Baidu has built an AI cat shelter to care for strays

TechNode reported that Baidu has built an AI cat shelter to care for strays.

The shelter, which comes complete with toys, regular dispatches of food and water, and warm spaces to sleep, features feline facial recognition to grant access. It can also check its guests for various diseases and assess whether or not they’ve been neutered. If it identifies a sick cat, a message is sent to a nearby volunteer organization that looks after stray animals to come and administer the required help.

[…]

Baidu’s development is an especially impactful one for northern China’s cat population, with sub-zero temperatures and the difficulty of obtaining food leading Dongbei News to estimate that just 4 in 10 stray cats make it through the winter in the country’s northeastern regions.

Tech can make the world a better place if we put our hearts to it.

Vimeo revenue jumps 54 percent in 2018, but it is still making a loss

Reuters reported that Vimeo revenue jumped 54 percent in 2018, paying subscribers near 1 million.

Its 2018 revenue of $160 million — disclosed for the first time by IAC — rose from $103.3 million in the previous year, while the number of paying subscribers climbed 9 percent year-over-year to about 952,000 by the end of December.

Although Vimeo’s revenue is expected to rise “20 to 30 percent in the near-term,” according to its Chief Executive Anjali Sud, the video service is far from making a profit as it burns cash on product development and aggressive marketing to popularize its brand.

This reminds me of an analogy I came across a few days back.

https://twitter.com/marckohlbrugge/status/1092702191448539136

In this scenario, we can take these additional steps:

  1. Buy $20,000 worth of salt
  2. Sell for $16,000.
  3. Now you get a 60% increase in revenue.

People often get too caught up with revenue figures without looking deeper to understand the actual health of a company. That being said, the same applies in the opposite direction. Figures can make the situation look worse than it is if you don’t get to see the bigger picture, or if you look at the numbers with misleading or even wrong information.

Apple tells app developers to disclose or remove screen recording code

Zack Whittaker reported for TechCrunch that Apple is telling app developers to disclose or remove screen recording code.

It follows an investigation by TechCrunch that revealed major companies, like Expedia, Hollister and Hotels.com, were using a third-party analytics tool to record every tap and swipe inside the app. We found that none of the apps we tested asked the user for permission, and none of the companies said in their privacy policies that they were recording a user’s app activity.

Even though sensitive data is supposed to be masked, some data — like passport numbers and credit card numbers — was leaking.

Apple is giving the app developers only 24 hours to remove the screen recording codes, or the apps would be removed from the App Store.

What is notable here isn’t the speed at which Apple is enforcing this. It’s the lack of action from Google or any other Android app stores. If you are using Android version of these apps, it would be safer to assume that these apps are still recording your screens as you use the apps.

Western companies build products, while Chinese companies build ecosystems

TechNode wrote about why WeChat blocks competitors, while Facebook doesn’t.

Chinese and Western companies tend to have a dramatically different approach to expansion. In a few words: Western companies build products, while Chinese companies build ecosystems.

Nowhere is this trend more obvious than in the investment pattern of Chinese and Western companies. Chinese companies tend to be much more active early-stage investors into booming companies.

The purpose of these investments is to build a system of allegiance to the group. After receiving investment, the company will have to integrate with the ecosystem of the group and reject the competing ecosystem.

As a consequence, Pinduoduo heavily integrates with WeChat and offers WeChat Pay as a recommended payment method, while JD.com doesn’t support Alipay at all. Both companies, of course, received investment from Tencent.

This trend of joining an existing ecosystem is prevalent in many industries in China. Franchising is common not only in the food and beverages industry, but also in retail stores, hospitality outlets, convenience stores, and even logistics.

Many small business owners become franchisees to leverage on the brand reputation, expertise, market knowledge, and network they gain. They receive training, market analysis, and even the equipment to offer products and service at a better level than if they started out on their own. They also get to bring in a larger range of products at a lower price.

The franchise benefits by expanding faster than if they were to set up their own stores in every part of each city in the country. Convenience stores appear every other street in each town in a city. It would require a large investment and effort to accomplish this if they expanded on their own. Taking up franchises allow them to sweep through the region, often utilising existing store spaces and staff.

Likewise, it makes more sense for the large companies to create an ecosystem. They don’t need to risk entering a new market, yet they can tap on the existing user base of their allies.

This is a big difference from Western companies that rely on acquisitions to gain new technology or human resources.

These acquisitions can be major operations aimed at overtaking superstar products (such as Facebook acquisition of WhatsApp, Instagram and Oculus Rift or Apple acquisition of Shazam last September).

But more often than not, these acquisitions are technology or acqui-hiring operations aimed at developing existing products, such as the acquisition of Redkix by Facebook in July 2018 (which was merged with Workplace by Facebook) or the purchase of Senosis by Google in September 2018 (which was merged with Nest Lab).

Western companies tend to consolidate their expertise and manpower under a single company. Of course, this isn’t exclusive to the west and acquisition sometimes even happen within an ecosystem. The acquisition and subsequent assimilation of Mobike by Meituan is a good example.

A Tiny Screw Shows Why iPhones Won’t Be Assembled in USA

Jack Nikas reported for The New York Times on why iPhones won’t be assembled in USA.

In China, Apple relied on factories that can produce vast quantities of custom screws on short notice. In Texas, where they say everything is bigger, it turned out the screw suppliers were not.

Tests of new versions of the computer were hamstrung because a 20-employee machine shop that Apple’s manufacturing contractor was relying on could produce at most 1,000 screws a day.

Remember the fidget spinner fad last year? How were the manufacturers able to produce so many of those in just such a short span of time? The product used bicycle parts and there are hundreds of factories in China producing bicycle components.

Stiff competition also means that suppliers would go the extra mile to provide better service and the shortest lead time to gain an edge over their competitors.

Mobike to rebrand as Meituan Bike, fully integrate into Meituan’s app

Jill Shen reported for TechNode on Mobike rebranding as Meituan Bike, and fully integrating into Meituan’s app.

Chinese bike-rental company Mobike will rebrand as Meituan Bike as it abandons its standalone app to be included in internet giant Meituan’s platform as an in-app feature.

The Chinese bike-rental firm will also become a distinct business group within the lifestyle services company. Wang Huiwen, Meituan’s senior vice president and co-founder, made the announcement in an internal memo to employees on Wednesday morning. A company spokesperson later confirmed the news to TechNode.

As an early adopter of Mobike and a daily rider, I’m saddened to see the brand go as it becomes assimilated by its new parent company. Mobike’s brand is strong, but it makes more sense for Meituan to strengthen their brand by rebranding Mobike with Meituan’s name. Locals who don’t follow business news have no idea that Mobike is now part of Meituan. The rebranding will change that.

Ofo bikes are noticeably less available now, with busy bike sharing points being flooded by Mobike, and often with the newest model.

74% of Facebook users say they did not know about the platform’s list of their interests

Pew Research Center reported about Facebook algorithms and personal data.

Facebook makes it relatively easy for users to find out how the site’s algorithm has categorized their interests via a “Your ad preferences” page. Overall, however, 74% of Facebook users say they did not know that this list of their traits and interests existed until they were directed to their page as part of this study.

Help educate your friends and family about how Facebook monetises their interests.

Google to pay $40 million for Fossil’s secret smartwatch tech

Paul Lamkin wrote for Wareable that Google agreed to pay $40 million for Fossil’s secret smartwatch tech.

The Fossil Group and Google have exclusively revealed to Wareable that Google will pay Fossil $40 million to buy intellectual property related to a smartwatch technology currently under development.

The deal, which will see some of Fossil’s R&D team joining Google, will result in the launch of a “new product innovation that’s not yet hit the market”. That’s according to Greg McKelvey, EVP and chief strategy and digital officer of the Fossil Group, who also stated to us that he sees the deal as transaction, rather than an acquisition.

This points to the success of the Apple Watch and Google is scrambling to play catch up.

Dirty PR tactics used by Qualcomm

Jack Nicas reported for The New York Times about how Facebook’s PR firm brought political trickery to tech.

While working for Qualcomm, Definers pushed the idea that Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, was a viable presidential candidate in 2020, according to a former Definers employee and digital records. Presumably, it was an attempt to chill the cordial relations that Mr. Cook had cultivated with the Trump administration.

[…]

Definers employees distributed anti-Apple research to reporters and would not say who was paying for it. Definers distributed a 13-page memo titled “Apple Bowing to Chinese Cyber Regulators” that detailed how Apple’s activity in China contradicted its public stance on privacy elsewhere. It also planted dozens of negative articles about Apple on conservative news sites, according to a person familiar with the work and emails reviewed by The New York Times.

[…]

“Definers manages NTK Network, a news aggregation platform that targets Washington D.C. influencers. Through NTK we can directly re-publish favorable news from other outlets, and work with like-minded individuals to help create an echo chamber effect,” he wrote in a copy of the proposal reviewed by The Times.

This year, NTK has published at least 57 articles criticizing Apple and Mr. Cook. Some of the posts needled Apple for issues at the center of the legal dispute between Apple and Qualcomm and repeated Qualcomm’s complaints. Apple had also started to move away from using Qualcomm chips.

“The iPhone 8 Might Be Slower Than the Competition. Here’s Why” read a headline on an April 2017 story. NTK’s answer? The iPhones don’t use Qualcomm chips.

Other stories were even more direct, like one from August about Qualcomm’s technology that concluded: “For Apple, the choice will be clear: make nice with Qualcomm, or offer a slower, inferior product to consumers.”

Would you trust a company that employs such trickery and smear campaigns?

Facebook’s ’10 Year Challenge’ is harmless, or is it?

Kate O’Neill reported for Wired about Facebook’s ’10 Year Challenge’.

Through the Facebook meme, most people have been helpfully adding that context back in (“me in 2008 and me in 2018”) as well as further info, in many cases, about where and how the pic was taken (“2008 at University of Whatever, taken by Joe; 2018 visiting New City for this year’s such-and-such event”).

In other words, thanks to this meme, there’s now a very large dataset of carefully curated photos of people from roughly 10 years ago and now.

The question is not where this meme originated from or whether it was started for malicious purposes. It is very plausible for that this data could be use to teach AI about how human ages.