Google has sold 55M Chromecasts, and provided 100M+ answers via Assistant


Google announced on stage a few numbers to update its progress on its hardware program – the company said that it’s sold over 55 million Chromecast devices, and that it has provided over 100 million answers to users via Google Assistant, its voice-powered AI software.

The other success metric that Google noted was that its Google WiFi mesh networking router is the top-selling in that category in both the U.S. and Canada. It’s still a relatively young category, but there are lots of entrants now, so that’s impressive.

Google didn’t share any specific numbers on WiFi sales, however, nor did it reveal numbers for Pixel sales, though it said that the smartphone is selling well – despite Google not being able to make enough, even.

Analyst estimates suggest that Pixel sales weren’t huge (not by a long shot) but it’s a start, and apparently Google is still eager to continue the program.

LG may take on Samsung’s Exynos chips with new custom mobile processors

Why it matters to you

LG’s own mobile processors could mean faster LG phones, with more custom features in the future.

LG has filed for two new brand name trademarks with the European Intellectual Property Office, but neither is related to smartphones, televisions, or white goods. At least, not directly. Instead, the trademarked names are processors, the Kromax and the Epik. The descriptions are very vague, referring to them only as “Chips” and “Multiprocessor Chips,” and there’s no indication what devices these processors may end up powering.

LG produces a wide range of products, making it possible the Kromax and Epik chips could end up powering anything from refrigerators to robots, but it’s entirely possible these chips are destined for use inside a smartphone. LG has dabbled with making its own processor in the past, called the Nuclun, which wasn’t a success. It powered a single model, the LG G3 Screen — yes, it was that long ago — and wasn’t designed to take on the fastest chips from Qualcomm at the time. While rumors then spread of a more powerful Nuclun 2 processor, the chip itself was never released.

This may be because LG’s plans changed. In August 2016, LG and Intel announced a collaboration where it would, “produce a world-class mobile platform based on Intel Custom Foundry’s 10nm design platform.” At the same time, Intel and ARM announced they would work together on the development of an ARM system-on-a-chip based on Intel’s 10nm process. Could the Kromax and the Epik be the result of LG, Intel, and ARM all coming together?

Not only is it possible, it also makes sense. When LG released the LG G6 earlier this year it included the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor inside, and not the newest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, due to a lengthy wait time on the chip, because Samsung had a hold on the earliest shipments for use in the Galaxy S8. LG eventually used the Snapdragon 835 in the LG V30. Samsung has its own processor line, the Exynos, which is used in some internationally launched Galaxy phones and tablets. It also licenses them out to other brands, such as Meizu.

If the Kromax and Epik are future LG smartphone processors, the company could avoid having to settle for an older processor again in the future, should similar industry deals get in its way. An Intel/LG chip built using the 10nm process would be comparable to the Snapdragon 835 and the Samsung Exynos 9 8895, and provide LG with more ways to differentiate and customize its devices.

UK gives WhatsApp another spanking over e2e crypto


The UK government has once again bared its anti-technology teeth in public, leaning especially heavily on messaging platform WhatsApp for its use of end-to-end encryption security tech, and calling it out for enabling criminals to communicate in secret.

Reuters reported yesterday that UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd had called out end-to-end encryption services “like WhatsApp”, claiming they are being used by paedophiles and other criminals and pressurizing the companies to stop enabling such people from operating outside the law.

“I do not accept it is right that companies should allow them and other criminals to operate beyond the reach of law enforcement. We must require the industry to move faster and more aggressively. They have the resources and there must be greater urgency,” Rudd reportedly added.

Earlier this week she also admitted she doesn’t really understand e2e encryption.

Asked about her understanding of the technology at the Conservative Party conference, Rudd came out with this gem: “I don’t need to understand how encryption works to understand how it’s helping the criminals. I will engage with the security services to find the best way to combat that.”

She also complained about being ridiculed by the tech industry for not understanding the technologies she’s seeking to regulate. Whilst apparently doubling down on the ignorance that has attracted said mockery.

This of course led to more mockery…

You can see the problem with this strategy. Unless you’re the UK government, evidently.

But what exactly is Rudd trying to get WhatsApp to do? The company has repeatedly pointed out it can’t hand over decrypted message content because e2e crypto means it doesn’t hold the keys to decrypt and access the content.

Which is exactly the point of e2e encryption, and also explains why it’s better for data security.

The Facebook-owned company reportedly rejected a government demand it come up with technical solutions to enable intelligence agencies to access e2e encrypted WhatsApp messages this summer (per a Sky News report).

And an e2e encryption system with a backdoor wouldn’t be an e2e encryption system, as Rudd apparently can’t understand. (She wrote some other confusing words on that topic this summer.)

Meanwhile Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg has tried to sell governments on the notion that access to its — doubtless high resolution — metadata should be enough for their counterterrorism/crime-fighting needs.

(Note for Rudd: U.S. intelligence agencies have previously said they kill people based on metadata, so Sandberg probably has a point. But maybe you don’t fully grasp what metadata is either?)

Yesterday Reuters also quoted UK security minister Ben Wallace, whose brief covers counterterrorism and comms data legislation, bashing on services that use e2e encryption for preventing security services from tracking and catching criminals because “we can’t get into these communications”.

Wallace also reportedly had this to say: “There are other ways I can’t talk about which we think they can help us more without necessarily entering into end-to-end encryption. So we think they can do more.”

What “other ways” is the government thinking of? A backdoor into an e2e encrypted messaging platform given any other name would still be, er, a backdoor. Unless you’re just getting your hands on an unlocked device and reading the plain text messages that way. (Which is of course one possible workaround for security services to access e2e encrypted comms.)

We asked WhatsApp (and Facebook) for comment on the government’s latest attacks on its messaging platform. Neither replied.

But when politicians seem intent on ignoring how your technology works while simultaneously asking your technologists to make the tech do what they want (which also happens to be: Destroy the security promise that your service is founded on) you can’t really blame them for not wanting to engage in conversation on this topic.

Security researcher and former Facebook staffer Alec Muffett, who worked on deploying e2e crypto for its ‘Secret Conversations’ feature, did have this to say when we asked for this thoughts: “If the Snowden affair has taught us anything it’s that government will internally redefine any distasteful term such as ‘backdoor’ so that it arguably does not apply to what they wish to achieve. I strongly suspect that state officials themselves do not have technical or specific plans, so much as a set of ‘desired outcomes’ which they will pressure the communications providers to deliver. For the rest of us, any ‘feature’ which breaks the promise that is implicit in the name of ‘end-to-end encryption’ is rightly called a ‘backdoor’ and should be resisted.”

Amen to that.

Meanwhile rumors suggest Rudd is gearing up for a potential leadership fight, if/when current UK PM Theresa May is finally unseated by the Brexit mess she has managed to exacerbate.

So Rudd’s views on e2e crypto — and her apparent willingness to continue to misunderstand how technologies work — should worry us all.

At this week’s party conference she unveiled plans to tighten the law around watching terrorist content online, with proposals to increase the maximum jail term for repeat viewing such content online or via a streaming service to up to 15 years.

So the current political trajectory in the UK is for greater control and regulation of the Internet. At the same time as the government is pushing hard to undermine the security of online data.

Again, that should worry us all — not least because other governments are watching the UK’s example, and some appear to be taking inspiration to make their own moves against encryption.

If Rudd wasn’t enough, another Tory leadership contender in waiting — current foreign secretary Boris Johnson — appears to have an even more butterfingered grasp of digital infrastructure than she does (at least Rudd has taken a lot of meetings with tech firms lately, albeit without necessarily learning a great deal).

Also speaking at the Conservative Party conference this week, Johnson reportedly suggested the UK could diverge from the EU’s data protection standards, post-Brexit — i.e. should he become the next UK PM.

Where on Earth has Johnson got the idea that the UK would want to do things different in the area of “data”? What can he be thinking to go out on such a strange limb?

His comments come despite the UK’s data protection watchdog sweating hard to inform UK businesses they do indeed need to comply with the incoming GDPR — and will need to continue to comply even after the country leaves the bloc (because, you know, complying with required standards is oil in the engine of trade).

And despite UK digital minister Matt Hancock stating multiple times the government is aiming to essentially mirror EU data protection regulations — precisely to ensure there is no cliff edge as far as data flows are concerned.

If the UK does not meet EU data protection standards once it leaves the bloc, UK businesses and startups will face being instantly cut off from selling into European markets.

The UK will also likely need to negotiate its own data transfer agreement with the US which has its own data agreement with the EU. So could be cut off from the US market too if they can’t get some quick agreement in place (vs mirroring EU DP regs probably making some kind of UK-US Privacy-Shield copy-paste job quicker and easier to pull off.)

Apparently none of the complexities of international data regulation have arrived beneath Johnson’s blonde mop. Expect that grand landing in some very far-flung future.

Instead we find only a vague grasp on “data” — tightly coupled with a telling political stiffness for “doing things differently”.

And when button-pushing politicians have such a childish grasp on technology at the same time as powerful technologists are demonstrably failing to factor politics into their platforms we should all be rightly and highly concerned about the resulting societal outcomes.

Sonos announces the Sonos One, a self-contained, Alexa-connected speaker


THe Sonos One is a new speaker designed from the ground-up for voice interaction via Alexa. The speaker is similar to the current home speakers Sonos sells but six internal microphones allow you to speak to the spaker without extra voice control hardware.

The system uses echo-cancellation tech to hear you over the music and the six internal microphones will be able to hear you anywhere in the room.

The Sonos One will support AirPlay 2 when it launches next year.

The speaker will allow you to say things like “Pause music,” “Play track in living room,” and “Play playlist Harcdore” and Sonos will react.

Google Hardware Event 2017

Sonos announces the Sonos One, a self-contained, Alexa-connected speaker

6 minutes ago by John Biggs

Sonos announces Alexa-controlled wireless speakers

35 minutes ago by John Biggs

Bluecore marketing automation platform raises $35 million in Series C

52 minutes ago by Jordan Crook

Udacity spin-out Voyage is testing self-driving cars in retirement communities

1 hour ago by Darrell Etherington

LinkedIn to launch Talent Insights, a new analytics tool, as it dives deeper into data

1 hour ago by Ingrid Lunden

How the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals brought Rocio Lopez into the startup world

1 hour ago by Ruben Harris

Live from Google’s Pixel 2 event

1 hour ago by Brian Heater

Tinder taps comedian Whitney Cummings to launch ‘Reactions’

1 hour ago by Jordan Crook

Google Assistant now has a male voice option

1 hour ago by Darrell Etherington

Dyson seeks to beat rivals on range with its electric car

2 hours ago by Darrell Etherington

Sonos announces Alexa-controlled wireless speakers


Alexa is officially the first voice assistant to be available on Sonos, a move that turns the wireless speaker product into a voice-controlled sound system.

Originally https://techcrunch.com/2016/08/30/sonos-partners-with-amazon-spotify-for-enhanced-music-control/announced a year ago, Sonos has been working “day and night” with Amazon to implement the features.

Alexa on Sonos will be available as a beta software update today. You will be able to control your speakers using Amazon Alexa-compatible devices including the Echo and the Dot.

The update will be available in the US, UK, and Germany.

Sonos CEO Patrick Spence calls this new platform the “Sonic Internet” and complained of “default speakers” in entry-level devices that didn’t work seamlessly with Alexa and each other.

“Music is one of the most used features with Alexa,” said an Amazon spokesperson at an event in New York today. The new Sonos integration allows you to ask Alexa to “play the new Killer’s song” and Alexa will find it.

Sonos now supports 80 music services and works together with Spotify and now Alexa. Further, the company is partnering with home CE providers like Crestron, Logitech, and Smartthings to add different interaction elements to the Sonos experience.

Bluecore marketing automation platform raises $35 million in Series C


Bluecore, the automated marketing platform for ecommerce brands, has today announced the close of a $35 million Series C round of funding. Norwest Venture Partners led the round, with participation from existing investors including Georgian Partners, FirstMark Capital, and Felicis Ventures.

As part of the deal, NVP’s Scott Beechuk will join the board of directors at Bluecore.

When Bluecore first launched in 2013, the platform allowed marketers to manage their email marketing through simple triggers. With if/then combinations — if the price of jeans drops, send an email to users, for example — marketers were able to set up an automated system of email marketing around their brands and products.

Since then, Bluecore has expanded in two ways.

The first is that the company has developed a machine learning model around its data called Bluecore Predictive. Instead of reacting to changes that happen on the retail level, Bluecore predictive lets marketers be proactive about their email messaging. They can now look for customers who are interested in a certain cut of jeans, and send them email alerts when new SKUs with that cut become available. Or, for example, they can detect which customers are likely to unsubscribe from email alerts and hold off messaging them for a while.

“We’re seeing significant traction with Bluecore predictive,” said co-founder and CEO Fayez Mohamood. “It’s growing twice as fast than our original trigger based product.”

But beyond the deep integration of machine learning, Bluecore has also expanded its marketing channels to include social media and search.

Bluecore boasts more than 400 customers, including Express, Staples, Blue Nile, and Sephora. The company has captured 47 billion real-time behavioral events and driven more than $1 billion in customer revenue to its clients.

The company operates on a SaaS model, based on usage and size of the database, though they declined to provide specific information around pricing. On the low end, Bluecore customers pay tens of thousands of dollars per year, and millions on the high-end, with the average customer spending nearly six figures on the service.

“The greatest challenge is that our customers are bombarded by a lot of products that sound the same,” said Mohamood. “We’ve managed to break through the noise by explaining that we do one thing very very well, but there is a trade-off about how specific we stay with our messaging and how broad our product offering is.”

This latest Series C round brings Bluecore’s total funding to more than $63 million.

LinkedIn to launch Talent Insights, a new analytics tool, as it dives deeper into data


LinkedIn, the Microsoft-owned social network for the working world with some 500 million members, has made a large business out of recruitment — with some 11 million job listings on the site at any given time, and the recruitment market providing the company with its largest source of revenue.

Now it is taking another step ahead in building out that business with a new product: LinkedIn Talent Insights, a self-service, big data analytics product that will let recruiters make deeper queries into statistics for hiring and employment, based on LinkedIn data.

Talent Insights is being announced in a closed beta today at the company’s Talent Connect event, with a full launch in 2018. It will be a paid product, Eric Owski, LinkedIn’s head of product for talent insights, tells me, although pricing will not be made public until it’s generally available next year.

Talent Insights will come, initially, with two views, called “Talent Pool” and “Company report.”

The first of these will let recruiters search on different parameters related to specific jobs that they may want to fill — for example, a typical kind of search LinkedIn envisions might be used here is, what schools are producing the most successful data scientists or natural language processing engineers; or which industries (or companies) have been recruiting the most computer vision specialists. 

The Company report, meanwhile, will provide a similar kind of dive but into recruitment patterns at your own company and your competitors — including a look at what skills are growing the fastest and which cities employees are living in. The idea here is not to simply gain competitive intelligence but to improve how you are approaching recruitment yourself.

LinkedIn has made a couple of acquisitions in the past of recruitment startups — specifically Careerify and Connectifier — companies that have built big data solutions to approach the process of hiring and searching for good people in a more modern way. Some of that expertise has already started to make its way into LinkedIn products, and I suspect some of it is coming through here, too.

But this doesn’t appear to be a replacement for searches of specific candidates. Rather, it’s a tool that will sit alongside the search features that LinkedIn already provides (a basic search for free users, a more enhanced one for premium subscribers, and the full-monty for those who take the top subscription tiers in LinkedIn’s membership plans), and provide more high-level insights into hiring trends at your own company, at other companies, within industries, professions and geographic locations.

“I think talent leaders will be the audience for this product,” said Owski, “professionals who have visibility into the day-to-day operations but also have a role to play in strategic planning, and to align a company’s talent strategy with its business strategy.”

It sits alongside other products and features that LinkedIn has been building out to help connect the dots between users and jobs and recruiters a bit more, such as Open Candidates, a way for users to quietly signal to the world of recruiters that they are open to considering new jobs, without letting people at their current organization or any others for that matter know what they are doing.

The significance of this new product for me is that it’s another indication of how LinkedIn is continuing to build out the parts of its business that have been strong revenue generators up to now.

And as it faces more and more competition from others that are hoping to inch into the recruitment space — most recently Facebook, which has been building out its own job listings business (most recently with a partnership with ZipRecruiter) — LinkedIn is looking for ways of keeping people coming back to its site over the others.

Offering more insights beyond job ads with tools like data analytics is one way of tying people to the platform, and as a paid tool you could even potentially envision a time when even if you are using LinkedIn for some of your recruitment budget, you might use it just for the analytics alone to help form wider recruitment strategies.

That’s assuming, of course, that people are not lying on their LinkedIn profiles. It’s still hard to know just how much of the data on LinkedIn is verified beyond people policing themselves — since you are not required to, say, give and verify a TechCrunch email when noting that you work for TechCrunch — and perhaps companies sometimes getting proactive on the platform. LinkedIn also has yet to launch verified profiles on the platform.

It’s also interesting to me because people have long known that LinkedIn is a massive data repository. Much of that data crunching has been done behind closed doors and for LinkedIn’s own purposes — sometimes leading to people saying LinkedIn is “creepy” because of the uncanny connections (and suggestions of connections) that it seems to make between people.

Now, it’s essentially opening up some of that analytics to its users.

Longer term, it will also be interesting to see how and if LinkedIn tries its hand and expanding this platform to more than just recruitment.

The company has been trying for years to evolve its reputation from simple job hunting and networking site to a place where people go to enrich their “professional selves” — be it through reading news relevant to their fields, or reading (and writing) thought pieces from people in those fields. It seems like a logical step to expand Talent Insights into “Professional Insights” down the line to continue to evolve that wider opportunity.

For now, though, the emphasis will be on using LinkedIn’s own data and keeping the focus squarely on recruitment.

“We are going to expand the number of questions that we can answer for talent professionals,” Owski said. “We are already answering critical questions that no other product answers in this way about the labor market.”

Featured Image: Twin Design/Shutterstock

Trademark filings reveal LG wants its own in-house processor

Why it matters to you

LG’s own mobile processors could mean faster LG phones, with more custom features in the future.

LG has filed for two new brand name trademarks with the European Intellectual Property Office, but neither is related to smartphones, televisions, or white goods. At least, not directly. Instead, the trademarked names are processors, the Kromax and the Epik. The descriptions are very vague, referring to them only as “Chips” and “Multiprocessor Chips,” and there’s no indication what devices these processors may end up powering.

LG produces a wide range of products, making it possible the Kromax and Epik chips could end up powering anything from refrigerators to robots, but it’s entirely possible these chips are destined for use inside a smartphone. LG has dabbled with making its own processor in the past, called the Nuclun, which wasn’t a success. It powered a single model, the LG G3 Screen — yes, it was that long ago — and wasn’t designed to take on the fastest chips from Qualcomm at the time. While rumors then spread of a more powerful Nuclun 2 processor, the chip itself was never released.

This may be because LG’s plans changed. In August 2016, LG and Intel announced a collaboration where it would, “produce a world-class mobile platform based on Intel Custom Foundry’s 10nm design platform.” At the same time, Intel and ARM announced they would work together on the development of an ARM system-on-a-chip based on Intel’s 10nm process. Could the Kromax and the Epik be the result of LG, Intel, and ARM all coming together?

Not only is it possible, it also makes sense. When LG released the LG G6 earlier this year it included the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor inside, and not the newest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, due to a lengthy wait time on the chip, because Samsung had a hold on the earliest shipments for use in the Galaxy S8. LG eventually used the Snapdragon 835 in the LG V30. Samsung has its own processor line, the Exynos, which is used in some internationally launched Galaxy phones and tablets. It also licenses them out to other brands, such as Meizu.

If the Kromax and Epik are future LG smartphone processors, the company could avoid having to settle for an older processor again in the future, should similar industry deals get in its way. An Intel/LG chip built using the 10nm process would be comparable to the Snapdragon 835 and the Samsung Exynos 9 8895, and provide LG with more ways to differentiate and customize its devices.

Tinder taps comedian Whitney Cummings to launch ‘Reactions’


Following in the footsteps of Facebook and iMessage, Tinder has today introduced Reactions, letting Tinder users send each other custom animated responses.

These reactions include Hearts, Eye Roll, Round of Applause, Martini Throw, etc. This makes it even easier for Tinder users to casually use the app without actually having to work at the conversation.

In January of last year, Tinder introduced Giphy support and bigger emojis. Reactions seem like a natural extension of that, making the already featherweight Tinder experience even more casual and simplified.

But it seems that Reactions are part of a larger initiative at Tinder, which is meant to give women all the tools they need to deal with douchebags.

Actress and comedian Whitney Cummings is helping Tinder launch Reactions in a video series called “The Menprovement Initiative,” directed by J.J. Adler.

[embedded content]

The video shows real female employees at Tinder interacting with Whitney Cummings to improve men. That said, Tinder doesn’t have a sterling history of empowering women, especially its own female employees.

Tinder offers clear community guidelines about bad behavior, and gives users tools to both report malicious actors and swipe left after matching to quickly escape an unwanted conversation. That said, branding Reactions as a way for women to deal with douchebags seems a bit lackluster.

Responding with the splashing martini reaction won’t do much to stop unwanted messaging from coming your way, and in fact might even encourage the guy to send more. Because these reactions are cute, and feel flirty. It’s like Tinder created a way for users to wink at cat callers on the digital street.

Tinder Reactions might make conversation easier between Tinder parties, but it doesn’t seem to fit in well with the so-called Menprovement Initiative.