Technology

Technology

IoT ‘conversation’ and ambient contextuality

Jim Hunter Contributor More posts by this contributor IoT redux… this time, it’s personal Tagging may be the best way to make IoT contextually relevant and usable A few years back, I wrote about the way we communicate with our technology. It was obvious even then that a big game-changer would be enabling a reliable conversational interaction with technology in order to overcome the friction humans experience when we use our modern tools, be they apps, phones, cars or semi-autonomous coffee makers. Too much typing and swiping and app management crowds our experiences with our connected “things.” To some degree, this game-changer has come to pass. Voice interaction is now a big part of technology interface in everything from smartphones to virtual assistant/smart speaker products to connecte...

Vacation rental management service Guesty raises $19.75M

As the vacation rental sector heats up — with Airbnb making even more moves to expand its portfolio of services to include multiple tiers of rentals — there’s going to be more and more of a need for people who manage a large number of properties. Guesty is one service that aims to do that, and today a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission notes that it’s raised $19.75 million in a new Series B round of financing. While Airbnb may be the dominant home vacation rental service, there are others like VRBO, and managing those properties across multiple different platforms could require handling all of that information in something more analog like an Excel sheet. It’s a kind of CRM tool for property management, ranging from tracking guest check-ins to the amount of revenue a proper...

Instagram launches “Data Download” tool to let you leave

Two weeks ago TechCrunch called on Instagram to build an equivalent to Facebook’s “Download Your Information feature so if you wanted to leave for another photo sharing network, you could. The next day it announced this tool would be coming and now TechCrunch has spotted it rolling out to users. Instagram’s “Data Download” feature can be accessed here or through the app’s privacy settings. It lets users export their photos, videos, Stories, profile, info, comments, and messages, though it can take a few hours to days for your download to be ready. An Instagram spokesperson now confirms to TechCrunch that “the Data Download tool is currently accessible to everyone on the web, but access via iOS and Android is still rolling out.” We’ll have more details on exactly what’s inside once my downl...

Twilio adds support for Line

The developer-centric communications platform Twilio today announced that it has added support for line to Twilio Channels. With this, Twilio developers now have the ability to reach users on this service, which has 168 million monthly active users, most of which live in Japan, Thailand, Taiwan and Indonesia. Line support in Twilio Channels is currently in beta but open to all developers who want to give it a try. With this, Twilio Channels, which allows for sending and receiving messages, now supports many of the most popular messaging platforms, ranging from Facebook Messenger and Slack to WeChat, Kik and the new RCS text messaging standard. Missing from this list are the likes of WhatsApp and SnapChat, though they don’t have APIs that Twilio could easily integrate. Unsurprisingly, the L...

Belgium’s Cowboy raises $3M led by Index to launch a smarter e-bike

Cowboy, the startup that’s building a new, smarter electronic bicycle, quietly launched in its home country of Belgium this past week, whilst simultaneously disclosing it has raised $3 million in seed funding. Notably, the round is led by Index Ventures. The London and San Francisco-based VC appears to be particularly bullish on electric-powered mobility, recently backing electric scooter startup Bird. France’s Hardware Club, and Kima Ventures also participated in Cowboy’s seed round, along with individual investors Thibaud Elziere (eFounders), Bertrand Jelensperger (LaFourchette), Harold Mechelynck (Ogone), Frederic Potter (Netatmo) and Francis Nappez (BlaBlaCar). Founded by Adrien Roose and Karim Slaoui, who both previously co-founded Take East Easy, an early Deliveroo competitor, and Ta...

Despite IPO surge, Hong Kong investors aren’t tech savvy, warns Razer CEO

Xiaomi and Ant Financial are two of a cluster of major tech names being linked with IPOs in Hong Kong. But, despite a burst of upcoming tech listings and new measures that are tipped to encourage more, the country still has some way to go to match the U.S. as a destination for startup exits, according to one of its star graduates. Gaming hardware firm Razer raised over $500 million when it went public on the HKSE last November, but its CEO Min-Liang Tan has warned that the country’s investor base needs education on how tech companies perform and develop. “[Going public] was an exciting time for us, but [now] our focus is getting the Hong Kong investment public to be more educated on tech companies,” Tan told TechCrunch in an interview this week. “The U.S. [public markets] are probably more...

The makers of the virtual influencer, Lil Miquela, snag real money from Silicon Valley

Brud, the actual company behind one of Instagram’s most popular virtual influencers (it’s a thing), has raised millions of dollars from Silicon Valley investors because this is 2018 and everything is awful. Last week, the Los Angeles-based startup led by Trevor McFedries, outed itself as the collective consciousness behind the virtual celebrity Lil Miquela and her less well known contemporaries Blawko22 and BermudaisBae in a choreographed melodrama worthy of Los Angeles’ best reality television. The subject of numerous glowing profiles in online and print fashion and lifestyle magazines (including, most recently, in High Snobiety), Lil Miquela’s stardom (and her fellow avatars) fascinated because the characters’ creators coyly toed the line around “her” self-awareness and their own. In the...

Go-Jek is in talks with former Uber ally ComfortDelGro, Singapore’s top taxi firm

ComfortDelGro, Singapore’s largest taxi operator, has held talks with Go-Jek about a potential partnership that could replace its annulled agreement with Uber. Uber struck a major deal when it tied up with Comfort last December, but that fell apart last month when the U.S. firm agreed to sell its Southeast Asia business to Grab and exit the region entirely. Go-Jek is already looking to step into the void by expanding its Indonesia-based service into Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, but now a source tells TechCrunch that the ambitious startup has held early-stage talks with Comfort that could see it enter Singapore as ride-hailing partner for its 15,000 drivers. Comfort did not reply to a request for comment. A Go-Jek spokesperson said the company “can’t comment on rumor and speculati...

8VC has closed its second early-stage fund, seemingly with an eye on logistics and biotech

8VC, the early-stage, San Francisco-based venture firm founded in 2015 by serial entrepreneur Joe Lonsdale and four other general partners, has closed it second early-stage venture fund with $640 million in commitments, says one of its investors. The fund comes roughly two years after the firm closed its debut fund with $425 million, along with a separate, $50 million seed fund. A couple of years ago, 8VC also quietly raised a late-stage “coinvest” fund that it closed with roughly $400 million in capital commitments, meaning its total assets under management are currently around $1.5 billion. We’d talked with Lonsdale last year about 8VC, whose mantra is simply “The world is broken; let’s fix it.” Already at that time, the firm had invested in Synthego, a genetic engineering startup that p...

Clouds are complicated, and these fabulous 3D renderings of real weather data prove it

Some people, when they look up at the sky and see a cloud, think “dog” or “fluffy.” And some people think “it’s a waning cumulus with a feathered edge suggesting a pressure system from the north ending in an updraft, which would probably cause turbulence. Also looks a bit like a dog.” Clearly one of those people created these complex, beautiful renderings of weather data. The idea behind this project at ETH Zürich, led by Markus Gross, is that different visualizations of detailed weather data may be highly useful in different fields. He and his colleagues have been working on a huge set of such data and finding ways of accurately representing it with an eye to empowering meteorologists from the TV station to the research lab. “The scientific value of our visualisation lies in the fact that...

Chariot will start providing transportation data to SF

Chariot, the commuter shuttle provider owned by Ford, has received a private transit program permit to operate more safely and ideally have less of an impact on public transit in San Francisco. As part of the program, Chariot cannot make stops in crosswalks, traffic lanes and Muni stops. Instead, Chariot must load and unload passengers in legal curb spaces, which includes white passenger loading zones and yellow commercial loading zones. To be clear, this program is different from the SFMTA’s agreement with companies pertaining to employer-provided shuttles. In the program with corporate shuttles, companies pay to use Muni bus zones. Chariot must ensure new routes complement, rather than replicate pre-existing Muni routes, as well as provide San Francisco with GPS and ridership data in ord...

Facebook’s new authorization process for political ads goes live in the U.S.

Earlier this month – and before Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress – the company announced a series of changes to how it would handle political advertisements running on its platform in the future. It had said that people who wanted to buy a political ad – including ads about political “issues” –  would have to reveal their identities and location and be verified, before the ads could run. Information about the advertiser would also display to Facebook users. Today, Facebook is announcing the authorization process for U.S. political ads is live. Facebook had first said in October that political advertisers would have to verify their identity and location for election-related ads. But in April, it expanded that requirement to include any “issue ads” – meaning those on po...