July 21, 2018

With new tech coming online, cities need a department of urban testing

The design and operation of cities is the province of urban planning. But an explosion of startups in cities means a lot of new products and services for urban areas. The problem is, we don’t really know how people are going to use these new products and services.

“The company launched a trial service in Santa Monica just last year and when I first saw the scooters (parked literally outside of our office) I was convinced nobody would want to ride them…The volume grew so steadily that I finally hopped on one, rode down to Bird’s offices and pleaded with Travis to take money from us. I had literally never seen a consumer phenomenon take off so quickly,” says Mark Suster in All The Questions You Wanted Answered about Bird Scooters and Their Recent $300 Million Funding.

There is no doubt Santa Monica scooter usage has benefited from a significant investment in bike lanes, as you can see from this map. If you doubt this, take a look at what happens as you travel a little outside of Santa Monica, where bike infrastructure doesn’t exist. Scooter riders take to sidewalks, just as they do on bikes. (I suspect data would also reveal less usage in these areas and that there are a lot of complaints in these areas about the scooters.)

Adapting To New Behavior

Just four-and-a-half years ago, people were stunned by the then huge valuation of Uber at over $3.5b. It took Uber just over four years to get to that valuation. Now Uber is acquiring electric, dockless bike companies and investing in shared scooters, as they dial back their self-driving activities. The chart below explains why.

The practice of sharing rides came out of nowhere five years ago, and two years ago, docked bikeshare seemed to be rewriting what was possible with on-demand transportation. (Let’s see if/where scooters show up in Q1:19.) It’s hard to appreciate the impact of these new mobility models until you look at them against some well-established existing modes of transportation like taxis and car rentals. These industries trace their roots back to the explosion of the automobile with Model T’s a century ago and to when entrepreneurial companies like Hertz decided taxis should be yellow to enhance their visibility for hailing. (And yes, that’s the same yellow Hertz car rental sign.) As the chart below shows, these 100-year-old industries are rapidly melting away in the face of on-demand competition.

Revisiting City Planning

What does this mean for city planners? For a very long time in the US, cars have so dominated public spaces that we’ve mostly focused on parking and roads. e forget that companies lobbied for the car – they hadn’t always dominated public spaces, and now cities around the world are steadily pushing back. With new mobility options come new corporate alliances.

“San Francisco has more than 250,000 on-street parking spaces for “dockless” cars, so why does the addition of a few thousand dockless scooters spark such a heated debate?” says Roelof Botha, who is also an investor in Bird.

Parking for small shared EVs is just the start. What about the impact of last-mile options on public transit usage? Lyft’s “friends with transit” policy could be viewed cynically as a way to win favor with regulators, but last-mile trends are also playing out with smaller on-demand vehicles. In Germany, DB figured out the relationship between bikes and transit more than 10 years ago with the first dockless shared bikes, and the massive bike parking infrastructure connected to Dutch transit.

In the city most associated with car culture, you can now stop by any Metro station along the Expo Line in LA and see a growing number of bikes and scooters. Is this associated with an increase in transit usage? Is this another reason to sort out parking for small, last-mile vehicles? With more venture dollars in the mix, there are now strong alliances seeking to test new approaches.

Maybe We Just Forgot History

Just before cars finally took over most public spaces for transportation, there were more public transit options provided by some weirdly familiar looking vehicles. You can almost see how this 1922 Austro Motorette would eventually be given a seat to become the more familiar looking Vespa.

There are some important differences now. Electric vehicles need new charging infrastructure, which has led to debates about who will pay for it. On the other hand, scooter-sharing companies have learned infrastructure doesn’t need to look like charging stations. Small vehicles can have their batteries swapped out (as with the scooter- share Coup) or companies can offer incentives to people to take vehicles home to charge (and then return them). Electric vehicles will  continue to drop in price as the main cost – batteries – become cheaper. Finally, shared vehicles have never been more available, and electric scooters are almost 100x cheaper than cars. What happens to behavior when availability is so high that it doesn’t require you to leave your block to find a vehicle.

Bad Old Assumptions

It seems inevitable that AVs will replace drivers at some point. While we wait for the takeover, there are some approaches we can take to improve safety. Unfortunately, some of these seem to have unintended negative consequences. Growing up I used to visit Zimbabwe, where speed bumps were called “sleeping policemen” because it was believed that they caused drivers to slow down and obey posted speed limits. But data from a recent NYU and Urban Us portfolio company Dash, reveal that “drivers have a tendency to accelerate quickly after traffic calming infrastructure like speed bumps, which can lead to dangerous situations for pedestrians.” This is potentially a new issue as more drivers discover previously quieter streets via navigation apps and it should still force us to revisit how we try to manage drivers who are going too fast.

Beyond Mobility

With NYC’s L train shutting down in 2019, people have started to plan their housing options and new commutes to and from Manhattan. The city has responded by saying they will add additional ferries and CitiBikes. But is there a way to add more options quickly? How might they fare in the winter? It’s hard to know, but the consequences go far beyond mobility to impact everything from restaurants to residential real estate.

Mobility ultimately has lot of consequences for real estate. Are people going to live in smaller private spaces in exchange for better shared amenities? Will they use robotic furniture to get more from smaller spaces? What might cause homeowners to purchase backup power in the form of a home battery system? How will this impact the grid? Will people be OK sharing sidewalks with delivery robots?

With so many questions about how our behavior will change, we need to find better, faster ways to test new solutions. Maybe alongside Departments of Urban Planning, we need  Departments of Urban Testing.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Now you’re journaling with power! (with this Mario-branded Moleskine gear)

Although this isn’t a stationery news site (how I should like that!), the latest collection from Moleskine is Mario-related, so technically I can write about it. There’s even a phone case and a rolltop backpack!

It’s pretty much exactly what you expect: the usual solid Moleskine notebooks with a Nintendo flourish. They’re all Mario -related, but have different styles: a cartridge and Game Boy for the pocket-size notebooks, and stylized NES graphics on the larger ones. Unfortunately there’s no planner (hint hint, Moleskine).

“It’s a newstalgic mixture of contemporary technology and timeless paper,” reads the press release. “Nostalgic” already implies both new and old so there’s no need for a portmanteau, and a Game Boy isn’t exactly “contemporary,” but they got the paper thing right.

Actually, the notebooks have some pretty dope detailing. The small ones are embossed with cartridge ridges and Game Boy controls. All of them have internal illustrations and come with a sticker pack.

I would have loved to have these in the old days, though some SMB3 gear would probably have been more timely.

In addition to the notebooks, there’s a solid-looking, candy-red phone case that you can only get in stores and a truly 🔥 backpack. Look at these details (click for the gallery):

Wear that at E3 and people will bow down. Well, it’s better than carrying around a giant swag bag from Atlus, anyway.

You can buy everything but the phone case online; you’ll have to find Moleskine dealers to get that for some reason.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Samsung and Xiaomi had record smartphone shipments in India

India has quickly become ground zero for the smartphone wars. Last year, the country surpassed the U.S. to become the world’s No. 1 smartphone market, and manufacturers are falling over themselves to plant a flag.

Samsung and Xiaomi have been the two biggest winners in recent quarters, battling it out for the top spot. Earlier this year, the latter edged out the former, but the battle has remained neck and neck for the huge — and growing — market. According to new numbers from Canalys, both companies shipped 9.9 million smartphones for Q2 2018.

Xiaomi held onto the top spot — though just barely, with Samsung growing 47 percent year-over-year. That’s the Korean manufacturer’s biggest growth spurt in the country since late-2015. Look, here’s a graph.

Combined, the two manufacturers comprise 60 percent of shipments in India for the quarter. Vivo and Oppo round out the top four, making Samsung the only non-Chinese company vying for a top spot. The company announced recently that it will be doubling down its efforts in the country with a factory it’s deemed the world’s largest.

ASUS has seem some growth in the country, as well, tripling since the previous quarter. Apple’s shipments, meanwhile, have dipped around 50 percent year-over-year, according to the firm, as the company adjusts its strategy in the country.

“Apple’s paring back of distributor partners and move to a ‘brand-first, volume-next’ strategy will reap rewards as it will ensure better margin per device,” says Rushabh Doshi of Canalys. “Getting priorities right will be important to smartphone vendors, and it will be a choice between profitability and volume growth.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

CloudHealth adds support for Google Cloud amidst growing demand

CloudHealth, a startup that enables customers to manage a multi-cloud environment, announced today it was adding support for Google Cloud Platform.

With today’s addition, CloudHealth now supports AWS, Azure, VMware and Google, giving customers a fairly comprehensive view of their cloud usage.

Company co-founder and CTO Joe Kinsella says the company has been seeing inbound interest for Google Cloud support dating back to 2014, but up until now there hasn’t been enough interest to warrant a startup investing the resources necessary to support another platform. He says that has changed over the last 12-18 months as they’ve seen an increase in requests and decided to take the plunge.

Google Cloud cost summary page in CloudHealth. Screenshot: CloudHealth

“I think a lot of the initiatives that have been driven since Diane Greene joined Google [at the end of 2015] and began really driving towards the enterprise are bearing fruit. And as a result, we’re starting to see a really substantial uptick in interest,” he said.

As for why Google is gaining traction, Kinsella believes they have found ways to differentiate themselves in some key areas. “Its two biggest differentiated services are in machine learning services and the App Engine service. I also think that they have generated a lot of innovation across Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service, and they built really reliable, durable, flexible, highly configurable services,” he said.

Dave Bartoletti, an analyst with Forrester Research, who specializes in the public cloud says he has also seen increasing interest in Google Cloud. “Google’s developer experience (e.g., role/account management, CI/CD toolchains, and language support) now rivals AWS and Microsoft. Very strong identity and access management, security, database, and AI/ML services are drawing increasing numbers of traditional enterprise customers,” Bartoletti told TechCrunch.

CloudHealth is a cloud-based subscription service. Customers sign up and enter their cloud credentials and they get an integrated view of their cloud activity in a single interface. Kinsella says their solution provides several primary benefits including visibility, governance, compliance and cost control.

Cross cloud usage view in CloudHealth. Screenshot: CloudHealth

The company’s primary competitor is customers trying to build a tool to monitor multi-cloud activity themselves, something that Bartoletti also sees. “Cloud cost monitoring and optimization tools help clients pay only for what they use, pay as little as possible for what they use, and develop best practices for workload sizing and automated operations to continue to save money over time, without needing to build a large cost management practice in house,” he said.

The company, which has over 300 employees, is based in downtown Boston with multiple offices around the world. It was founded in 2012 and has raised over $87 million with its most recent Series D round generating $46 million from the likes of Kleiner Perkins, Scale Venture Partners, Meritech Capital Partners, Sapphire Ventures and .406 Ventures.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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