June 25, 2019

Pritam Gupta - page 1391

Pritam Gupta has 8779 articles published.

Managed By Q, the office management system, acquires Hivy

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Managed by Q, the platform that helps office managers handle day-to-day operations, has made its first acquisition, picking up Y Combinator graduates Hivy for an undisclosed amount.

Managed By Q lets office managers book cleanings, handy work, IT help, and order office supplies thanks to a partnership with Staples. MBQ has raised upwards of $72 million and now serves New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The system began with Q installing a specialized tablet in the office that lets office managers book services or order supplies like bathroom soap, paper, pens, and other office staples (don’t mind the pun). The company has since evolved to offer the same services (and many others, including cleaning, maintenance and IT) through a web platform. While some of these services are handled by W2 Q Operators, others are provided by third-party vendors listed on the Managed By Q website.

Hivy, on the other hand, focuses on internal communication between office employees and office managers, letting employees make requests and note out-of-stock supplies without making a trip over to the office manager’s desk. Hivy also integrates third-party vendors so that office managers can check out what they need internally and order externally all on the same platform.

Q CEO Dan Teran explained to TechCrunch that the Hivy service fits in really well with Q’s existing platform.

“We have a lot of customers in common, and realized just how complimentary the services were,” said Teran. “This acquisition will make it easier to run and office and make an office more productive, which is what we’re all about.”

The acquisition will bring over Hivy’s core team, which, according to Teran, was limited to a relatively lean core team of founders. In fact, Teran said that he found it easiest to contact Hivy CEO Pauline Tordeur via Hivy’s customer support channel, as she handled all customer support communication.

For now, Managed By Q and Hivy will continue to run separate businesses, says Teran. Eventually, however, the companies will integrate services.

The Nook, she is dead

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In a Barnes & Noble company meeting CEO Len Riggio told shareholders that Nook was out of the technology business. According to Publisher’s Weekly, “Riggio explained that when e-book sales began exploding several years ago, B&N felt it had no choice but to enter the digital market. In retrospect, Riggio said, B&N didn’t have the culture or financing to compete with the likes of Amazon and Google.”

B&N will continue selling digital books and devices to read them on – primarily Samsung tablets – but this means that they will no longer produce the Nook as a standalone product. B&N will continue to focus on physical stores and will “partner with technology companies” to maintain a loose foothold in e-books.

Interestingly there is still a fairly solid following for Nook products, a sign that the underdog e-readers and tablets held a special place in readers’ hearts. The only true Nook device, the Glowlight, is still for sale and Nook software is still available on specially branded Samsung tablets.

The Nook had a long, fruitful run, appearing first in 2009 as a unique LCD/e-ink hybrid device. The Digital Reader believes that existing Nook users will be transferred to Kobo, a competing e-book service.

Yubico launches its smallest YubiKey yet

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Yubico has launched the smallest version of its popular YubiKey hardware authentication and encryption devices yet: the $60 YubiKey 4C Nano. Like the regular YubiKey 4C device, this is a USB-C dongle. It’s essentially the USB-C version of the company’s existing YubiKey 4 Nano device for traditional USB-A ports and like its counterpart, the 4C Nano is designed to remain inside the port.

Sadly, though, while you can put the regular 4 Nano on a lanyard, you can’t do that with the 4C version. The idea here, though, as YubiKey CTO Jakob Ehrensvard writes, is to keep these small devices plugged into a laptop.

Like all YubiKeys, the 4C Nano offers strong crypto and touch-to-sign and supports the FIDO U2F (Universal 2nd Factor), one-time password (OTP), OpenPGP and PIV smart card standards. Over the course of the last few years, a number of online services started supporting the company’s keys for two-factor authentication, including Google Facebook, Dropbox, GitHub and Salesforce, as well as password managers like Dashlane and LastPass. You can also use the keys to power Windows smart card login and Windows 10’s Hello login feature. Chrome, Opera and Firefox Nightly offer native support for these security keys on Windows, Mac and Linux.

Looking ahead, Ehrensvard writes that the company is working on “broadening the protocol and platform support to keep the promise of the YubiKey being the ultimate authentication solution.” He also notes that the upcoming FIDO2 and WebAuthn standards will help it expand its platform and that the company is also working on finishing up work on the next version of its YubiHSM server module.

Sketchfab’s app might be the best way to try ARKit

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One of the big promises with iOS 11 is ARKit. This new framework makes it much easier to look at virtual objects in the real world using augmented reality. Sketchfab has been building the biggest 3D model sharing platform, a sort of YouTube for 3D models. That’s why today’s iOS update turns Sketchfab into a thorough augmented reality app.

This implementation isn’t perfect just yet as the company is using a web view on top of the real world. That’s why there might be some lag. You’ll need to install iOS 11 first.

But the fact that you can pick any object in Sketchfab’s extensive library turns the app into a wow generator. The company now offers 2 million 3D objects, so there are plenty of options.

When you’re browsing a model in the app, there’s now an AR button at the top of the screen. This button activates your camera. You then need to point your iPhone or iPad at a flat surface and tap on the screen. The 3D model appears in the middle of the real world.

You can make this object bigger or smaller by pinching with your fingers. In future versions, content creators will be able to define a default scale so that you don’t end up with a giant scary crab in your living room. You can also rotate the object with your fingers.

Once you’re done positioning the model, you can move around the object, get closer and look at details. It will feel like the model is right here in the room with the rest of the real world.

Google also announced ARCore, the company’s answer to ARKit. Sketchfab says that it plans to support ARCore in its Android app as well.

Alibaba pays $807M to take majority ownership in logistics affiliate Cainiao

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Alibaba is getting serious about logistics after it agreed to invest RMB 5.3 billion ($807 million) in order to take majority ownership in subsidiary company Cainiao.

Cainiao was created four years ago alongside eight other backers to bring organization in Chinese logistics, particularly around e-commerce deliveries. The company raised its first outside funding in March 2016 — reportedly RMB 10 billion ($1.54 billion) at a RMB 50 billion ($7.7 billion) valuation — from backers including Temasek Holdings and GIC in Singapore, Malaysia’s Khazanah Nasional and China-based Primavera Capital.

It is currently not profitable, but investors see its close relationship with Alibaba as the ticket to developing a lucrative business. Alibaba said the goal is to enable e-commerce services in China to fulfill customer orders within 24 hours, and those overseas within 72 hours, and Cainiao is a core part of that. Indeed, Alibaba said it plans to invest over $15 billion in the next five years to develop its global logistics network.

Cainiao itself just set up a billion-dollar fund with insurance firm China Life to speed up China’s parcel networks with a range of new handling and sorting offices.

Today’s investment is likely to go through next month and it will take Alibaba’s ownership from 47 percent to 51 percent, which in theory gives Cainiao a valuation of RMB 132.5 billion ($19.9 billion). But that’s theoretical because Alibaba’s motivation is likely to have been influenced by other matters.

The SEC last year launched a probe into Alibaba’s accounting systems, and whether it has violated federal securities laws. The firm’s accounting of Cainiao was one component to that, since it only listed some financial information as a minority equity holder. Now, as a majority stakeholder following this deal, it is likely that Alibaba’s transparency over the company will increase going foward. Beyond more information for regulators, it may also appease shareholders curious to learn more about a company Alibaba is helping to bankroll.

Alibaba’s other affiliate companies include Koubei, which got a $1.1 billion injection earlier this year, and Ant Financial, which is valued at over $60 billion and tipped to go public soon.

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