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Sila Nanotechnologies, a Silicon Valley battery materials company, has spent years developing technology designed to pack more energy into a cell at a lower cost — an end game that has helped it lock in partnerships with Amperex Technology Limited as well as automakers BMW and Daimler.

Now, Sila Nano, flush with a fresh injection of capital that has pushed its valuation to $3.3 billion, is ready to bring its technology to the masses.

The company, which was founded nearly a decade ago, said Tuesday it has raised $590 million in a Series F funding round led by Coatue with significant participation by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. Existing investors 8VC, Bessemer Venture Partners, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and Sutter Hill Ventures also participated in the round.

Sila Nano plans to use the funds to hire another 100 people this year and begin to buildout a factory in North America capable of producing 100 gigawatt-hours of silicon-based anode material, which is used in batteries for the smartphone and automotive industries. While the company hasn’t revealed the location of the factory, it does have a timeline. Sila Nano said it plans to start production at the factory in 2024. Materials produced at the plant will be in electric vehicles by 2025, the company said.

“It took eight years and 35,000 iterations to create a new battery chemistry, but that was just step one,” Sila Nano CEO and co-founder Gene Berdichevsky said in a statement. “For any new technology to make an impact in the real-world, it has to scale, which will cost billions of dollars. We know from our experience building our production lines in Alameda that investing in our next plant today will keep us on track to be powering cars and hundreds of millions of consumer devices by 2025.”

The tech

A lithium-ion battery contains two electrodes. There’s an anode (negative) on one side and a cathode (positive) on the other. Typically, an electrolyte sits in the middle and acts as the courier, moving ions between the electrodes when charging and discharging. Graphite is commonly used as the anode in commercial lithium-ion batteries.

Sila Nano has developed a silicon-based anode that replaces graphite in lithium-ion batteries. The critical detail is that the material was designed to take the place of graphite in without needing to change the battery manufacturing process or equipment.

Sila Nano has been focused on silicon anode because the material can store a lot more lithium ions. Using a material that lets you pack in more lithium ions would theoretically allow you to increase the energy density — or the amount of energy that can be stored in a battery per its volume — of the cell. The upshot would be a cheaper battery that contains more energy in the same space.

The opportunity

It’s a compelling product for automakers attempting to bring more electric vehicles to market. Nearly every global automaker has announced plans or is already producing a new batch of all-electric and plug-in electric vehicles, including Ford, GM, Daimler, BMW, Hyundai and Kia. Tesla continues to ramp up production of its Model 3 and Model Y vehicles as a string of newcomers like Rivian prepare to bring their own EVs to market.

In short: the demand of batteries is climbing; and automakers are looking for the next-generation tech that will give them a competitive edge.

Battery production sat at about 20 GWh per year in 2010. Sila Nano expects it to jump to 2,000 GWh per year by 2030 and 30,000 GWh per year by 2050.

Sila Nano started building the first production lines for its battery materials in 2018. That first line is capable of producing the material to supply the equivalent of 50 megawatts of lithium-ion batteries.

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Tapbots, the company behind Tweetbot, has released a major update for the iPhone and iPad. Tweetbot 6 is now available in the App store. While there aren’t a lot of visual changes, there are a couple of important things happening under the hood.

First, Tweetbot 6 is using Twitter’s API v2. An API is an interface that lets two applications or services interact with each other. In today’s case, Tweetbot uses Twitter’s API to interact with the service.

And third-party developers can only do what Twitter lets them do. For many years, Twitter’s API has been somewhat limited, especially if you’ve been trying to build a full-fledged Twitter client. But API v2 surfaces some missing features.

For instance, Tweetbot 6 can now display polls. Before that, polls simply didn’t appear in the timeline. Similarly, Tweetbot 6 displays preview cards, which let you preview linked content without having to click on them. Some features are still missing, such as stories.

There are some minor changes with Tweetbot 6, such as new interface themes, a new feature that lets you select Chrome or Firefox as browser options for links and some tweaks in the app design.

The business model is changing as well. Instead of paying to download the app, you can now download a free app with many restrictions — for instance, you can’t tweet. When you’re ready, you can subscribe to unlock all features for $0.99 per month or $5.99 per year.

This change should ensure the future of the app. Tapbots says Tweetbot 6 is currently in early access. The company plans to add more features down the road.

And if you’re using Tweetbot 5 right now, the app is still working fine. You can re-download the app from the ‘Purchased’ section in the App Store.

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When Apple reports its earnings on Wednesday, you can expect mentions of India on the call.

Apple shipped more than 1.5 million iPhone units in India in the quarter that ended in December, up 100% year-on-year, making this its best quarter in the world’s largest smartphone market to date, according to research firms Counterpoint and CyberMedia.

Thanks to the improved sales of older generation iPhone 11, iPhone XR, iPhone 12 and the newer iPhone SE, Apple doubled its market share in India to 4% in the quarter, the research firms said.

Overall, Apple shipped more than 3.2 million iPhone units in India in 2020, up 60% year-on-year, Counterpoint said.

The shipment growth comes months after Apple launched its online store in the country and offered customers a wide-range of financing and upgrade options, AppleCare+, and lucrative perks such as a free set of AirPods with the purchase of iPhone 11. The company plans to open its first physical retail store in the country later this year.

For more than a decade, Apple has struggled to sell its handsets in India because of the expensive price tags they carry. Most smartphones that ship in India are priced between $100 to $200. Samsung, and a group of Chinese smartphone vendors including Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo flooded the market in the past decade with their affordable smartphones.

None the less, in recent years Apple has visibly grown more interested in the country that is also one of the world’s fastest growing smartphones markets. The company’s contract manufacturers today locally assemble a range of iPhone models and some accessories — an effort the company kickstarted more than two years ago. (A recent violent event at an Indian facility of Wistron, one of Apple’s contract manufacturers, however, underscored some of the challenges Apple will grapple with as it looks to scale its local production efforts in the country.)

That move has allowed Apple to lower prices of some older generation iPhone models in India, where for years the company has passed import duty charges to customers. The starting price of the iPhone 12 Pro Max is $1,781 in India, compared to $1,099 in the U.S. (Apple has yet to start locally assemble the iPhone 12 units.) The AirPods Pro, which sells at $249 in the U.S., was made available in India at $341 at the time of launch. AirPods Max, similarly, is priced at $815 in India, compared to $549 in the U.S. (It doesn’t help that an average person in India makes $2,000 a year.)

Unlike most foreign firms that offer their products and services for free in India or at some of the world’s cheapest prices, Apple has focused entirely on a small fraction of the population that can afford to pay big bucks, Jayanth Kolla, chief analyst at Convergence Catalyst, told TechCrunch.

That’s not to say that Apple has not made some changes to its price strategy for India. The monthly cost of Apple Music is $1.35 in India, compared to $9.99 in the U.S. Its Apple One bundle, which includes Apple Music, TV+, Arcade and iCloud, costs $2.65 a month in India.

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Apple has released iOS 14.4 with security fixes for three vulnerabilities, said to be under active attack by hackers.

The technology giant said in its security update pages for iOS and iPadOS 14.4 that the three bugs affecting iPhones and iPads “may have been actively exploited.” Details of the vulnerabilities are scarce, and an Apple spokesperson declined to comment beyond what’s in the advisory.

It’s not known who is actively exploiting the vulnerabilities, or who might have fallen victim. Apple did not say if the attack was targeted against a small subset of users or if it was a wider attack. Apple granted anonymity to the individual who submitted the bug, the advisory said.

Two of the bugs were found in WebKit, the browser engine that powers the Safari browser, and the Kernel, the core of the operating system. Some successful exploits use sets of vulnerabilities chained together, rather than a single flaw. It’s not uncommon for attackers to first target vulnerabilities in a device’s browsers as a way to get access to the underlying operating system.

Apple said additional details would be available soon, but did not say when.

It’s a rare admission by Apple, which prides itself on its security image, that its customers might be under active attack by hackers.

In 2019, Google security researchers found a number of malicious websites laced with code that quietly hacked into victims’ iPhones. TechCrunch revealed that the attack was part of an operation, likely by the Chinese government, to spy on Uyghur Muslims. In response, Apple disputed some of Google’s findings in an equally rare public statement, for which Apple faced more criticism for underplaying the severity of the attack.

Last month, internet watchdog Citizen Lab found dozens of journalists had their iPhones hacked with a previously unknown vulnerability to install spyware developed by Israel-based NSO Group.

In the absence of details, iPhone and iPad users should update to iOS 14.4 as soon as possible.

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As the global pandemic continues, having options for keeping active at home is increasingly top-of-mind. Treadly is a startup focused on building a home treadmill that’s compact and convenient, with smart connected features that boost engagement. The company recently released its second-generation product, and it’s super compact, with hardware improvements that boost the weight limit for users and add cooling benefits that extend workout times.


Treadly’s design is probably a lot smaller than you’re expecting – it’s just 3.7-inches tall for the base, and it weights just 77 lbs. The whole deck is just 56-inches long by 25-inches wide, and there’s a flip-down handle that you extend when you want to jog at a faster pace, while folding it away for strictly walking workouts.

There’s a display built into the deck itself, offering a simple but easy to read black and white readout of key stats, including speed, total steps, time and distance. The handrail features manual controls, and the Treadly 2 can also be controlled either via a dedicated remote control for the basic model, or through the Treadly app (iOS only now, but Android coming soon) via Bluetooth for the upgraded Treadly 2 Pro version.

The Treadly 2 also features a built-in Bluetooth speaker, which allows you to connect your smartphone and play music via whatever app you want. The Treadly iOS app also offers community iterative training, and live video integration. Treadly is also introducing new groups features to the app to allow users form their own communities, and also new challenges that users can issue to one another, like step count records and more.

Design and features

Treadly’s design is very compact, as mentioned, and it’s the perfect size for small spaces. It’ll slide easily under most couches thanks to its low height, and it can also be stored vertically if you want to put it against the wall or in a larger closet. The design is also attractive and minimal, which make it more unobtrusive than most exercise equipment even if left out in plain view.

The built-in display in the deck itself is a nice accommodation for keeping the dimensions compact, while also providing all the feedback you’d expect from a piece of home gym equipment. It’d be easier to check periodically if it was mounted into the fold-down handlebar, but that would definitely lead to increased bulk. Plus, having the stats slightly difficult to access is probably actually better for many people, since zeroing in on those can make a workout more arduous than it needs to be.

For the basic model, the remote is effective and compact, with a wriststrap included so that you can keep track of it easily while using the treadmill. The built-in Bluetooth speaker isn’t amazing, as you might expect, but it’s more than good enough to provide a soundtrack if you don’t have other speakers or earbuds on hand to use.

Image Credits: Treadly

As for the experience of actually using Treadly 2 to run or walk, it definitely delivers, with a few caveats: First, don’t expect this to provide a true indoor running experience. While it definitely offers impressive weight capacity for a treadmill of this size, the max speed is 5 mph, which is a low-intensity jog for most people. With the handrail down, that drops to just 3.7 mph, which is a brisk walk.

For something this compact, that’s actually still very impressive – especially since there’s no time limit on how long you can use the treadmill at 5 mph thanks to Treadly 2’s new and improved cooling system. For avoiding a sedentary lifestyle while remaining mostly indoors, the Treadly 2’s speed settings more than deliver, and that’s probably enough for most users, advanced fitness buffs excluded.

Bottom line

The Treadly 2 is a connected treadmill that provides a great blend of convenience, social features, guided usage, connected control and space-saving design into a reasonably-priced package starting at $749 for the Basic and $849 for the Pro with special New Year Sale pricing. It’s like the Peloton that most people are actually more likely to use long-term, and it’s a great way to stay active during the long winter months in our unprecedented times.

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It’s been a wild 12 months for fitness platforms, as the world’s population has struggled to adapt to workouts outside of the gym. From Lululemon’s massive Mirror acquisition to companies like Apple and Samsung launching their own solutions, exercise technology has thrived amid the pandemic.

Talent Hack is one of a large (and growing) number of companies looking to make fitness more accessible in a world where the gym just isn’t an option for many. Rather than creating its own front-end, curated platform, however, the New York-based startup’s Spaces is designed to offer a B2C platform for fitness instructors and studios.

This week, the company announced that it has raised a $4.7 million seed round, led by Global Founders Capital. The Fund is also participating in the round, along with Mindbody Online’s Rick Stollmeyer, as well as Lucy Deland, Hannah Bronfman, Amanda Freeman, Ellie Burrows and Amy Klein.

Spaces has been operating with a relatively low public profile since January 2019, though more than 50,000 fitness professions have signed up for the service. The company says it’s managed to help top earners pull in $250,000.

“We are the first fitness and technology company that is a true partner for the individual wellness instructor, facilitating agency and power to the individual in the rising 30% YoY at-home fitness market,” CEO and co-founder Alexandra Bonetti says in a release tied to the news. “Our mission is to empower fitness and wellness professionals with the tools and resources they need to propel and scale their businesses so they can remain focused on what they do best.”

Talent Hack says this round will go toward increasing its marketing, improving the customer experience and expanding recruiting.

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The digital media industry will give us plenty to talk about this year.

When we last surveyed venture capitalists about their media investments, the big topic was the impact that the pandemic would have on the industry, and on the prospects for new startups.

Obviously, the pandemic hasn’t gone away, but when asked to predict the biggest storylines for 2021, VCs pointed to themes as varied as new distribution models, new kinds of interactivity, new tools for creators, the return of advertising business models and even the role of media in a democratic society.

“We are headed toward a content universe where consumers’ power of choice grows to new heights — what premium content to consume and pay for, and how to consume it,” Javelin’s Alex Gurevich wrote. “The consumers will have the final choice! Not traditional media and content distribution companies.”

For this new survey, we heard from 10 VCs — nine who invest in media startups, plus a tenth who’s seeing plenty of media pitches and was happy to share her thoughts. We asked them about the likelihood of further industry consolidation, whether we’ll see more digital media companies take the SPAC route and of course, what they’re looking for in their next investment.

Here’s who we surveyed:

Read their full responses below.

What do you think will be the biggest trend or story in digital media in 2021?

Daniel Gulati: Defining media’s role in a democratic society. What accountability exists when an individual company’s pursuit of scale leads to the spread of disinformation? When a platform’s terms of service appears to collide with constitutional rights, who makes the call and what happens? To what extent should governments support the viability of local media organizations in the face of global competition and a rapidly changing digital landscape?

These are high stakes issues that will be front and center through the year.

Alex Gurevich: The continued disruption of content distribution models, whether that’s the debundling of cable via the plethora of SVOD services, or the way new content is released (i.e., on-demand at home versus movie theaters). We are headed toward a content universe where consumers’ power of choice grows to new heights — what premium content to consume and pay for, and how to consume it. The consumers will have the final choice! Not traditional media and content distribution companies. The pandemic has greatly accelerated this trend.

Matthew Hartman: The two largest social networks, Twitter and Facebook, removed the account of a sitting president and a set of related, follower accounts. This has fundamentally reset the media stack. This will accelerate action the government had already planned to take, including to reshape Section 230. The ripples will be felt throughout media, affecting how news is distributed through social media, what startups can use bigger platforms to grow, what the exit options are for small talent acquisitions and the fragmentation already occurring.

Second, the rise of synthetic media. Algorithmically enhanced or created media is a shift we identified at Betaworks in 2018 and in 2021 it will only increase in scale and scope. Yes, this affects deep fake detection (with companies like Sensity.AI leading the way) and other nefarious uses — but it will also start to fundamentally reshape the way media is created, from the cost of animation to the cost of writing stories, to editing and creating CGI.

Third, game streaming will continue to grow, with audiences that are starting to blow away those of regular TV. An enormous number of people tuned in last year to watch Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez play Among Us on Twitch with popular streamers (she hit 435,000 concurrent viewers at one point). And that wasn’t even close to the biggest event ever on Twitch, David Martinez, aka TheGrefg, hit 2.4 million concurrent viewers for the unveiling of his new Fortnite skin. Game publishers have finally started to understand the power of streamers not just to launch a new game, but to revive old ones, with games that groups of streamers can play together (like Among Us or Rust) soaring in popularity this past year.

Jerry Lu: The emergence of interactive media platforms outside of just gaming.

Because of their isolation due to COVID, people are yearning for social interaction and we’re seeing greater engagement across platforms like Twitch and Zoom, which make interactive communications possible. Previous iterations of media platforms were top-down broadcast, whereby companies produced content they thought consumers would like. Over the past five years, we’ve started to see a greater shift toward the long tail, whereby content comes straight from the consumer.

Gaming and esports were at the forefront of this shift from passive content viewing to interactive entertainment experiences. I believe that 2021 will be the year when we see platforms beginning to embrace interactivity as a form of audience participation, blurring the line between viewer and active participant. I’m excited at the prospect of seeing this form of interactive content consumption applied to other sectors, like education, childcare and commerce, to name a few.

Jana Messerschmidt: We will see a proliferation of products that enable content creators to build businesses outside of traditional media companies. These creators will leverage their existing brand, following and social media engagement to become entrepreneurs, building revenue streams across multiple different products.

There are a plethora of new tools for creators: for writers (Substack, Medium), personalized video shoutouts from creators (Cameo*, PearPop), new audio platforms (Clubhouse, LockerRoom) or all-in-one tools for creators that include merch, subscriptions, tipping and more (FourthWall). Now is the time for creators to be rewarded by their fans for their content creation.

Historically, the big social platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Snap*, Twitter, TikTok) have failed to create meaningful paths for their creators to monetize. They make money from advertisers and thus their resources are focused on those advertising customer demands.

  • denotes Lightspeed portfolio company

Michael Palank: If 2020 was the year every major media company either announced or grew their direct-to-consumer video/audio/gaming offering, 2021 will be the year where those offerings optimize and differentiate or die. We expect the hunger for original content to continue, but we feel the type of content will continue to diversify from both a story and IP perspective and a format perspective. It is not unthinkable that a major media company like Apple, Amazon or Disney looks to acquire Clubhouse in 2021.

As the lines between video games and filmed entertainment continue to blur we can also envision new companies popping up to take advantage of this trend. I also feel these content platforms will need to differentiate by way of better discovery and personalization.

I fully expect every major media company from Disney to Apple to Amazon to Microsoft will be looking for new and innovative ways to separate themselves from the rest of the pack in 2021.

Marlon Nichols: I think that the continued creation of streaming platforms from content creators/owners (e.g., Disney+, HBO Max, etc.) will force downward subscription pricing adjustments across the board and streaming platforms will need to revisit advertising as a revenue stream. That said, we know that watching ads on a paid platform won’t fly with consumers so I believe we’ll see contextually relevant product placement become the accepted form of brand/content collaboration going forward. I led MaC’s investment into Ryff because of this thesis.

Pär-Jörgen Pärson: Institutions and legislators will have a big effect on social media platforms. I think there will be pushes on antitrust behavior, and social networks will have to behave like media — meaning that they also need to take responsibility for the content that’s on their platform, not only from a user agreement standpoint like today but from an editorial standpoint. I think we’ll see many more editors-in-chief in this industry, as editorial becomes more and more important in our polarized world. This has the potential to change the social media platform landscape quite dramatically, and I’m not entirely sure yet on the long-term impact commercially.

M.G. Siegler: It’s sort of boring, but I wouldn’t be shocked if we see a swing back toward advertising-based models. I think there are two parts to this: First, if and when the pandemic recedes, I think a lot of traditional big advertising players like travel, will come roaring back. Second, it feels like there’s been a move away from advertising to paid subscriptions for a while now and I think these things are cyclical.

To be clear, I think both will continue to exist, I just think that after years of underindexing on paid subs, now we’re perhaps on the verge of overindexing on it … Obviously, advertising never went away, I just think it may be due for a bit of a renaissance (though I say that hoping the powers that be make those ads a better user experience — I think that’s the only way there’s not another backlash against them).

Laurel Touby: The biggest trend in digital media will be companies that don’t call themselves media companies, but that clearly draw from the business model playbook of media companies. For example: Companies that monetize their communities by giving sponsors and advertisers access to their audiences; or technology startups that sell wearable products and upsell their customers with access to premium high-value content.

Hans Tung: Contextual social networks: Video and livestreaming with the likes of TikTok and with other players like Instagram and Snap will continue to drive creativity and engagement. Clubhouse is now garnering a lot of attention as audio captures the attention of a new generation. This also creates new opportunities for established audio players like YY or Ximalaya. At the same time, apps like Clubhouse are an evolution of Snap or Twitter where influencers of all sorts gather to build a new following on new platforms.

However, one of the most interesting things we’re seeing is the emergence of contextual social networks that are focused on solving real-life problems. We see a lot more companies taking the best of audio and video experiences and experimenting with the next iteration of apps like Headspace and Calm, to solve societal issues, personal issues such as how to deal with anxiety, etc. These social networks may not scale as quickly or grab headlines like Clubhouse but they’re designed to bring people together to solve problems. We are also seeing professionalized networks such as Valence or Chief use these audio/video networks to address issues for a particular gender or underrepresented group, or apps that create virtual networking for communities.

Digital media delivered with differentiated experiences: Peloton may not immediately jump to mind as a digital-media company but they are one of the best at producing a high-value experience using extremely high-quality content that goes far beyond simple fitness or even the need for hardware. Increasingly more categories will become “Netflix-ized” where content is king and the experience is delivered through your smartphone.

As with Peloton, the experience is further enhanced with social interaction, such as leader boards, access to the best instructors, etc., which in turn expands the reach of the content. It’s a powerful loop that is driven by quality content, and the components feed off each other to make it more accessible. If you then couple it with Affirm to make it more affordable, you’ve got a flywheel on steroids. This pattern will emerge in other categories.

Consumerization of enterprise communication: Another aspect of media is communication, which we are seeing evolve in the enterprise space. It started with Slack a few years ago and Zoom more recently. Now with companies like Yak or the emergence of various conference apps, we see a higher usage frequency between companies, companies and their customers, and within the enterprise itself.

How much time are you spending looking at media startups right now?

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5G is the current revolution in wireless technology, and every chip company old and new is trying to burrow their way into this ultra-competitive — but extremely lucrative — market. One of the most interesting new players in the space is EdgeQ, a startup with a strong technical pedigree via Qualcomm that we covered last year after it raised a nearly $40 million Series A.

The company has been quite stealthy about its technology as it works on its design (its website as I write this literally says “Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!”), but today, the company revealed more details for the first time (and presumably also updated its website).

The most interesting facet of its system-on-a-chip (SoC) design is that it is based on RISC-V. Unlike processor architectures like x86 and Arm, RISC-V is open-source, and one of the first open architectures to reach any sort of enduring popularity and ecosystem. That’s led to a bunch of new companies building on top of it, including now EdgeQ and also SiFive, which we covered late last year.

Vinay Ravuri, EdgeQ’s founder and CEO, explained that the use of RISC-V allows EdgeQ to offer chips with the flexibility of reprogrammable processors known as FPGAs while also offering a more cohesive and integrated product with better power savings. In his view, that’s been one of the big challenges in the wireless communications market to date with the rollout of 5G.

“When you are in a closed system, it compacts nicely, and everything matches,” he said, pointing to market leaders like Huawei and Ericsson whose vertically-integrated base stations are widely deployed throughout the world. The problem is that customers feel stifled by having all of their equipment come from one, irreplaceable vendor. Meanwhile, with a purely open system based on standards like OpenRAN, “you get a clunky solution” that’s cobbled together from off-the-shelf parts. That leads to increased power consumption since the components in these boxes were never faithfully designed to be used together.

Ravuri says that EdgeQ stands in the middle between open and closed, offering an extensible system that is also integrated and may save, in some instances, up to 50% of the power demand for a wireless base station. The key is combining machine learning into wireless communications through a better SoC and having all the parts work seamlessly together. “The uniqueness of the communications chips is in the algorithms,” he said. “You are not selling sand, you are not connecting gates and saying this is a processor. You are connecting gates and here is an algorithm for the physical layer of communications.”

EdgeQ founder and CEO Vinay Ravuri. Photo via EdgeQ.

Adil Kidwai, who is VP and head of product at EdgeQ, said that “Under the hood, it is hardware instructions that are controlled by software … It’s a ‘soft’ modem with very low power consumption.” Since EdgeQ is based on RISC-V, the existing toolchain available in that ecosystem also applies to the company’s product, allowing engineers to use compilers and debuggers that have been built for RISC-V. Ravuri noted that EdgeQ has added about 50 to 100 of its own vector extensions to the base RISC-V implementation to optimize performance.

With the product’s design more firmly established, he said that the company is looking to sample its system with customers in the first half of this year. “Once we sample, there is a productization cycle that customers take,” he said, and he intends to be starting revenue growth by 2022. The EdgeQ base station is compatible according to the company with OpenRAN option 7.x and option 6.

The company also noted for the first time today that Paul Jacobs, the former CEO of Qualcomm, and Matt Grob, the company’s former CTO, have both joined EdgeQ’s advisory board in an official capacity. The two met Ravuri back when he was at Qualcomm and have been in touch throughout EdgeQ’s development.

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Fleksy, an autocorrecting AI keyboard which competes with big-guns like Google’s Gboard and Microsoft’s Swiftkey, has a new way to catch users’ eyes: Art keyboards.

It’s just launched FleksyArt: A marketplace for artists to sell digital works to its users so they can customize the look of their keyboards.

Fleksy has had keyboard themes before. But the art marketplace aims to go further — opening its platform up to all sorts of artists to digitally distribute work to its “millions” of users for display on a piece of essential smartphone real-estate (it points out the keyboard is the second most used app on phones, after all).

As this is keyboard art, the illustrations and artworks appear with the letters of Fleksy’s keyboard overlaid. So the startup warns legibility is important. Clearly some designs are going to work better than others. But beyond that the creative sky is the limit.

A collage of some of the different artworks available on the FleksyArt marketplace (Image credit: Fleksy)

FleksyArt is starting with several digital artists onboard, including María Picasso i Piquer, Lucila Dominguez, URKO and Maru Ceballos.

It’s inviting other artists to sign up by submitting a portfolio of work for review here.

Victoria Gerchinhoren, Fleksy’s chief design officer, explains how it works: “When we receive the portfolios, my design team approves for having the artwork in our marketplace,” she tells us, noting Fleksy has already handpicked a few artists to get the ball rolling. “I send them guidelines on how to prepare the assets and I write the last specs before publishing inside the product.”

“There defined guidelines in terms of the number of pieces (always packs of 2-4 themes) and artists can create as many packs as they want. We suggest the pieces inside each pack have a connection, they can be connected by an idea or style,” she goes on.

“We publish the packs in a dedicated section in the host app (which we redesigned with this in mind not long ago) then communicate in social media. We’ve also just launched the website section with interviews and the artist profiles and bios so they have a nice place to be showcased.”

Fleksy is setting a flat price of €2.99 for all art packs — in order that artists selling on the marketplace “have the same price and competition is fair”, as Gerchinhoren puts it.

It’s doing a 50:50 revenue split on sales — after Google’s 30% commission has been factored in. So this means that Google gets €0.89 per sale, and the artist and Fleksy then split the rest.

Fleksy has also confirmed that artists retain copyright of their works.

“We’re setting this collaboration on a revenue-share model,” it notes on its website. “You’ll receive 50% of the revenue after Google’s 30% commission. We think this is fair since you’ll provide the Artwork and Fleksy implements & distribute your Artwork. Payments are made bi-annually, upon our receipt of a legal invoice from you.”

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Vodacom has warned its customers against activating embedded SIM (eSIM) functionality on smartphones using its network.

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