spain, #startup-company, #tc, #valencia

0

Weather forecasts get an AI update with Atmo as businesses grapple with climate-related catastrophes

“Almost every business on earth is affected by weather,” says Alexander Levy, an investor serial entrepreneur whose latest company is the new weather prediction startup Atmo.

The company, which graduated from Y Combinator earlier this year, has recently raised $2 million from Signia Ventures and Sound Ventures for its predictive software, because sometimes businesses do need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Atmo was founded by Johan Mathe, a former Google X employee who worked on Project Loon, the business unit focused on providing internet connectivity via floating balloons that would create a network of wireless coverage in emerging markets.

“I spent a lot of time working on weather,” said Mathe. It was his job to find ways for the balloons to navigate different areas and much of that navigation was complicated by weather patterns, he said.

“As I needed to build that there was so much complexity from the sheer amount of data with the weather,” Mathe said. “I thought I have to build something to make the intersection of weather and AI much more available for everyone.”

That was the beginning of a four year journey, which culminated in Atmo (formerly known as Froglabs.ai), the Berkeley, Calif.-based startup that’s providing predictive weather analysis for businesses ranging from renewable energy to ice cream shops.

Levy, who had co-founded the drug discovery company Atomwise, knew Mathe socially and initially invested in his company when it was just an idea. But  as he saw the value in weather data and made the jump from investor and advisor to co-founder.

Now Mathe, Levy, and chief technology officer Jeremy Lequeux all work from Levy’s Berkeley house as they develop their software and take their company to the next level.

And recent events make the need for the company’s services abundantly transparent. Since 2019, climate-related events have cost the US roughly $89 billion, according to data compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Every business is on this weather spectrum,” said Levy. “Let’s say you just are an ice cream location. Degree to which it’s hot or cold will affect your sales 10%. We’ve worked towards creating a general purpose predictive system and takes weather data on one hand and all the historical weather collected around the world. It compares the two and analyzes how are all of your key business metrics affected by the weather.”

The company already has a half dozen customers including two billion-dollar businesses in the renewable energy and eCommerce and logistics industries, Levy said.

“One of the areas that we work on is risk and extreme weather, like how do you predict these fluke events that you have very little intervention around,” said Levy. “We make that kind of prediction separate and apart from how you can best optimize when things are in a relatively normal state.”

Demand is only going to increase as these extreme events become more common, because governments and businesses will be looking at ways to improve their ability to withstand or adapt to these catastrophic conditions. “There’s a need because everybody is talking about resilience these days,” said Levy. “I see Atmo as the company that’s going to provide these insights for the big companies that are concerned about this problem now.”

#alexander-levy, #articles, #atomwise, #e-commerce, #google, #national-oceanic-and-atmospheric-administration, #renewable-energy, #signia-ventures, #sound-ventures, #tc, #y-combinator

0

Device that combines air circulation with UV-C light deployed in first U.S. homes to help decrease COVID-19 transmission risk

Now that we know the virus that causes COVID-19 can be transmitted via aerosol (tiny particles in the air that can hang around for a long time), researchers and engineers globally have turned their attention to helping promote air circulation where risk exposure is high, and also to kill any active viral particles that might be in the air. One such effort is the Nanowave Air, a device created by Pittsburgh-based Dynamics, Inc. (via NEXT Pittsburgh) which uses UV-C light in a safe and contained way to inactivate the virus in enclosed spaces.

The Nanowave Air operates on basically the same principal as any air purifier you might have in your home, using a fan to take in air and then passing it through a filter before putting it back out into the room. The difference is that the filter in this case is actually exposure to ultraviolet light – and specifically UV-C light, the type that has been proven to be effective in killing the SARS-CoV-2 virus that leads to COVID-19.

UV-C light differs from the more common UV-A light that we’re all generally exposed to in significant quantities from sunlight, and direct exposure to UV-C is harmful to humans. It has been used in indoor viral surface sterilization in the past, but typically the rooms where it’s used can’t be occupied at the time, and obviously it’s not effective once it’s no longer in use and people are allowed back in.

The Nanowave Air was created by the Carnegie Mellon spinout Dynamics when its CEO realized that the technology they were working on around UV-C light sources already for large-scale industrial applications could be adapted to address the COVID-19 crisis. That led to the portable design of the Air, which is roughly the size of a hobbyist telescope, and which works by containing the UV-C light within, and funneling air through it at high speeds using fans in order to be able to neutralize any active virus present while also allowing people to still continue to occupy the spaces where it’s in operation.

Nanowave Air is now shipping, with a $3,450 retail price. It’s intended for use in spaces like primary care facilities, dental offices, and other shared locations where people have to occupy the same space despite current guidance around social distancing and especially indoor exposure. The company, which has tested its technology at a number of labs across the U.S. including the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Vaccine Research, also announced that it’s now being used in some homes with a COVID-19-positive individual, in order to reduce the exposure potential for other members of the household who haven’t yet contracted the illness.

This week saw the announcement of positive news for two of the larger efforts to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, but even if those end up providing long-term protection and ramp distribution quickly, the effort to contain COVID-19 globally will still include a lot of necessary preventative steps to avoid contraction among the unvaccinated populace. Managing airborne presence of the virus is sure to be a key ingredient, and solutions like the Nanowave Air could help to spur those efforts.

#air-purifier, #articles, #carnegie-mellon, #ceo, #health, #occupational-safety-and-health, #pittsburgh, #tc, #ultraviolet, #united-states, #vaccine, #virus

0

Cryptocurrency exchange Liquid confirms hack

Cryptocurrency exchange Liquid has confirmed it was hacked, but that the scope of the incident is still under investigation.

The company’s chief executive Mike Kayamori said in a blog post the attack happened on November 13. The hacker gained access to the company’s domain records, allowing the hacker to take control of several employee email accounts, and later compromised the company’s network.

Kayamori said that while cryptocurrency funds are “accounted for,” the hacker may have accessed the company’s document storage. “We believe the malicious actor was able to obtain personal information from our user database. This may include data such as your email, name, address and encrypted password,” he said.

The company said it was “continuing to investigate” if the hacker gained access to documents that users submitted to verify their identity with the exchange, such as a government-issued ID, selfie, or proof of address, which could put users at a heightened risk of identity theft or for targeted attacks.

Liquid told users in an email that they should change their passwords to be safe.

Attacks that target a company’s network infrastructure take advantage of weak or reused passwords that were used to register the company’s domain name. By breaking in and changing those network settings, attackers can invisibly control the network and gain access to email accounts and systems that would be far more difficult through other routes of attack.

Cryptocurrency startups and exchanges are high-value targets for hackers, given the potential for massive financial rewards of a successful breach. In 2018, Nano saw $170 million stolen in a breach, Coinrail lost $40 million after a hack, Bithumb lost $30 million, and Binance and Coincheck each lost a massive $400 million after hackers broke in.

Liquid was founded in 2014, and claims to have facilitated the trade of $50 billion in cryptocurrency over the past year.

More:

#articles, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #digital-currencies, #doj, #funding, #identity-theft, #security

0

Astroscale sets March 2021 for first commercial orbital debris removal demonstration

Japanese startup Astroscale is aiming for March 2021 for a launch of its first-ever active orbital debris removal mission. This demonstration of its technology, which it hopes to use to help ensure that low-Earth orbit becomes a sustainable environment for commercial activity as it becomes increasingly crowded thanks to the rapid pace of new spacecraft launches.

This demonstration mission, which is called the “End-of-Life Services by Astroscale-demonstration” (ELSA-d for short) will take off from Kazakhstan, launched via a Russian Soyuz rocket. The actual demonstration itself will see Astroscale’s payload, which includes both a ‘servicer’ (which represents the actual debris removal component) and a ‘client’ (which represents any potential satellite or space junk that Astroscale might eventually be tasked with removing).

The servicer unit will use magnets to ‘capture’ the client, docking with it multiple times to show its efficacy, while the client remains stationary and while it emulates an end-over-end tumbling motion that is common for a lot of defunct orbital debris. The purpose of the mission is to show that Astroscale’s technology for seeking out and finding targets for removal, as well as proper target identity verification and docking/release procedures all work as the startup intended.

Low-Earth orbit space junk removal is half of Astroscale’s approach to making space more sustainable for commercial and research activities – the other is on-orbit servicing of geostationary satellites, which tend to be larger and more expensive and occupy an orbital band deeper out in space. The company recently acquired assets of an Israeli company focused on that endeavor in order to bolster that parallel mission.

#aerospace, #articles, #astroscale, #kazakhstan, #outer-space, #robotics, #space-debris, #spaceflight, #startups, #tc

0

Trump fires US cybersecurity official Chris Krebs for debunking false election claims

Chris Krebs, one of the most senior cybersecurity officials in the U.S. government, has been fired.

Krebs served as the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) since its founding in November 2018 until he was removed from his position on Tuesday. It’s not immediately clear who is currently heading the agency. A spokesperson for CISA did not immediately comment.

President Trump fired Krebs in a tweet late on Tuesday, citing a statement published by CISA last week, which found there was “no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” Trump, who has repeatedly made claims of voter fraud without providing evidence, alleged that CISA’s statement was “highly inaccurate.”

Shortly after, Twitter labeled Trump’s tweet for making a “disputed” claim about election fraud.

Reuters first reported the news of Krebs’ potential firing last week.

Krebs was appointed by President Trump to head the newly created cybersecurity agency in November 2018, just days after the conclusion of the midterm elections. He previously served as an under secretary for CISA’s predecessor, the National Protection and Programs Directorate, and also held cybersecurity policy roles at Microsoft.

During his time in government, Krebs became one of the most vocal voices in election security, taking the lead during 2018 and in 2020, which largely escaped from disruptive cyberattacks, thanks to efforts to prepare for cyberattacks and misinformation that plagued the 2016 presidential election.

He was “one of the few people in this administration respected by everyone on both sides of the aisle,” said Sen. Mark Warner, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a tweet.

Krebs is the latest official to leave CISA in the past year. Brian Harrell, who oversaw infrastructure protection at the agency, resigned in August after less than a year on the job, and Jeanette Manfra, who left for a role at Google at the end of last year. Cyberscoop reported Thursday that Bryan Ware, CISA’s assistant director for cybersecurity, resigned for a position in the private sector.

#articles, #computer-security, #cryptography, #cybercrime, #cyberwarfare, #director, #government, #president, #presidential-election, #secretary, #security, #trump, #u-s-government, #united-states, #white-house

0

Sequoia-backed recycling robot maker AMP Robotics gets its largest purchase order

AMP Robotics, the manufacturer of robotic recycling systems, has received its largest purchase order from the publicly traded North American waste handling company, Waste Connections.

The order, for 24 machine learning enabled robotic recycling systems, will be used on container, fiber and residue lines across numerous materials recovery facilities, the company said.

The AMP technology can be used to recover plastics, cardboard, paper, cans, cartons and many other containers and packaging types reclaimed for raw material processing.

The tech can tell the difference between high-density polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate, low-density polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene. The robots can also sort for color, clarity, opacity and shapes like lids, tubs, clamshells, and cups — the robots can even identify the brands on packaging.

So far, AMP’s robots have been deployed in North America, Asia, and Europe with recent installations in Spain, and across the US in California, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

In January, before the pandemic began, AMP Robotics worked with its investor, Sidewalk Labs on a pilot program that would provide residents of a single apartment building representing 250 units in Toronto with detailed information about their recycling habits.

Working with the building and a waste hauler, Sidewalk Labs  would transport the waste to a Canada Fibers material recovery facility where trash will be sorted by both Canada Fibers employees and AMP Robotics. Once the waste is categorized, sorted, and recorded Sidewalk will communicate with residents of the building about how they’re doing in their recycling efforts.

Sidewalk says that the tips will be communicated through email, an online portal, and signage throughout the building every two weeks over a three-month period.

For residents, it was an opportunity to have a better handle on what they can and can’t recycle and Sidewalk Labs is betting that the information will help residents improve their habits. And for folks who don’t want their trash to be monitored and sorted, they could opt out of the program.

Recyclers like Waste Connections should welcome the commercialization of robots tackling industry problems. Their once-stable business has been turned on its head by trade wars and low unemployment. About two years ago, China decided it would no longer serve as the world’s garbage dump and put strict standards in place for the kinds of raw materials it would be willing to receive from other countries. The result has been higher costs at recycling facilities, which actually are now required to sort their garbage more effectively.

At the same time, low unemployment rates are putting the squeeze on labor availability at facilities where humans are basically required to hand-sort garbage into recyclable materials and trash.

AMP Robotics is backed by Sequoia Capital,  BV, Closed Loop Partners, Congruent Ventures  and Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, a spin-out from Alphabet that invests in technologies and new infrastructure projects.

#alphabet, #amp-robotics, #amps, #articles, #asia, #california, #china, #colorado, #congruent-ventures, #energy-conservation, #europe, #florida, #machine-learning, #materials, #matter, #michigan, #minnesota, #new-york, #north-america, #plastics, #recycling, #robot, #robotics, #sequoia-capital, #sidewalk-infrastructure-partners, #spain, #tc, #texas, #toronto, #united-states, #virginia, #water-conservation, #wisconsin

0

Animal Jam was hacked, and data stolen. Here’s what parents need to know

WildWorks, the gaming company that makes the popular kids game Animal Jam, has confirmed a data breach.

Animal Jam is one of the most popular games for kids, ranking in the top five games in the 9-11 age category in Apple’s App Store in the U.S., according to data provided by App Annie. But while no data breach is ever good news, WildWorks has been more forthcoming about the incident than most companies would be, making it easier for parents to protect both their information and their kids’ data.

Here’s what we know.

WildWorks said in a detailed statement that a hacker stole 46 million Animal Jam records in early October but that it only learned of the breach in November.

The company said someone broke into one of its systems that the company uses for employees to communicate with each other, and accessed a secret key that allowed the hacker to break into the company’s user database. The bad news is that the stolen data is known to be circulating on at least one cybercrime forum, WildWorks said, meaning that malicious hackers may use (or be using) the stolen information.

The stolen data dates back to over the past 10 years, the company said, so former users may still be affected.

Much of the stolen data wasn’t highly sensitive, but the company warned that 32 million of those stolen records had the player’s username, 23.9 million records had the player’s gender, 14.8 million records contained the player’s birth year, and 5.7 million records had the player’s full date of birth.

But, the company did say that the hacker also took 7 million parent email addresses used to manage their kids’ accounts. It also said that 12,653 parent accounts had a parent’s full name and billing address, and 16,131 parent accounts had a parent’s name but no billing address.

Besides the billing address, the company said no other billing data — such as financial information — was stolen.

WildWorks also said that the hacker also stole player’s passwords, prompting the company to reset every player’s password. (If you can’t log in, that’s probably why. Check your email for a link to reset your password.) WildWorks didn’t say how it scrambled passwords, which leaves open the possibility that they could be unscrambled and potentially used to break into other accounts that have the same password as used on Animal Jam. That’s why it’s so important to use unique passwords for each site or service you use, and use a password manager to store your passwords safely.

The company said it was sharing information about the breach with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

So what can parents do?

  • Thankfully the data associated with kids accounts is limited. But parents, if you have used your Animal Jam password on any other website, make sure you change those passwords to strong and unique passwords so that nobody can break into those other accounts.
  • Keep an eye out for scams related to the breach. Malicious hackers like to jump on recent news and events to try to trick victims into turning over more information or money in response to a breach.

#articles, #computer-security, #data-breach, #data-security, #gaming, #have-i-been-pwned, #password-manager, #player, #security, #security-breaches, #united-states

0

‘Resident Evil’ game maker Capcom confirms data breach after ransomware attack

Capcom, the Japanese game maker behind the Resident Evil and Street Fighter franchises, has confirmed that hackers stole customer data and files from its internal network following a ransomware attack earlier in the month.

That’s an about-turn from the days immediately following the cyberattack, in which Capcom said it had no evidence that customer data had been accessed.

In a statement, the company said data on as many as 350,000 customers may have been stolen, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and in some cases dates of birth. Capcom said the hackers also stole its own internal financial data and human resources files on current and former employees, which included names, addresses, dates of birth, and photos. The attackers also took “confidential corporate information,” the company said, including documents on business partners, sales, and development.

Capcom said that no credit card information was taken, as payments are handled by a third-party company.

But the company warned that the overall amount of data stolen “cannot specifically be ascertained” due to losing its own internal logs in the cyberattack.

Capcom apologized for the breach. “Capcom offers its sincerest apologies for any complications and concerns that this may bring to its potentially impacted customers as well as to its many stakeholders,” the statement read.

The video games maker was hit by the Ragnar Locker ransomware on November 2, prompting the company to shut down its network. Ragnar Locker is a data-stealing ransomware, which exfiltrates data from a victim before encrypting its network, and then threatens to publish the stolen files unless a ransom is paid. In doing so, ransomware groups can still demand a company pays the ransom even if the victim restores their files and systems from backups.

Ragnar Locker’s website now lists data allegedly stolen from Capcom, with a message implying that the company did not pay the ransom.

Capcom said it had informed data protection regulators in Japan and the United Kingdom, as required under European GDPR data breach notification rules. Companies can be fined up to 4% of their annual revenue for falling foul of GDPR rules.

#articles, #capcom, #data-breach, #data-security, #gaming, #general-data-protection-regulation, #japan, #ransomware, #security, #security-breaches, #united-kingdom

0

Conflicts in California’s trade secret laws on customer lists create uncertainty

When salespeople in California’s dynamic tech economy transition between jobs, the value they bring to their new company is often their customer relationships. Startup founders and salespeople considering joining competitors often assume continuing to maintain these customer relationships is noncontroversial given California’s well-known policy favoring employment mobility and outlawing non-competition agreements.

Yet California trade secret law regarding the ability of salespeople to solicit these customers once they jump to a competitor is increasingly confused and fails to provide meaningful guidance on what type of conduct is permissible. Thus, a salesperson’s move from their current company to a competitor is risky given it is unclear whether and to what extent they can continue servicing clients or contacts they previously worked with.

A salesperson working for a value-added reseller (VAR), for instance, should understand what they are getting into before moving to a competitor — they may risk longstanding relationships with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and end users. This article explains the conflicting law on this issue so that salespeople planning on jumping ship, and the companies considering hiring them, can be informed regarding the current legal landscape.

California law invalidates non-competition agreements

In the vast majority of states, employers can, and do, require employees to enter into some form of non-competition agreement in exchange for continued employment.1 In contrast, California has a long-standing policy of favoring employment mobility over an employer’s concerns. California’s policy is embodied in Business and Professions Code section 16600, which provides: “Except as provided in this chapter, every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void.”

California courts “have consistently affirmed that section 16600 evinces a settled legislative policy in favor of open competition and employee mobility” that is intended to “ensure that every citizen shall retain the right to pursue any lawful employment and enterprise of their choice.”2 The policy also allows California employers to “compete effectively for the most talented, skilled employees in their industries, wherever they may reside.”3 Accordingly, unlike in most states, the “interests of the employee in [their] own mobility and betterment” generally outweigh the “competitive business interests of the employers.”4

Courts have broadly applied section 16600, invalidating non-competition agreements, which would prohibit or restrict an employee from leaving to work for a competitor.5 Importantly, courts have also invalidated contractual provisions purporting to restrict an employee’s ability to leave and then solicit the company’s customers.6 In other words, a salesperson cannot be contractually precluded from leaving their company, joining a competitor and continuing to solicit, service and communicate with their former company’s clients. Furthermore, with limited exceptions, California courts will disregard a “choice of law” provision purporting to mandate that the court follow the law from a state that enforces noncompetes.7

#articles, #california, #california-legislature, #column, #hiring, #intellectual-property-law, #labor, #law, #lawyers, #north-dakota, #policy, #startups, #tc, #trade-secret, #verified-experts

0

Venture firm M13 names former Techstars LA managing director, Anna Barber, as its newest partner

The Los Angeles and New York-based venture firm M13 has managed to nab former Techstars LA managing director, Anna Barber, as its newest partner and the head of its internal venture studio, Launchpad.

Designed to be a collaborative startup company incubator alongside corporate partners, Launchpad focuses on developing new consumer tech businesses focused on M13’s main investment areas: health, food, transportation, and housing.

For Barber, the new position is the latest step in a professional career spent working both inside and outside of the tech industry.

Barber got her first taste of the startup world when she was poached from McKinsey to join one of the several online pet supply stores that cropped up in 1999. From her position as the vice president of product at Petstore.com, Barber got her taste of the startup world… and left it to become a talent manager and the co-founder of the National Air Guitar championships (no word if she managed air guitar talent).

Prior to launching the Techstars LA incubator program, Barber founded ScribblePress, a retail and digital publishing app, which was sold to Fingerprint Digital.

Anna Barber, partner, M13. Image Credit: Raif Strathmann

At M13, Barber will be working to recruit entrepreneurs to work collaboratively on developing startup consumer businesses that align with the strategic interests of M13’s corporate partners, like Procter & Gamble.

We will be bringing in founders in residence who will come in without an idea,” Barber said of the program. “We’re starting with a blank sheet of paper and building teams in partnership with entrepreneurs and in partnership with corporate partners who will bring their perspective and their IP. “

The EIRs will receive a small stipend and equity in the business, Barber said.

The starting gun for M13’s Launchpad  program was in 2019 and the program currently has managed to spin up three startups. There’s Rae, an developer of affordable women’s wellness products; and the beauty tech company OPTE; Kindra menopause products; and Bodewell for sensitive skin care, which were all developed alongside Procter & Gamble Ventures.

M13, for its part, is developing a strong team of women partners who are investing at the firm. Barber will join Lizzie Francis and Christine Choi on the investment team, something that Barber said was especially exciting.

“There is no better place for M13’s Launchpad than Los Angeles and no better person to lead it than Anna. M13 is home to a creative, diverse community of entrepreneurs and operators who want to make the world better by applying innovation in everything from media to biotech, prop tech to food,” said M13 co-founder Carter Reum. “We are excited for Anna to continue to lead LA’s center of entrepreneurs, mentors and investors with a rigorous Launchpad program and more exceptional partners and cohorts.”

#articles, #business, #business-incubators, #business-models, #co-founder, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #food, #head, #launchpad, #los-angeles, #m13, #mckinsey, #mentorships, #new-york, #procter-gamble, #rae, #startup-company, #tc, #techstars

0

Renewable power represents almost 90% of total global power capacity added in 2020

Bucking the slowdown in most of the power sector caused by responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, renewable energy actually grew in 2020, and will represent about 90% of the total power capacity added for the year, according to the International Energy Agency.

A surge in new projects from China and the US led the charge for renewable power, which will account for almost 200 gigawatts of additional power generating capacity around the world, according to the  IEA’s Renewables 2020.

Big additions came from hydropower, solar and wind. Wind and solar power generating assets are expected to jump by 30% in both China and the US as developers take advantage of incentives that are set to expire.

The agency predicts that India and the European Union will also jump in and add an additional 10% of renewable capacity — marking the fastest period of growth for the industry since 2015.

These supply additions are in part due to the commissioning of projects delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted supply chains and put a stop to construction.

“Renewable power is defying the difficulties caused by the pandemic, showing robust growth while others fuels struggle,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director, in a statement. “The resilience and positive prospects of the sector are clearly reflected by continued strong appetite from investors – and the future looks even brighter with new capacity additions on course to set fresh records this year and next.”

Throughout the first ten months of the year, China, India, and the EU have boosted auctioned renewable power capacity by 15% over the year ago period. Meanwhile, shares of publicly traded renewable equipment manufacturers and project developers have been outperforming most stock indices and the overall energy sector, the agency noted.

Much of this success, the agency noted, will require continued political support to work. Expiring incentives could reduce demand, but if governments provide some certainty around the continuation of subsidy programs, solar and wind additions could jump by another 25% by 2022.  With the right policy, solar photovoltaic installations could reach a record 150 gigawatts by 2022, which would be a 40% increase in just about three years.

“Renewables are resilient to the Covid crisis but not to policy uncertainties,” said Dr Birol, in a statement. “Governments can tackle these issues to help bring about a sustainable recovery and accelerate clean energy transitions. In the United States, for instance, if the proposed clean electricity policies of the next US administration are implemented, they could lead to a much more rapid deployment of solar PV and wind, contributing to a faster [decarbonization] of the power sector.”

If the agency’s predictions hold, renewable energy could become the largest source of electricity worldwide by 2025, according to Dr. Birol.

“By that time, renewables are expected to supply one-third of the world’s electricity – and their total capacity will be twice the size of the entire power capacity of China today,” Birol said in a statement.

#articles, #china, #electricity, #energy, #european-union, #india, #renewable-energy, #solar-power, #tc, #united-states

0

Startup fundraising is the most tangible gender gap. How can we overcome it?

Year-in, year-out, the gender gap in venture capital investment continues to be a problem women founders face. While the gender gap in other areas (such as the number of women entering tech in general) may be on the right path, this disparity in funding seems to be stagnant. There has been little movement in the amount of VC dollars going to women-founded companies since 2012.

In fintech, the problem is especially prominent: Women-founded fintechs have raised a meager 1% of total fintech investment in the last 10 years. This should come as no surprise, given that fintech combines two sectors traditionally dominated by men: finance and technology. Though by no means does this mean that women aren’t doing incredible work in the field and it’s only right that women founders receive their fair share of VC investment.

In the short term, women founders can take action to boost their chances at VC success in the current investment climate, including leveraging their community and support network and building the necessary self-belief to thrive. In the long term, there needs to be foundational change to level the playing field for women entrepreneurs. VC funds must look at ways they can bring in more women decision-makers, all the way up to the top.

Let’s dive into the state of gender bias in VC investing as it stands, and what founders, stakeholders and funds themselves can do to close the gap.

Venture capital is far from a level playing field

In 2019, less than 3% of all VC investment went to women-led companies, and only one-fifth of U.S. VC went to startups with at least one woman on the founder team. The average deal size for female-founded or female co-founded companies is less than half that of only male-founded startups. This is especially concerning when you consider that women make up a much bigger portion of the founder community than proportionately receive investment (around 28% of founders are women). Add in the intersection of race and ethnicity, and the figures become bleaker: Black women founders received 0.6% of the funding raised since 2009, while Latinx female founders saw only 0.4% of total investment dollars.

The statistics paint a stark picture, but it’s a disparity that I’ve faced on a personal level too. I have been faced with VC investors who ask my co-founder — in front of me — why I was doing the talking instead of him. On another occasion, a potential investor asked my co-founder who he was getting into business with, because “he needed to know who he’d be going to the bar with when the day was up.”

This demonstrates a clear expectation on the part of VC investors to have a male counterpart within the founding team of their portfolio companies, and that they often — whether subconsciously or consciously — value men’s input over that of the women on the leadership team.

So, if you’re a female founder faced with the prospect of pitching to VCs — what steps can you take to set yourself up for success?

Get funded, as a woman

Women founders looking to receive VC investment can take a number of steps to increase their chances in this seemingly hostile environment. My first piece of advice is to leverage your own community and support network, especially any mentors and role models you may have, to introduce you to potential investors. Contacts that know and trust your business may be willing to help — any potential VC is much more likely to pay you attention if you come as a personal recommendation.

If you feel like you’re lacking in a strong support network, you can seek out female-founder and startup groups and start to build your community. For example, The Next Women is a global network of women leaders from progress-driven companies, while Women Tech Founders is a grassroots organization on a mission to connect and support women in technology.

Confidence is key when it comes to fundraising. It’s essential to make sure your sales, pitch and negotiation skills are on point. If you feel like you need some extra training in this area, seek out workshops or mentorship opportunities to make sure you have these skills down before you pitch for funding.

When talking with top male VCs and executives, there may be moments where you feel like they’re responding to you differently because of your gender. In these moments, channeling your self-belief and inner strength is vital: The only way that they’re going to see you as a promising, credible founder is if you believe you are one too.

At the end of the day, women founders must also realize that we are the first generation of our gender playing the VC game — and there’s something exciting about that, no matter how challenging it may be. Even when faced with unconscious bias, it’s vital to remember that the process is a learning curve, and those that come after us won’t succeed if we simply hand the task over to our male co-founder(s).

More women in VC means more funding for female founders

While there are actions that women can take on an individual level, barriers cannot be overcome without change within the VC firms themselves. One of the biggest reasons why women receive less VC investment than men is that so few of them make up decision-makers in VC funds.

A study by Harvard Business Review concluded that investors often make investment decisions based on gender and ask women founders different questions than their male counterparts. There are countless stories of women not being taken seriously by male investors, and subsequently not being seen as a worthwhile investment opportunity. As a result of this disparity in VC leadership teams, women-focused funds are emerging as a way to bridge the funding gender gap. It’s also worth noting that women VCs are not only more likely to invest in women-founded companies, but also those founded by Black entrepreneurs. In addition to embracing women and minority-focused investors, the VC community as a whole should ensure they’re bringing in more women leaders into top positions.

Gender equality in VC makes more business sense

From day one, the Prometeo team has made concerted efforts to have both men and women in decision-maker roles. Having women in the founding team and in leadership positions has been crucial in not only helping to fight the unconscious bias that might take place, but also in creating a more dynamic work environment, where diversity of thought powers better business decisions.

Striving for gender equality, both within the walls of VC funds and in the founder community, is also better for businesses’ bottom line. In fact, a study by Boston Consulting Group found that women-founded startups generate 78% for every dollar invested, compared to 31% from men-founded companies.

Here in Latin America, women founders receive a higher proportion of VC investment than anywhere else in the world, so it’s no surprise that women are leading the region’s fintech revolution. Having more women in leadership positions is ultimately a better bet for business.

Closing the gender gap in VC funding is no simple task, but it’s one that must be undertaken. With the help of internal VC reform and external initiatives like community building, training opportunities and women-focused support networks, we can work toward finally making the VC game more equitable for all.

#articles, #co-founder, #column, #corporate-finance, #diversity, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #female-entrepreneurs, #finance, #financial-technology, #funding, #gender-equality, #harvard, #latin-america, #private-equity, #sexism, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #the-next-women, #venture-capital, #venture-capital-investment, #women-in-venture-capital, #women-tech-founders

0

Provizio closes $6.2M seed round for its car safety platform using sensors and AI

Provizio, a combination hardware and software startup with technology to improve car safety, has closed a seed investment round of $6.2million. Investors include Bobby Hambrick (the founder of Autonomous Stuff); the founders of Movidius; the European Innovation Council (EIC); ACT Venture Capital.

The startup has a ‘five-dimensional’ sensory platform that – it says – perceives, predicts and prevents car accidents in real-time and beyond the line-of-sight. Its ‘Accident Prevention Technology Platform’ combines proprietary vision sensors, machine learning, radar and with ultra-long range and foresight capabilities to prevent collisions at high speed and in all weather conditions, says the company. The Provizio team is made up of experts in robotics, AI, and vision and radar sensor development.

Barry Lunn, CEO of Provizio Said: “One point three five road deaths to zero drives everything we do at Provizio. We have put together an incredible team that is growing daily. AI is the future of automotive accident prevention and Provizio 5D radars with AI on-the-edge are the first step towards that goal.”

Also involved in Provizio is also Dr. Scott Thayer and Prof Jeff Mishler formally of Carnegie Mellon robotics, famous for developing early autonomous technologies for Google/<a class=”crunchbase-link” href=”https://crunchbase.com/organization/waymo” target=”_blank” data-type=”organization” data-entity=”waymo”>Waymo, Argo, Aurora and Uber.

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #aurora, #automotive, #car-accidents, #car-safety, #carnegie-mellon, #ceo, #companies, #emerging-technologies, #europe, #european-innovation-council, #founder, #google, #machine-learning, #movidius, #robotics, #science-and-technology, #self-driving-cars, #tc, #uber, #waymo

0

Funded by Connect Ventures, Purple Dot plans to take on Klarna-style purchase debt

In recent times startups have appeared offering credit at an e-commerce basket checkout so that a customer can buy a product without needing to pay right away. Klarna or Clearpay are the two most notable in this field. But what if you flipped the model around so that consumers could buy the item at a lower price later on, and the retailer could reduce waste? This is the model of Purple Dot, which bills itself as a ‘worth-the-wait’ payment option for fashion brands.

It’s now raised a seed round of £1.35 million, led by Connect Ventures, with support from AI Seed, Moxxie Ventures, Andy Chung and Philipp Moehring from AngelList, Alex Roetter former SVP of Engineering at Twitter and the family office of Paul Forster, co-founder of Indeed.com.

Founded in August 2019 by senior Skyscanner employees Madeline Parra (CEO) and John Talbott (CTO), Purple Dot allows consumers to request a ‘worth-the-wait’ lower price. The advantage for retailers is that they can then decide whether or not to release a fashion product mid-season at a slightly reduced rate in order to secure the sale.

“Unlike Klarna, we don’t encourage consumers to buy stuff they can’t afford.”

The customers still pays upfront and then waits to have the item confirmed, receiving a full refund if not. The Purple Dot payment method sits alongside ‘buy now, pay later’ finance options.

This ‘worth-the-wait’ price does not usually fall below a 10-20% reduction from the recommended retail price, thus reducing losses from end-of-season discounting, where discounts are much deeper. The advantage for the consumer is that they don’t then rack up debt on their purchases.

The startup says it’s already in talks with a number of major UK and US high street brands but has already secured menswear retailer Spoke, which will also use the tech for ‘pre-ordering’. This means they can test out new styles, designs and fabrics in a limited manner, thus reducing waste (and therefore carbon emissions) when they commit to a new line of clothing.

Madeline Parra, CEO of Purple Dot, commented: “When shopping online today, customers can either pay the retail price or walk away. When they do walk away, the item goes through the discounting process, becomes unprofitable for the merchant and is resigned to landfill. This binary system isn’t working for anyone – the customer loses out on the item, because it may go out of stock in their size before they attempt to purchase it again, and the merchant loses the sale. Purple Dot tackles this problem head-on by providing a new way to shop, taking on unsustainable, unrelenting consumerism, poor pricing tactics and profit-crunching sales at the same time.”

Speaking to TechCrunch she also added that “Unlike Klarna, we don’t encourage consumers to buy stuff they can’t afford.”

Pietro Bezza, General Partner at Connect Ventures, commented:  “Purple Dot’s innovative proposition benefits retailers by creating a solution to their inventory problems. End of season ‘panic sales’ have long caused financial uncertainty for retailers and a negative impact on the environment in equal measure.”

#alex-roetter, #angellist, #articles, #business, #ceo, #co-founder, #connect-ventures, #cto, #economy, #europe, #general-partner, #klarna, #major, #moxxie-ventures, #online-shopping, #pietro-bezza, #spoke, #startup-company, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states

0

WeWork employees used an alarmingly insecure printer password

A shared user account used by WeWork employees to access printer settings and customer print jobs had an incredibly simple password — so simple that a customer guessed it.

Jake Elsley, who works at a WeWork in London, said he found the user account after a WeWork employee at his location mistakenly left the account logged in.

WeWork customers like Elsley normally have an assigned seven-digit username and a four-digit passcode used for printing documents at WeWork locations. But the username for the account used by WeWork employees was just four-digits: “9999”. Elsley told TechCrunch that he guessed the password because it was the same as the username. (“9999” is ranked as one of the most common passwords in use today, making it highly insecure.)

Read more on Extra Crunch

The “9999” account is used by and shared among WeWork community managers, who oversee day-to-day operations at each location, to print documents for visitors who don’t have accounts to print on their own. The account cannot be used to access print jobs sent to other customer accounts.

Elsley said that the “9999” account could not see the contents of documents beyond file names, but that logging in to the WeWork printing web portal could allow him to release other people’s pending print jobs sent to the “9999” account to any other WeWork printer on the network.

The printing web portal can only be accessed on WeWork’s Wi-Fi networks, said Elsley, but that includes the free guest Wi-Fi network which doesn’t have a password, and WeWork’s main Wi-Fi network, which still uses a password that has been widely circulated on the internet.

Elsley reached out to TechCrunch to ask us to alert the company to the insecure password.

“WeWork is committed to protecting the privacy and security of our members and employees,” said WeWork spokesperson Colin Hart. “We immediately initiated an investigation into this potential issue and took steps to address any concerns. We are also nearing the end of a multi-month process of upgrading all of our printing capabilities to a best in class security and experience solution. We expect this process to be completed in the coming weeks.”

WeWork confirmed that it had since changed the password on the “9999” user account.

#articles, #economy, #identity-management, #london, #security, #spokesperson, #startups, #web-portal, #wework, #wi-fi

0

Nutrium app, which links dietitians and patients, raises $4.9M led by Indico Capital

Nutrium, a digital health startup which links dietitians and their patients via an app, has raised a €4.25 million Seed round led by Indico Capital Partners, alongside the the Social Innovation Fund in Portugal (SIF) and previous investors. It now offers professional nutrition software to 80,000 nutrition professionals and 800,000 patients in more than 40 countries.

With this investment round, Nutrium plans to double the team size in the next 24 months in order to focus on platform development and expand global sales in markets like Spain, France, Italy, USA and the UK where the company already has a strong customer base.

With the Nutrium platform, patients get integrated nutrition counseling which combines professional advice, continuous monitoring and access to commercial products.

André Santos, CEO and Co-founder of Nutrium commented: “We are moving closer to our vision of enabling the improvement of eating habits for millions of people globally.”

Stephan Morais, managing general partner at Indico said: “Nutrium will become a full-fledged platform bringing together nutritionists, patients, products and wellness data that will enable healthier and happier lives. We are pleased to back this jointly developed vision with capital and knowledge.“

Rui Ferreira, Vice President at Portugal Ventures said: “In 2017, when Portugal Ventures invested in Nutrium’s pre-seed round, the company was mainly present in two markets. Today, Nutrium operates in more than 40 markets, having increased its turnover exponentially.”

Nutrium’s competitors include NutriAdmin, AppointmentPlus, Evolution Nutrition which has raised $2.3M.

#articles, #europe, #france, #general-partner, #health, #indico-capital-partners, #italy, #nutrition, #ro, #spain, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #vice-president

0

CoreCare raises $3 million for managing billing and payments from public health benefit providers

CoreCare, a provider of revenue management services for healthcare companies dealing with public health benefit providers, has raised $3 million in a seed financing round.

The company, which uses machine learning, automates large swaths of billing and revenue cycle management to reduce the burden on hospitals, according to chief executive, Dennis Antonelos.

Already, companies like Creative Solutions in Healthcare, a nursing facility operator in Texas, which operates nearly 80 locations has signed up for the service.

Antonelos started the company in January, had the first product up by March and was accepted to Y Combinator in April. It now boasts over a dozen customers in Texas.

With the new $3 million in hand from investors including Primetime Partners, Goat Capital, Funders Club and Liquid2Ventures, Antonelos said the company would look to expand its sales and marketing and product capabilities.

CoreCare automates processing of billing and paperwork and clinical notes by linking electronic health records and medicare and medicaid information services and payers.

“We’re going through the organization and eliminating administrative waste so the organization can invest newly found resources into patient care,” Antonelos said.

The company uses a standard software as a service payment model and charges somewhere between $300 to $500 per-facility, per-month, according to Antonelos.

“These initial results are outstanding,” said Gary Blake, president, and co-founder of Creative Solutions in Healthcare, and one of CoreCare’s early customers. “In only a matter of months working with CoreCare’s CoreAccess software, we’ve seen a notable impact on our financial position. It has truly exceeded our expectations. CoreCare has changed the way we work with Managed Care, from top to bottom. We have been able to streamline our entire billing process, reduce admin costs, shorten the number of accounts receivable (AR) days and free up cash for growth. Every healthcare provider that works with managed care should work with CoreCare.”

#articles, #goat-capital, #health, #health-insurance, #healthcare, #machine-learning, #medicare, #tc, #texas, #y-combinator

0

Juganu begins selling its tunable lighting system for pathogen disinfection and deactivation in the US

Juganu, the venture-backed Israeli company that makes lighting systems capable of emitting light at specified wavelengths, is now selling a product that it claims can disinfect surfaces and deactivate pathogens in an attempt to provide buildings with new safety technologies that can prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The company claims that its J.Protect product was clinically validated through a study conducted by Dr. Meital Gal-Tanamy at the Bar-Ilan University Faculty of Medicine (although Dr. Gal-Tanamy’s research typically focuses on the Hepatitis C virus, which has a different transmission vector than airborne viruses like Sars-Cov-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19).

Juganu said that the new product has been registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency in 46 states and is currently working with Comcast, Qualcomm, and NCR Corp. to bring its lighting disinfectant and deactivation technology to markets around the country.

The lighting technology uses two kinds of ultraviolet light — A and C — to render viruses inert and kill bacteria on surfaces, according to the company’s claims.

When people are present in a room, the company’s system uses UVA light which can render viruses inert after eight hours of exposure. If the room is empty, the lighting system will use UVC light, which is more potent as disinfectant and more harmful to people, to disinfect a room in under an hour.

The company tested its technology on surfaces, but did not conduct any tests involving their lighting system’s effects on aerosolized viral particles, which have been determined to be the main cause of infections from the novel coronavirus.

“We got an exemption from the FDA and are approved for distribution by the EPA in 48 states,” said Juganu chief executive, Eran Ben-Shmuel in an interview.

The company has already pre-sold the lighting technology in Israel and in India, according to Ben-Shmuel, and is now taking orders for installations in the US.

Juganu, which has raised $53 million to date from investors including Comcast Ventures, Viola Growth, Amdocs, and OurCrowd has offices in Israel, Brazil, Mexico, and the US, has already sold lighting systems to municipalities and businesses around the country.

The new hardware opens up a new line of business in the booming market for technologies targeting the reopening of businesses in the nations that have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Smart lighting will be one of the biggest areas of opportunity for physical spaces. We are evolving from lights simply illuminating spaces to disinfecting and securing them, as well as promoting well-being by recreating natural light shifts based on sunrise and sunset,” said Ben-Shmuel, in a statement. 

 

#articles, #brazil, #comcast-ventures, #disinfectant, #fda, #health, #home-automation, #hygiene, #india, #israel, #lighting, #mexico, #ourcrowd, #protect, #qualcomm, #smart-lighting, #tc, #united-states

0

Jackery’s solar generator system helps you collect and store more than enough juice for off-grid essentials

Portable power is a very convenient thing to have on hand, as proven by the popularity of pocket power banks for providing backup energy for smartphones and tablets. Jackery’s lineup of battery backups offer an entirely different, much greater level of portable energy storage, and when combined with the company’s durable and portable solar panels, they add up to an impressive mobile solar power generation solution that can offer a little piece of mind at home for when the power goes out, or a lot of flexibility on the road for day trips, camping excursions and more.

The basics

Jackery sells the Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station and SolarSaga 100W Solar Panels I reviewed separately, but it also bundles them together in a pack ($1,599.97) with the power station and two of the panels in a ‘Solar Generator’ combo, which is what I tested. The Portable Power Station retails for $999.99, though it’s the top of the line offering and there are more affordable models with less capacity. The station itself offers a 1002Wh internal lithium battery, and 1000W rated power with 2000W surge power rating. IT has two USB-C outputs, one standard USB, one DC port like you’d find in your car dash, and three standard AC outlets. It has an integrated handle, a tough plastic exterior and a built-in LCD display for information including battery charge status and output info.

The Explorer 1000, on a full charge, can provide up to 100 chargers for your standard iPhone, or up to 8 charges of a MacBook Pro. It can power an electric grill for 50 minutes, or a mini fridge for up to 66 hours. It can be recharged via a wall outlet (fully charges in 7 hours) or a car outlet (14 hours), but it can also be paired up with the 2x SolarSaga panels for a full recharge in around 8 hours of direct sun exposure – almost as fast as you’d charge it plugging git into an outlet at home (it takes double the time, or around 17 hours, when using just one).

As for the solar panels, they each retail for $299.99, and fold in half for greater portability, and feature integrated pockets and stands for cable storage and easy setup anywhere. Each ways less than 10 lbs, and they offer both USB-C and USB-A direct output for charging up devices without any battery or power station required. It’s worth noting that they’re not waterproof, however, so you should exercise some caution when using them in inclement weather.

Image Credits: Jackery

Design and features

The Jackery Portable Power Station is a perfect blend of portability, practicality and durability. Its internal powerhouse will keep you going for days in terms of mobile device power, and it weighs only a relatively portable 22 lbs, despite packing in a massive battery. The range of output options built-in mean you can connect to just about any electronically-powered device you can think of, and three AC outlets mean you can power multiple appliances at once if you want to spend your juice on running a lightweight outdoor kitchen – albeit not for a super long time at that kind of power draw.

Jackery’s Explorer series features durable and attractive (insofar as any utility device is ever that attractive) exterior impact-resistant plastic housings, and they definitely feel like they don’t need to be treated with kid gloves. The display is legible and clear, and provides all the info you need at-glance in terms of reserve power, and power expenditure for connected devices, as well as charging info when plugged in.

The many charging options are also super convenient, and that’s where the SolarSaga 100W panes come in. These fold up to roughly the size of a folding camp side table, and have integrated handles for even easier carrying. They’re also protected outside by a tough polycarbonate shell, and the panels are resistant to high temperatures for max durability. They come with included output converter cables for connecting to USB A and USB C devices, and can be used with the adapter included with the Power Station to charge that either in tandem with one another, or on their own.

Around back you’ll find an adjustable kickstands, which allow you to angle the panels towards the sun across a range of positions for maximum energy absorption. Between these and the Explorer power stations, you have everything you need to set up your own fully mobile solar energy power generation station in just a few minutes and with minimal effort.

Image Credits: Jackery

Bottom line

In actual use, the Jackery Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station provides so much backup power that it was hard to expend it all through general testing. You really do have to plug alliances like my Blendtec blender in to make a dent, and even then I got roughly 12 hours of usage or more out of it. This is a great solution for taking some selective on-grid equipment off-grid while on camping trips, like a TV, small fridge or a projector, and it’s an amazing thing to have at home just in case of power outages, where having your own backup options can make the difference between getting through a productive workday or staying in touch with family.

The SolarSaga panels are an amazing complement to the Explorer, and truly turn this into your own mini green energy power generation station. Even if you’re not convinced on the expense and necessity of converting your home to solar power, using something like Tesla’s Powerwall, for instance, this is a nice way to power a cooler in the backyard effectively for ‘free’ when it comes to energy costs, or to extend the useful life of the Explorer on trips when you’re away from the grid over the course of multiple days.

#articles, #energy, #gadgets, #hardware, #iphone, #jackery, #rechargeable-battery, #review, #reviews, #smartphones, #solar-panel, #solar-power, #tc, #usb

0

Microsoft says Iranian hackers targeted ‘high profile’ conference attendees

Microsoft says hackers backed by the Iranian government targeted over 100 high-profile potential attendees of two international security and policy conferences.

The group, known as Phosphorus (or APT35), sent spoofed emails masquerading as organizers of the Munich Security Conference, one of the main global security and policy conferences attended by heads of state, and the Think 20 Summit in Saudi Arabia, scheduled for later this month. Microsoft said the spoofed emails were sent to former government officials, academics and policy makers to steal passwords and other sensitive data, like email inboxes.

Microsoft did not comment, when asked, what the goal of the operation was, but the company’s customer security and trust chief Tom Burt said that the attacks were carried out for “intelligence collection purposes.”

“The attacks were successful in compromising several victims, including former ambassadors and other senior policy experts who help shape global agendas and foreign policies in their respective countries,” said Burt. “We’ve already worked with conference organizers who have and will continue to warn their attendees, and we’re disclosing what we’ve seen so that everyone can remain vigilant to this approach being used in connection with other conferences or events.”

Microsoft said the attackers would write emails written in “perfect English” to their target requesting an invitation to the conference. After the target accepted the invitation, the attackers would try to trick the victim into entering their email password on a fake login page. The attackers then later log in to the mailbox to steal the victim’s emails and contacts.

The group’s previous hacking campaigns have also tried to steal passwords from high-profile victims.

Iran’s consulate in New York could not be reached for comment as its website was down.

Phosphorus is known to target high-profile individuals, like politicians and presidential hopefuls. But Microsoft said that this latest attack was not related to the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

Last year, Microsoft said it had stopped over 10,000 victims of state-sponsored hacking, including Phosphorus and another Iran-backed group, Holmium, also known as APT 33. In March, the tech giant secured a court order to take control of domains used by Phosphorus, which were used to steal credentials using fake Google and Yahoo login pages.

#articles, #computer-security, #computing, #cybercrime, #cyberwarfare, #gmail, #government, #information, #iran, #microsoft, #new-york, #presidential-election, #saudi-arabia, #security, #social-engineering, #united-states

0

The Freewrite Traveler is an outstanding, but expensive, dedicated portable writing laptop

As a hardware startup, Astrohaus stands apart because of its unique offerings focused specifically on writers and writing. Its debut product, the Freewrite, looked like an old-school travel typewriter with an e-ink screen. Now, it’s back with a new device it’s been working on for the past couple of years: The Freewrite Traveler. This more portable e-ink typewriter has a clamshell design and isn’t much larger than a Nintendo Switch, making it a flexible, go-anwyhere writing companion.

The basics

Astrohaus began teasing the Traveler a few years ago, before eventually launching an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign in November 2018 to get it made. The crowdfunding was very successful, raising over $600,000 on the platform before the campaign ended, and then another $200,000+ in pre-orders after that. Like many hardware efforts, it encountered a few delays relative to its original delivery timeline, but now the Freewrite Traveler is shipping out to pre-order customers.

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

In terms of specs, it has up to four weeks of battery life with regular usage, and weighs under two pounds, with a folding design that’s roughly half the surface area of most laptops. The screen on the top half is an e-ink display, and there’s a sub-screen for providing info like network status. The bottom half houses the keyboard, which boasts over 2mm of travel for a great keypress feel.

The case is plastic, as are most of the components, and the exterior is a glossy black. The Traveler connects via wifi, like the original Freewrite, and allows you to register an account to sync to up to three separate folders of documents. When out of wifi range, your work is stored locally, and it can sync to the cloud service of your choice via Freewrite’s integrations whenever you’re connected.

Design and features

The Traveler’s design is all about portability and convenience, while retaining the core usability features that make the original Freewrite such an ideal device for focused writing. The clamshell design is intentionally large enough to fit that full-sized keyboard comfortably, but keeps the screen small like with the original, which makes it more portable and ensures that distractions are kept to a minimum – aided by the fact that all you can do on it is type text, since there are no apps, browser or other functions.

Astrohaus has stayed very close to their original vision for the Traveler, with some minor tweaks including the hinge design. The end result is a light and durable-feeling portable digital typewriter, with a keyboard that feels excellent to type on – better than any laptop in my experience. The keyboard is really the star of the show here, since this is a purpose-built device created for typing. The travel feels ample, especially for a notebook-style device, and the raised, rounded keycap wells make it easy to touch type comfortably all day if you want.