Industries with heavy supply chains face major problems. Blockchain tech might be the answer

Supply chains are what make the world go round. The food you buy at a grocery store was carried through a supply chain. Same with the products at your local corner store, and the clothes you buy in the mall. A supply chain is nothing more than the process of carrying goods from manufacturer or producer through a series of checkpoints until eventually reaching a distributor—and ultimately, a consumer. The problem with most supply chains, however, is everything that happens in the middle. Companies know where things start and where they end up. But how they get there, and what…

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Apple HomePod’s limited support for third-party apps could be a deal-breaker

As we draw closer to the launch date for Apple’s voice-activated smart speaker, Business Insider reports that the HomePod won’t support commands for certain third-party apps like Spotify. A developer update from the company encourages the creation of features in third-party apps that are designed for SiriKit’s Messaging, Lists and Notes, while leaving off things like streaming services. That means you won’t be able to ask your HomePod to fire up your favorite Stranger Things playlist on Spotify with just your voice; you’ll have to use your phone to beam it to the speaker using the AirPlay 2 wireless protocol.…

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Skype’s new design is coming to your desktop, whether you like it or not

After previewing the new interface design for Skype’s desktop app back in August, Microsoft is now ready to roll it out to Windows 10 users, and make it available in an update for Mac, Linux and older versions of Windows. The airy new look is in line with the revamped mobile app which caught a lot of flak in July, so there’s a chance that not everyone will dig it. However, if you use Skype frequently for voice and video calls, you might find some of the new features handy, such as: A notification panel that makes it easy to scan…

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Opinion: Saudi Arabia was wrong to give citizenship to a robot

Saudi Arabia last week granted citizenship to a robot. While the middle-eastern country may be much maligned for its stances on women’s equality and LGBTQ rights, it’s clear the Kingdom doesn’t have a problem with machines. A robot called Sophia, made by Hong Kong company Hanson Robotics, was given citizenship during an investment event where plans to build a supercity full of robotic technology were unveiled to a crowd of wealthy attendees. Sophia features some clever programming, and it has the potential to become a figure synonymous with robotics and AI. But granting it rights that humans continue to fight for,…

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Russians orchestrated rallies and protests across America using Facebook

Russian-backed Facebook Pages were responsible for dozens of real-world political events in the US, including a “Blue Lives Matter” rally in one city and a police brutality protest in another – on the same days. The extent to which the Russian propaganda machine has influenced Americans continues to unfold, and it’s becoming apparent ads purchased by bad actors may be the least of our worries. A Wall Street Journal investigation today revealed at least 60 marches, rallies, or protests were orchestrated, publicized or financed by eight Russian-backed Facebook Pages. By the numbers, the report seems to indicate a level of…

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Sweet 16! SpaceX sends KoreaSat-5A into orbit and then lands Falcon 9 booster

SpaceX Falcon 9 launch
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rises from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida, sending the Koreasat-5A telecommunications satellite into space. (SpaceX Photo)

SpaceX executed its 16th Falcon 9 rocket launch of the year today, sending the Koreasat-5A telecommunications satellite into orbit and then having the first-stage booster fly itself back to an oceangoing launch pad.

The mission marked a doubling of SpaceX’s launch tally from last year and signaled that the California-based launch company is hitting its stride, 14 months after a launch pad accident dealt a setback to the Falcon 9 program.

Liftoff came at 3:34 p.m. ET (12:34 p.m. PT) from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Minutes after launch, the Falcon 9’s second stage separated from the first and sent the 8,000-pound satellite on a trajectory heading for geostationary transfer orbit. Meanwhile, the first stage maneuvered itself for a landing on “Of Course I Still Love You,” a drone ship stationed hundreds of miles off the Florida Coast.

The booster landed intact, despite gouts of flame that played around its base. As the webcam view was being broadcast, SpaceX launch commentator John Federspiel joked that the rocket looked “a little toasty.”

Koreasat-5A will take over from the 11-year-old Koreasat-5 satellite and beam satellite data and TV services to Asia and the Middle East, with maritime coverage extending from the Persian Gulf to the East China Sea.

The satellite is operated by South Korea’s KT Sat.

SpaceX’s next Falcon 9 launch is expected to involve putting an undisclosed payload into orbit next month. The payload, code-named “Project Zuma,” is thought to be a rapid-deployment satellite designed for use by a U.S. government agency or a hush-hush commercial venture.

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Reports: 126M Facebook users saw content from Russian agents around Election Day

Facebook is under new scrutiny for facilitating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
(BigStock Photo)

Russian government-backed agents created posts that reached about 126 million Facebook users around the Nov. 8 election, according to reports from The New York Times and Recode. For reference, there are roughly 200 million registered voters in America.

That number comes from prepared remarks that Facebook lawyers will deliver to Congress this week in a series of hearings on the role U.S. tech companies played in Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Facebook, Google, and Twitter will testify on ads and other content Russian agents used to foment discord among Americans during the election season before the Senate and House Intelligence committees on Wednesday.

Prepared remarks — shared with Congress and obtained by the media — also reveal that Russian agents uploaded more than 1,000 videos to Google’s YouTube platform. Google plans to confirm that it can link about $4,700 worth of additional ads to Russia.

The Facebook content includes ads and organic posts created by users backed by the Russian government to sow discord among U.S. voters on hot-button issues like gun violence and immigration. A group linked with the Kremlin disseminated about 80,000 pieces of divisive content that was shared, eventually reaching 126 million people. That may seem like a striking number, but Facebook plans to show that it is a tiny percentage of the overall content its platform hosts. Google and Twitter plan to employ a similar strategy, according to Recode. 

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Educational robot maker Wonder Workshop raises $41M from Tencent, Madrona and others

Wonder Workshop robots Dot and Dash. (Wonder Workshop Photo)

Wonder Workshop, which makes robots that teach children computer science concepts, said it has raised $41 million in a Series C round.

The funding round includes global tech giants like Tencent and Softbank Korea, as well as Seattle venture capital firm Madrona Venture Group, among several others. In a press release, Wonder Workshop said it would use the funds to expand its software platform, while pushing deeper into the consumer market and investing in its bread-and-butter area of selling to schools.

“Today’s children already have the most important traits for tomorrow’s economy: budding, curious minds. But we owe them access to tools that will unlock their incredible capacity for invention and exploration,” Vikas Gupta, CEO and co-founder of Wonder Workshop said in a statement. “We founded Wonder Workshop to provide all children — girls and boys of all ages — with the skills needed to succeed in the future economy.”

The San Mateo, Calif.-based startup was founded in 2012, and it sells robots that sync with a mobile app and help children understand basic computer science concepts. It has 12,000 schools around the world using its product.

The new funding comes on the heels of the September release of Wonder Workshop’s newest robot Cue. The interactive robot can chat and text and provides coding-oriented games and challenges.

Gupta previously sold his last company, Social Gold, to Google in 2010. Before that, he spent seven years at Amazon working directly with Jeff Bezos and helping to establish the Amazon India development center.

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Apptio beats revenue expectations again during its third quarter

(Nasdaq Photo)

Apptio’s third-quarter earnings results showed that the company is still on a path of strong revenue growth and narrowing losses.

The Bellevue-based company reported third-quarter revenue of $47 million Monday, up 16 percent from the prior year. That was ahead of analyst expectations of $44.9 million, and investors gave Apptio’s stock a slight boost in after-hours trading.

Apptio lost $5.2 million in the quarter according to GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) measures, or $0.13 a share, but backing out one-time special items produced a net loss of $0.02, slightly more than analyst expectations of a $0.01 loss per share.

Subscription revenue for Apptio’s financial-management application rose 18 percent during the quarter to $39.4 million, a slightly faster year-over-year increase in that category compared to its second quarter. The company’s products help finance organizations inside companies understand where their cloud expenses are going, which is attractive in an era when IT staff and developers can quickly and easily sign up for new cloud services with the company credit card.

Apptio brought on a new engineering leader during the quarter, with Theo Beack joining the company as executive vice president of products and engineering. Ted Kummert, who had been leading the group, rejoined Madrona Venture Group as a partner at the same time.

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Reports: T-Mobile-Sprint merger crumbling as parent companies disagree on ownership

T-Mobile CEO John Legere speaks at CES in January. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

The long-rumored merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, the nation’s third and fourth largest wireless carriers, is falling apart, according to news reports.

Nikkei reported that a disagreement over ownership of a combined T-Mobile-Sprint entity has proven a sticking point in the deal, and Sprint parent company SoftBank is preparing to pull out of negotiations with T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom as soon as tomorrow. Nikkei and Wall Street Journal report that Deutsche Telekom wants a controlling stake in the combined company, and SoftBank balked, spelling the beginning of the end of the deal.

T-Mobile and Sprint did not respond to requests for comment.

T-Mobile stock dropped 5 percent Monday, while Sprint was down close more than 9 percent at the end of the day.

T-Mobile and Sprint have been talking about a merger for several years. SoftBank nearly acquired T-Mobile in 2014 but the deal fell through after U.S. officials expressed concerns.

Any acquisition talks in the wireless industry were put on hold for the better part of a year as the Federal Communications Commission held a spectrum auction. That process ended in April and T-Mobile spent close to $8 billion to buy up huge chunks of low-band spectrum meant to shore up signal strength within buildings and in rural areas.

About a month later, talks between T-Mobile and Sprint parent companies started up again, and it looked like the two sides were close to a deal earlier this year.

Since the initial round of talks, T-Mobile has surged under CEO John Legere, passing Sprint to become the third largest wireless carrier in 2015. Legere and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure have developed a rivalry, with the two chief executives lobbing insults back and forth over the years as the companies jockeyed to be the main challenger to AT&T and Verizon.

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