x5: Google Gets in the Ride-Sharing Game, Watson Gets in the Home

September 13, 2016 Eric Mercer

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x5 is our news update that covers the 5 things that happen in tech each week and why they matter.


Google to run ride-sharing service in SF

The program uses Waze (now owned by Google) to connect drivers and other commuters for a car-pooling service for those travelling in the same direction or to similar locations. It was piloted in May and will now be opened to all Waze users in San Francisco.

Why This Matters

Google is going head-to-head with services like Uber and Lyft. However, the brand’s model is a bit different. The rates are low enough that it would discourage drivers from becoming full-time taxi drivers, but rather would cover gas costs and encourage people to carpool more frequently. For consumers, this means a service quite similar to uberPOOL, but at an even lower cost. For drivers, this means covering gas costs for picking up and dropping off a few people that are along the route you’d be travelling anyway (e.g. regular commutes to and from work, without the need to make friends at the office who happen to live near you to drive to work together). This model could capture millions of drivers who would enjoy the benefits of this program, but certainly do not wish to sign up as a taxi driver (i.e. those who are just outside of Uber’s grasp). If this system catches on and grows to other cities, this could be the incentive system that would actually get commuters to carpool more often, which could have a major environmental impact.

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Airbnb fights against discrimination

The platform announced this week that its hosts will need to agree to a “community commitment” that goes into effect November 1, focusing on non-discriminatory policies. The company hired ex-Attorney General Eric Holder to help them create the new policy. They have also said that they plan on changing the way renter profiles appear so that profile photos have a much smaller emphasis.

Why This Matters

Airbnb has come under fire in the last year due to several cases surfacing where renters were discriminated against and denied rentals from hosts on Airbnb. Although we can’t yet see how this new policy will be enforced or the impact it will have on the user experience, Airbnb has taken a stance against discrimination on its platform. Some of the proposed changes (like profile photos) is an example of a platform making it systematically more difficult for racial or gender discrimination to occur in the first place.

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Chicago to deploy 500 IoT nodes to monitor the city

The program is called Array of Things. The sensors, which are shaped like beehives, will “initially measure temperature, barometric pressure, light, vibration, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, ambient sound intensity, pedestrian and vehicle traffic, and surface temperature.”

Why This Matters

This is the first time we’ve seen a whole city get behind IoT in a big way. The data will be publicly available, offering hundreds of applications – from city workers and planners wanting to manage repairs to infrastructure, to small businesses who want to better understand the pedestrian foot traffic patterns around their store. Best of all, the data will be totally free.

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IBM Watson aims to bring us smarter homes

IBM announced that it will be partnering with Whirlpool, Panasonic, Bragi (Nokia), and Withings (also Nokia). The plan is to use the cognitive computing power of Watson to allow devices within the home, such as home appliances, to communicate with us and each other.

Why This Matters

This could have profound impact on how devices in the home work together to create a better experience for end-users. One applicational example has been the idea of a smart washer/dryer, where the washing machine ‘instructs’ the dryer what settings to use based on the laundry load it’s just finished. Not only could this make things better for users, but it would also capture more data on how often people use appliances in their homes. When this data is paired with Watson’s incredible cognitive computing abilities, the partners mentioned above will be able to make major improvements and innovations to the devices we all use (or will use) in our homes.

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Microsoft takes it’s HoloLens on the road

The HoloLens Roadshow will be taking place throughout September and October, showcasing Microsoft’s latest piece of technology: a set of goggles that project images onto the wearer’s eyes to create AR experiences. The HoloLens was released to developers back in late February and will retail for $3,000.

Why This Matters

HoloLens has been a highly anticipated part of the Microsoft ecosystem, allowing users to interact with programs (such as design software) in real space. The original HoloLens Ad, which was posted back in January, shows an example of a team of automotive designers coming up with ideas for a motorcycle in physical space. In this later release, Microsoft shows how HoloLens could revolutionize the way we educate students in healthcare and medicine. This roadshow will get HoloLens in the hands of consumers, so that they can see if this device lives up to its hype.

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