‘Airbnb for warehousing’ startup Flexe raises $43M to help online retailers take on Amazon

‘Airbnb for warehousing’ startup Flexe raises $43M to help online retailers take on Amazon

9:12am, 7th May, 2019
The Flexe team in Seattle. (Flexe Photo) As more consumers shop online, retailers need capacity to ship products across the country — particularly as they battle e-commerce kingpin Amazon. , a Seattle logistics startup that operates an on-demand warehouse marketplace, is helping them do that. The company today announced a $43 million investment round to meet demand from a growing number of companies needing “pop-up” storage space. Activate Capital and Tiger Global Management led the Series B round. Seattle VC firm Madrona Venture Group also invested for the first time, while previous backers Redpoint Ventures, Prologis Ventures, and others put more cash behind Flexe. Total funding to date is $63.5 million. Flexe operates much like Airbnb — instead of matching travelers with open homes and apartments, it matches retailers with warehouses that have excess capacity. Companies such as Staples, Toms, Ace Hardware, and others use Flexe to help support their online businesses and reduce the costly “last mile” delivery expense. Giant brands including Walmart and P&G are also customers. Flexe benefits warehouse owners who make revenue on space that would have otherwise sat empty, which Flexe estimates is 20-to-30 percent of a given warehouse. More than across the U.S. and Canada use Flexe’s software to bid on various offers, up from 370 warehouses three years ago. Flexe tripled revenue in 2018 and was the fastest-growing company in Washington state last year by Deloitte. “Flexe invented the on-demand warehousing category for businesses facing a crisis of agility while trying to meet rising consumer demands,” Flexe co-founder and CEO told GeekWire. Flexe co-founder and CEO Karl Siebrecht. (Flexe Photo) Flexe offers customers pay-as-you-go flexibility; merchants don’t need to sign long-term leases for warehouse space — only when they know how much capacity is required, as well as where and when. They can avoid the fixed costs that often come with a lease, particularly for retailers that only need extra storage space for a limited amount of time — a beverage vendor that sees sales spike in the summer; a retailer that sells its inventory during the holiday season; or a company such as Lime, the fast-growing mobility startup that has thousands of shared bikes, scooters, and cars. There are other unique use cases, too, such as Ace Hardware using Flexe to support its emergency response initiatives during Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael. Flexe has described itself as a “warehousing-as-a-service” company. “We needed space in the northeast U.S., the Midwest, and on the West Coast,” Justin Schuhardt, a supply chain executive with Walmart, at a recent industry event. “So, what ended up happening was Flexe was able to, through their marketplace approach, give us a selection of different providers from coast to coast with different size buildings and different available capacity.” Walmart is one of many companies using Flexe in the e-commerce battle against Amazon. While Flexe’s customers are competing against Amazon, so too is Flexe itself. Instead of selling on Amazon, Flexe offers brands an alternative that lets them ship products in their own branded boxes and existing shopping software. The third-party warehouses, meanwhile, handle labor and administrative work. It also keeps retailers from having to share any data with Amazon. “Companies that depend on Amazon logistics to meet their customers’ expectations will hand over their customer data, customer experience and customer relationship to Amazon,” Siebrecht said. “We believe there’s a better way —  a new option that uses technology to offer an entirely new model for on-demand warehousing and fulfillment.” (Flexe Photo) Amazon forever altered the retail landscape when it introduced the Prime two-day shipping program 14 years ago. The Seattle company upped the ante again late last month when for Prime members. Amazon will spend $800 million during this quarter alone on the new shipping initiative, signaling the importance of building out its fulfillment network to meet consumer demand. But Flexe can offer similar delivery speeds given how many warehouses are on its marketplace. In 2017, Flexe began . Siebrecht said Amazon’s recent 1-day shipping announcement “has already driven a pop in demand for Flexe.” “When Flexe announced one-day shipping capabilities two years ago, it allowed our clients to offer the most competitive delivery promises and successfully fulfill them,” he added. “Not only is our network of warehouses massive, it’s connected through a single technology platform and it’s provider agnostic. In other words, companies aren’t limited to a fixed provider or set locations of fulfillment centers.” Since launching in 2013, Flexe company has amassed a huge warehouse footprint, with approximately 30 million square feet available on its platform. But that’s still a far cry from Amazon, which owns of space at its own fulfillment centers across the world. (Flexe screenshot) Consumer expectation for fast shipping is driven not only by Amazon but rivals such as Target and Walmart that have instituted their own two-day shipping initiatives and turned physical stores into mini-warehouses for popular programs such as order online and pick up in store. Two market trends are playing to Flexe’s hand. One is the growing online shopping industry — e-commerce sales during the last holiday season $126 billion, up 16.5 percent year-over-year. Another is the rising cost of industrial real estate and . Will O’Donnell, managing partner at Prologis Ventures — an investor in Flexe — said vacancy rates in logistics real estate are near historic lows. “As the industry continues to grow, we recognize the value of integrating flexible options into supply chain planning,” he said in a statement shared with GeekWire. “We have been an investor in Flexe and are supportive of new business models that can help meet our customers’ business needs.” Prologis, a publicly-traded logistics real estate giant, is an example of a company that might be considered a competitor to Flexe “when in fact these companies are partners in the Flexe network,” Siebrecht noted. An additional use case for Flexe is when businesses face unpredictable problems that affect manufacturing and production with suppliers and distributors, such as President Trump’s China tariff that . (Flexe Photo) Flexe competitors include industry giant XPO Logistics, newer startup Stord, and UPS, which its own warehouse technology startup called Ware2Go in August. Siebrecht, a former executive at aQuantive and AdReady, said the new UPS service focuses on small and medium-sized businesses, while his company targets “high growth, venture-backed startups all the way up to Fortune 50 global corporations.” There are a bevy of other startups building solutions for supply chain improvement, including fellow Seattle on-demand trucking startup , which helps match trucking companies with shippers. Flexe has plans to expand internationally, but for now it is focused on the U.S. and Canada, said Siebrecht, a Pacific Northwest finalist for . Siebrecht co-founded the company with . Flexe estimates the logistics industry to be $1.5 trillion. The U.S. market for warehousing is worth $27 billion, according to . Flexe, a finalist for the category at last week’s , is ranked No. 88 on the index of top Pacific Northwest startups. The company has 80 employees and plans to double its headcount this year. This year Flexe has beefed up its C-suite by hiring , the company’s new chief people officer and general counsel; , chief technology officer who was previously a transportation exec at Amazon; and Matt Millen, chief revenue officer. Flexe also just moved into a new, 24,000 square-foot office headquarters in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood. As a result of the new funding, Raj Atluru, managing director at Activate Capital, has joined the Flexe board. “Flexe presents such clear value for forward-looking businesses who recognize that structural flexibility is a competitive differentiator and key ingredient to winning in the market,” Atluru said in a statement. Tiger Global, which co-led the round with Activate Capital, has made several recent Seattle investments, including last week for Zenoti. It also led for Seattle marketing startup Amperity; in Seattle-based real estate company Redfin; and is an investor in Bellevue, Wash.-based OfferUp, a Craigslist competitor valued at more than $1 billion. Siebrecht called Tiger Global “one of the most sophisticated and experienced e-commerce and logistics technology investors in the world.”
Amazon is testing a Spanish-language Alexa experience in the US ahead of a launch this year

Amazon is testing a Spanish-language Alexa experience in the US ahead of a launch this year

6:41pm, 29th April, 2019
announced today it has begun to ask customers to participate in a preview program that will help the company build a Spanish-language Alexa experience for U.S. users. The program, which is currently invite-only, will allow Amazon to incorporate into the U.S. Spanish-language experience a better understanding of things like word choice and local humor, as it has done with prior language launches in other regions. In addition, developers have been invited to begin building Spanish-language skills, also starting today, using the Alexa Skills Kit. The latter was , noting that any skills created now will be made available to the customers in the preview program for the time being. They’ll then roll out to all customers when Alexa launches in the U.S. with Spanish-language support later this year. Manufacturers who want to build “Alexa Built-in” products for Spanish-speaking customers can also now request early access to a related Alexa Voice Services (AVS) developer preview. Amazon says that Bose, Facebook and Sony are preparing to do so, while smart home device makers, including Philips, TP Link and Honeywell Home, will bring to U.S. users “Works with Alexa” devices that support Spanish. Ahead of today, Alexa had supported Spanish language skills, but only in Spain and Mexico — not in the U.S. Those developers can opt to to U.S. customers, Amazon says. In addition to Spanish, developers have also been able to create skills in English in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and India; as well as in German, Japanese, French (in France and in Canada), and Portuguese (in Brazil). But on the language front, Google has had a decided advantage thanks to its work with Google Voice Search and Google Translate over the years. Last summer, for Spanish, in addition to launching the device in Spain and Mexico. Amazon also trails Apple in terms of support for Spanish in the U.S., as in the U.S., Spain and Mexico in September 2018. Spanish is a widely spoken language in the U.S. According to a by Instituto Cervantes, the United States has the second highest concentration of Spanish speakers in the world, following Mexico. At the time of the report, there were 53 million people who spoke Spanish in the U.S. — a figure that included 41 million native Spanish speakers, and approximately 11.6 million bilingual Spanish speakers.
Russell Wilson reportedly gifted his offensive linemen $12,000 each in Amazon stock

Russell Wilson reportedly gifted his offensive linemen $12,000 each in Amazon stock

8:41pm, 22nd April, 2019
Russell Wilson in action during a Seattle Seahawks game at CenturyLink Field. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Deion Sanders may have been “Prime Time” during his playing days in the NFL, but Russell Wilson is a prime player when it comes to Amazon. The Seattle Seahawks QB has taken stock in the guys who helped him become the highest paid player in the NFL by actually purchasing Amazon stock for his offensive linemen as a “thank you” for protecting him every Sunday. Monday that Wilson sent a letter to 13 linemen, informing them that he was gifting them each $12,000 in stock in the Seattle-based tech giant. Wilson spent a total of $156,000 — a week after signing a contract extension with the Seahawks that will pay him a reported $140 million over four years. TMZ Sports shared a from Wilson in which he told his teammates that they “go to battle together” every Sunday and that he would not be where he is today without them. Wilson said he wanted to give the men something that would have a lasting imapact and help them prepare for life after football. “One of the ways I prepare is by investing in companies and ideas that I believe will grow and change the world,” Wilson wrote. “One of these companies is Amazon.” It’s an interesting choice in Seattle-area tech investments given that the team Wilson plays for is what it is because of the Microsoft billions made by the team’s late owner, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. And Wilson himself has helped the NFL and the company for the league — the Microsoft Surface. But maybe with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos did the trick in luring Wilson’s investment dollars. Or, the fact that Bezos , Wilson’s attempt at a social media startup, may have helped. “You have invested in my life … this is my investment into yours,” Wilson said in his letter.
Amazon reportedly readying its Alexa-powered answer to AirPods

Amazon reportedly readying its Alexa-powered answer to AirPods

5:04pm, 4th April, 2019
is ready to challenge Apple with a cheaper, Alexa-powered set of wireless earbuds. If successful, it would carve out a space for the popular digital assistant, and its deep connections to the rest of Amazon’s ecosystem, in the mobile world Amazon has hitherto largely failed to penetrate. But that’s a big if. details the upcoming hardware, which sounds a lot like AirPods (and the handful of other wireless sets that have appeared): a pair of small wireless in-ear buds, a case that doubles as a charger and built-in controls and a mic so you can control your music, talk to friends and ask Alexa things on the go. Of course, the obvious question is how exactly this will work, given that AirPods have special privileges as first-party hardware that let them perform tasks others can’t yet do. If your phone is locked, non-AirPod headphones (for instance Galaxy Buds) can’t connect through their associated app to look stuff up or provide services. You can of course , but that’s a bit sad. Bloomberg’s report says that the Alexa headphones let you “order goods, access music, weather and other information,” but it isn’t clear under what circumstances. If you have to have the phone unlocked and an app open for it to work, the whole thing is a non-starter. And it seems unlikely that Apple would grant Amazon some kind of clearance to do the kind of things only AirPods can do. It’s conceivable that the headphones will, when possible, connect instead on detection of a command to a compatible Alexa device nearby with an internet connection — and there’s no shortage of those in many a tech-savvy home. But if you’re walking down the street and need to ask directions, you may have to pull the phone out, which rather negates the already somewhat limited convenience of owning a pair of wireless headphones. These difficulties, plus those associated with simply making such a sophisticated piece of hardware for relatively cheap, explain why the headphones have reportedly had a bit of trouble getting shipped. A cheaper price tag and potentially better audio quality may not be enough to make this particular endeavor a winner, but we’ll know more if and when Amazon goes official.
Over a quarter of US adults now own a smart speaker, typically an Amazon Echo

Over a quarter of US adults now own a smart speaker, typically an Amazon Echo

3:40pm, 8th March, 2019
U.S. smart speaker owners grew 40 percent over 2018 to now reach 66.4 million — or 26.2 percent of the U.S. adult population — according to released this week, which detailed adoption patterns and device market share. The report also reconfirmed Amazon Echo’s lead, noting the Alexa-powered smart speaker grew to a 61 percent market share by the end of last year — well above Google Home’s 24 percent share. These findings fall roughly in line with other analysts’ reports on smart speaker market share in the U.S. However, because of varying methodology, they don’t all come back with the exact same numbers. For example, in December 2018, the Echo had accounted for nearly 67 percent of all U.S. smart speaker sales in 2018. Meanwhile, , with a 70 percent share of the installed base in the U.S. Though the percentages differ, the overall trend is that Amazon Echo remains the smart speaker to beat. While on the face of things this appears to be great news for Amazon, did note that Google Home has been closing the gap with Echo in recent months. Amazon Echo’s share dropped nearly 11 percent over 2018, while Google Home made up for just over half that decline with a 5.5 percent gain, and “other” devices making up the rest. This latter category, which includes devices like Apple’s HomePod and Sonos One, grew last year to now account for 15 percent of the market. That said, the has Alexa built-in, so it may not be as bad for Amazon as the numbers alone seem to indicate. After all, Amazon is selling its Echo devices at cost or even a loss to snag more market share. The real value over time will be in controlling the ecosystem. The growth in smart speakers is part of a larger trend toward voice computing and smart voice assistants — like Siri, Bixby and Google Assistant — which are often accessed on smartphones. A related report from Juniper Research last month estimated there will be , up from the 2.5 billion in use at the end of 2018. This is due to the increased use of smartphone assistants as well as the smart speaker trend, the firm said. Voicebot’s report also saw how being able to access voice assistance on multiple platforms was helping to boost usage numbers. It found that smart speaker owners used their smartphone’s voice assistant more than those who didn’t have a smart speaker in their home. It seems consumers get used to being able to access their voice assistants across platforms — now that Siri has made the jump to speakers and Alexa to phones, for instance. The full report is available on Voicebot.ai’s website .
Amazon stops selling stick-on Dash buttons

Amazon stops selling stick-on Dash buttons

6:15am, 1st March, 2019
has confirmed it’s retired physical stick-on buttons from sale — in favor of that let Prime Members tap a digital button to reorder a staple product. It also points to its — which offers an API for device makers wanting to build Internet connected appliances that can automatically reorder the products they need to function — be it cat food, batteries or washing power — as another reason why physical Dash buttons, which launched (costing $5 a pop), are past their sell by date. Amazon says “hundreds” of IoT devices capable of self-ordering on Amazon have been launched globally to date by brands including Beko, Epson, illy, Samsung and Whirlpool, to name a few. So why press a physical button when a digital one will do? Or, indeed, why not do away with the need to push a button all and just let your gadgets rack up your grocery bill all by themselves while you get on with the importance business of consuming all the stuff they’re ordering? You can see where Amazon wants to get to with its “so customers don’t have to think at all about restocking” line. Consumption that entirely removes the consumer’s decision making process from the transactional loop is quite the capitalist wet dream. Though the company does need to be careful about consumer protection rules as it seeks to excise friction from the buying process. The ecommerce behemoth also claims customers are “increasingly” using its Alexa voice assistant to reorder staples, such as via the voice shopping app (Amazon calls it ‘hands free shopping’) that lets people inform the machine about a purchase intent and it will suggest items to buy based on their Amazon order history. Albeit, it offers no actual usage metrics for Alexa Shopping. So that’s meaningless PR. A less flashy but perhaps more popular option than ‘hands free shopping’, which Amazon also says has contributed to making physical Dash buttons redundant, is its program. This “lets customers automatically receive their favourite items every month”, as Amazon puts it. It offers an added incentive of discounts that kick in if the user signs up to buy five or more products per month. But the mainstay of the sales pitch is convenience with Amazon touting time saved by subscribing to ‘essentials’ — and time saved from compiling boring shopping lists once again means more time to consume the stuff being bought on Amazon… In a statement about retiring physical Dash buttons from global sale on February 28, Amazon also confirmed it will continue to support existing Dash owners — presumably until their buttons wear down to the bare circuit board from repeat use. “Existing Dash customers can continue to use their Dash Button devices,” it writes. “We look forward to continuing support for our customers’ shopping needs, including growing our Dash Replenishment product line-up and expanding availability of virtual Dash Buttons.” So farewell then clunky Dash buttons. Another physical push-button . Though plastic-y Dash were quite unlike the classic iPhone home button — always seeming temporary and experimental rather than slick and coolly reassuring. Even so, the end of both buttons points to the need for tech businesses to tool up for the next wave of contextually savvy connected devices. More smarts, and more controllable smarts is key. Amazon’s statement about ‘shifting focus’ for Dash does not mention potential legal risks around the buttons related to consumer rights challenges — but that’s another angle here. In a court in Germany ruled Dash buttons breached local ecommerce rules, following a challenge by a regional consumer watchdog that raised concerns about T&Cs which allow Amazon to substitute a product of a higher price or even a different product entirely than what the consumer had originally selected. The watchdog argued consumers should be provided with more information about price and product before taking the order — and the judges agreed. Though Amazon said it would seek to appeal. While it’s not clear whether or not that legal challenge contributed to Amazon’s decision to shutter Dash, it’s clear that virtual Dash buttons offer more opportunities for displaying additional information prior to a purchase than a screen-less physical Dash button. So are more easily adaptable to any tightening legal requirements across different markets. The demise of the physical Dash was reported earlier by .
Atlas 767 cargo jet, part of Amazon fleet, crashes in Texas; 3 people onboard killed

Atlas 767 cargo jet, part of Amazon fleet, crashes in Texas; 3 people onboard killed

3:52am, 25th February, 2019
An Amazon-branded Boeing 767 cargo jet flies over Seattle in 2016. (Red Box Pictures Photo / Scott Eklund) An Atlas Air Boeing 767 cargo jet crashed today into Trinity Bay on the Texas Gulf Coast with three people on board, . “Human remains have been found on scene,” . “At this time, there are no signs of survivors.” Update, Feb. 24, 3 p.m. PT: In a new on Sunday, Atlas confirmed that the three people aboard the flight did not survive. Atlas set up Family Assistance Center to support the families affected. Boeing updated its statement . The Daily Mail one of the pilots as Sean Archuleta. Boeing is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the crew of Atlas Air 3591. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the crew, and stand ready to support Atlas Air. FULL STATEMENT: — Boeing Airplanes (@BoeingAirplanes) The plane is part of the Amazon Air package delivery fleet, . It was heading from Miami to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport when radar and radio contact was lost shortly before 12:45 p.m. CT (10:45 a.m. PT), about 30 miles southeast of Houston, the FAA said. Local TV stations aired video showing a long trail of debris in the bay’s shallow waters. “Who knows what’s under the water that we can’t see, but it looks like total devastation from the aircraft part,” . “Knowing what I saw, I don’t believe anybody could survive it.” Investigators from the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are on their way to the accident site. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation. New York-based Atlas Air Worldwide, which operated the plane on Amazon’s behalf, said it is cooperating fully with the FAA and the NTSB. “We can confirm there were three people on board the aircraft,” “Those people and their family members are our top priority at this time.” Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, expressed sympathy and concern. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the flight crew, their families and friends along with the entire team at Atlas Air during this terrible tragedy,” Clark said in a written statement sent to GeekWire. “We appreciate the first responders who worked urgently to provide support.” Boeing said it was “deeply saddened to learn of the Atlas Air 767 freighter that crashed near Anahuac, TX, earlier today.” “We are concerned about the safety of the three people reported to be on board,” . “Boeing is prepared to provide technical assistance to the NTSB as it investigates the accident.” Atlas Air and another leasing company, Air Transport Services Group, or ATSG, each operate 20 Boeing 767-300 jets to serve Amazon’s delivery network. The service was launched in 2016, and now flies in and out of more than 20 airports. Today’s incident was the first fatal air accident connected with the Amazon transport operation. Last December, Amazon said it would work with ATSG to over the next couple of years. Atlas Air Flight 3591 made use of a 767 jet that was converted from a passenger aircraft to cargo, and entered service with Atlas in April 2017, . The plane was registered with the tail number N1217A. Like all the tail numbers associated with planes servicing the Amazon network, . Pilots working for Atlas Air and ABX Air, a subsidiary of ATSG, have relating to the Amazon delivery operation. But it’s way too early to say whether such issues played a role in today’s crash, or to speculate about the cause of the crash. Update for 6:35 p.m. PT Feb. 23: Daniel Wells, Atlas Air captain and president of the Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224, released the following statement on the crash: “Our union stands together as a family and in support of our members’ families. Our focus is on our friends and colleagues who were on that plane, and we are doing everything we can to support their families. “Teamsters Local 1224 representatives are already on the ground supporting this investigation. We also thank the first responders who rushed to the scene to help.” The union said members of Teamsters Local 1224 were on the flight.
Atlas Air 767 cargo jet, part of Amazon fleet, crashes in Texas; 3 people onboard killed

Atlas Air 767 cargo jet, part of Amazon fleet, crashes in Texas; 3 people onboard killed

6:35pm, 24th February, 2019
An Amazon-branded Boeing 767 cargo jet flies over Seattle in 2016. (Red Box Pictures Photo / Scott Eklund) An Atlas Air Boeing 767 cargo jet crashed today into Trinity Bay on the Texas Gulf Coast with three people on board, . “Human remains have been found on scene,” . “At this time, there are no signs of survivors.” Update, Feb. 24, 3 p.m. PT: In a new on Sunday, Atlas confirmed that the three people aboard the flight did not survive. Atlas set up Family Assistance Center to support the families affected. Boeing updated its statement . The Daily Mail one of the pilots as Sean Archuleta. Boeing is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the crew of Atlas Air 3591. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the crew, and stand ready to support Atlas Air. FULL STATEMENT: — Boeing Airplanes (@BoeingAirplanes) The plane is part of the Amazon Air package delivery fleet, . It was heading from Miami to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport when radar and radio contact was lost shortly before 12:45 p.m. CT (10:45 a.m. PT), about 30 miles southeast of Houston, the FAA said. Local TV stations aired video showing a long trail of debris in the bay’s shallow waters. “Who knows what’s under the water that we can’t see, but it looks like total devastation from the aircraft part,” . “Knowing what I saw, I don’t believe anybody could survive it.” Names of the crew were not released. Investigators from the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are on their way to the accident site. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation. New York-based Atlas Air Worldwide, which operated the plane on Amazon’s behalf, said it is cooperating fully with the FAA and the NTSB. “We can confirm there were three people on board the aircraft,” “Those people and their family members are our top priority at this time.” Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, expressed sympathy and concern. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the flight crew, their families and friends along with the entire team at Atlas Air during this terrible tragedy,” Clark said in a written statement sent to GeekWire. “We appreciate the first responders who worked urgently to provide support.” Boeing said it was “deeply saddened to learn of the Atlas Air 767 freighter that crashed near Anahuac, TX, earlier today.” “We are concerned about the safety of the three people reported to be on board,” . “Boeing is prepared to provide technical assistance to the NTSB as it investigates the accident.” Atlas Air and another leasing company, Air Transport Services Group, or ATSG, each operate 20 Boeing 767-300 jets to serve Amazon’s delivery network. The service was launched in 2016, and now flies in and out of more than 20 airports. Today’s incident was the first fatal air accident connected with the Amazon transport operation. Last December, Amazon said it would work with ATSG to over the next couple of years. Atlas Air Flight 3591 made use of a 767 jet that was converted from a passenger aircraft to cargo, and entered service with Atlas in April 2017, . The plane was registered with the tail number N1217A. Like all the tail numbers associated with planes servicing the Amazon network, . Pilots working for Atlas Air and ABX Air, a subsidiary of ATSG, have relating to the Amazon delivery operation. But it’s way too early to say whether such issues played a role in today’s crash, or to speculate about the cause of the crash. Update for 6:35 p.m. PT Feb. 23: Daniel Wells, Atlas Air captain and president of the Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224, released the following statement on the crash: “Our union stands together as a family and in support of our members’ families. Our focus is on our friends and colleagues who were on that plane, and we are doing everything we can to support their families. “Teamsters Local 1224 representatives are already on the ground supporting this investigation. We also thank the first responders who rushed to the scene to help.” The union said members of Teamsters Local 1224 were on the flight.
Atlas Air 767 cargo jet, part of Amazon fleet, crashes in Texas; three feared dead

Atlas Air 767 cargo jet, part of Amazon fleet, crashes in Texas; three feared dead

9:58pm, 23rd February, 2019
An Amazon-branded Boeing 767 cargo jet flies over Seattle in 2016. (Red Box Pictures Photo / Scott Eklund) An Atlas Air Boeing 767 cargo jet crashed today into Trinity Bay on the Texas Gulf Coast with three people on board, . “Human remains have been found on scene,” . “At this time, there are no signs of survivors.” The plane is part of the Amazon Air package delivery fleet, . It was heading from Miami to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport when radar and radio contact was lost shortly before 12:45 p.m. CT (10:45 a.m. PT), about 30 miles southeast of Houston, the FAA said. Local TV stations aired video showing a long trail of debris in the bay’s shallow waters. “Who knows what’s under the water that we can’t see, but it looks like total devastation from the aircraft part,” . “Knowing what I saw, I don’t believe anybody could survive it.” Names of the crew were not released. Investigators from the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are on their way to the accident site. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation. New York-based Atlas Air Worldwide, which operated the plane on Amazon’s behalf, said it is cooperating fully with the FAA and the NTSB. “We can confirm there were three people on board the aircraft,” “Those people and their family members are our top priority at this time.” Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, expressed sympathy and concern. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the flight crew, their families and friends along with the entire team at Atlas Air during this terrible tragedy,” Clark said in a written statement sent to GeekWire. “We appreciate the first responders who worked urgently to provide support.” Boeing said it was “deeply saddened to learn of the Atlas Air 767 freighter that crashed near Anahuac, TX, earlier today.” “We are concerned about the safety of the three people reported to be on board,” . “Boeing is prepared to provide technical assistance to the NTSB as it investigates the accident.” Atlas Air and another leasing company, Air Transport Services Group, or ATSG, each operate 20 Boeing 767-300 jets to serve Amazon’s delivery network. The service was launched in 2016, and now flies in and out of more than 20 airports. Today’s incident was the first fatal air accident connected with the Amazon transport operation. Last December, Amazon said it would work with ATSG to over the next couple of years. Atlas Air Flight 3591 made use of a 767 jet that was converted from a passenger aircraft to cargo, and entered service with Atlas in April 2017, . The plane was registered with the tail number N1217A. Like all the tail numbers associated with planes servicing the Amazon network, . Pilots working for Atlas Air and ABX Air, a subsidiary of ATSG, have relating to the Amazon delivery operation. But it’s way too early to say whether such issues played a role in today’s crash, or to speculate about the cause of the crash. Update for 6:35 p.m. PT Feb. 23: Daniel Wells, Atlas Air captain and president of the Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224, released the following statement on the crash: “Our union stands together as a family and in support of our members’ families. Our focus is on our friends and colleagues who were on that plane, and we are doing everything we can to support their families. “Teamsters Local 1224 representatives are already on the ground supporting this investigation. We also thank the first responders who rushed to the scene to help.” The union said members of Teamsters Local 1224 were on the flight.
Atlas Air 767 cargo jet, part of Amazon fleet, crashes in Texas with 3 people aboard; remains found amid wreckage

Atlas Air 767 cargo jet, part of Amazon fleet, crashes in Texas with 3 people aboard; remains found amid wreckage

7:54pm, 23rd February, 2019
An Amazon-branded Boeing 767 cargo jet flies over Seattle in 2016. (Red Box Pictures Photo / Scott Eklund) An Atlas Air Boeing 767 cargo jet crashed today into Trinity Bay on the Texas Gulf Coast with three people on board, . “Human remains have been found on scene,” . “At this time, there are no signs of survivors.” The plane is part of the Amazon Air package delivery fleet, . It was heading from Miami to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport when radar and radio contact was lost shortly before 12:45 p.m. CT (10:45 a.m. PT), about 30 miles southeast of Houston, the FAA said. Local TV stations aired video showing a long trail of debris in the bay’s shallow waters. “Who knows what’s under the water that we can’t see, but it looks like total devastation from the aircraft part,” . “Knowing what I saw, I don’t believe anybody could survive it.” Names of the crew were not released. Investigators from the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are on their way to the accident site. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation. New York-based Atlas Air Worldwide, which operated the plane on Amazon’s behalf, said it is cooperating fully with the FAA and the NTSB. “We can confirm there were three people on board the aircraft,” “Those people and their family members are our top priority at this time.” Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, expressed sympathy and concern. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the flight crew, their families and friends along with the entire team at Atlas Air during this terrible tragedy,” Clark said in a written statement sent to GeekWire. “We appreciate the first responders who worked urgently to provide support.” Boeing said it was “deeply saddened to learn of the Atlas Air 767 freighter that crashed near Anahuac, TX, earlier today.” “We are concerned about the safety of the three people reported to be on board,” . “Boeing is prepared to provide technical assistance to the NTSB as it investigates the accident.” Atlas Air and another leasing company, Air Transport Services Group, or ATSG, each operate 20 Boeing 767-300 jets to serve Amazon’s delivery network. The service was launched in 2016, and now flies in and out of more than 20 airports. Today’s incident was the first fatal air accident connected with the Amazon transport operation. Last December, Amazon said it would work with ATSG to over the next couple of years. Atlas Air Flight 3591 made use of a 767 jet that was converted from a passenger aircraft to cargo, and entered service with Atlas in April 2017, . The plane was registered with the tail number N1217A. Like all the tail numbers associated with planes servicing the Amazon network, . Pilots working for Atlas Air and ABX Air, a subsidiary of ATSG, have relating to the Amazon delivery operation. But it’s way too early to say whether such issues played a role in today’s crash, or to speculate about the cause of the crash.
Atlas 767 cargo jet, part of Amazon fleet, crashes in Texas with 3 people aboard

Atlas 767 cargo jet, part of Amazon fleet, crashes in Texas with 3 people aboard

6:52pm, 23rd February, 2019
An Amazon-branded Boeing 767 cargo jet flies over Seattle in 2016. (Red Box Pictures Photo / Scott Eklund) An Atlas Air Boeing 767 cargo jet crashed today into Trinity Bay on the Texas Gulf Coast with three people on board, . The plane is part of the Amazon Air package delivery fleet, according to aviation records. It was heading from Miami to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport when radar and radio contact was lost shortly before 12:45 p.m. CT (10:45 a.m. PT), about 30 miles southeast of Houston, the FAA said. There was no immediate word about the fate of the crew, and no names were released. Investigators from the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are on their way to the accident site. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation. New York-based Atlas Air, which leases the planes for Amazon’s use, said it is cooperating fully with the FAA and the NTSB. Amazon expressed its concern and sympathy in a statement from Dave Clark, the company’s senior vice president of worldwide operations. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the flight crew, their families and friends along with the entire team at Atlas Air during this terrible tragedy,” Clark said. “We appreciate the first responders who worked urgently to provide support.” Boeing said it was “deeply saddened to learn of the Atlas Air 767 freighter that crashed near Anahuac, TX, earlier today.” “We are concerned about the safety of the three people reported to be on board,” . “Boeing is prepared to provide technical assistance to the NTSB as it investigates the accident.” Check back for updates in this developing story.
Amazon looked to the past to build the future

Amazon looked to the past to build the future

10:45pm, 11th February, 2019
Over the last 20 years, smart home gadgets have evolved from fantasy to commodity. Walk into Best Buy and there are dozens of products that take just a few minutes to set up. It’s wonderful. Even better, it’s easy. There are lights and locks and screens from big and small companies alike. And therein lies the problem. There isn’t a unified solution for everything and Amazon’s vertically integrated offering could be the solution for the consumer and retail giant alike. Sure, most smart home gadgets work, but nothing works well together. The smart home has to be as easy as flipping a switch to control a lightbulb. , Eero, speaks to the problem. Assembling a smart home containing more than a couple of smart gadgets is hard. There are countless spots where something can go wrong, exposing a smart home as nothing more than a house of cards. What’s best for the average consumer is also the best for Amazon. In order for the smart home to be easy and functional as possible, one company should control the experience from every entry point. This is Apple’s approach to smartphones and Apple has long offered the easiest, most secure smartphone experience. In theory, Amazon will likely look to either bundle Eero routers with the purchase of Amazon Echos or build mesh networking into Echo products. Either way, Amazon is ensuring its Fire TV and Echo products can reliably access Amazon’s content services, which is where Amazon makes its money in the smart home. As Devin , mesh networking is the solution to the problem created by Amazon’s push into every room. Wifi is critical to a truly smart home, but there’s more to it. The smart home is complicated and it goes back over 20 years. Before wireless networking was ubiquitous, hobbyists and luxury home builders turned to other solutions to add electronic features to homes. Some gadgets still use modern versions of these protocols. Services like Z-Wave and ZigBee allowed home security systems to wireless monitor entry points and control power to otherwise disconnected gadgets like coffee makers and lamps. Later competing wireless protocols competed with Z-Wave and ZigBee. Insteon came out in the early 2000s and offered redundant networking through RF signals and power line networking. In 2014 Nest with the help of Samsung, Qualcomm, ARM, and others introduced Thread networking that offers modern network redundancy and improved security. And there’s more! There are gadgets powered by Bluetooth 5, Wi-Fi HaLow and line of sight IR signals. This cluster of competing protocols makes it difficult to piece together a smart home that’s controlled by a unified device. So far, at this nascent stage of smart home gadgets, Amazon and Google have built a compelling case to use their products to control this bevy of devices. Apple tried, and in some ways, succeeded. Its HomeKit framework put iOS devices as the central control point for the home. Want to turn on the lights? Click a button in iOS or more recently, tell a HomePod. It works as advertised, but Apple requires compatible devices to be certified, and therefore the market of compatible devices is smaller than what works with an Amazon Echo. Meanwhile, Goole and Amazon stepped into the smart home with their arms wide, seemingly willing to work with any gadget. It worked. Over the last two years, gadget makers took huge steps to ensure its products are compatible with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. Last month, at CES, this became a punchline when a toilet was announced that was compatible with Alexa. Smart commodes be damned. All of these connected gadgets require their own setup process. Every connected light, thermostat and toilet demand the initial user be comfortable navigating several smartphone apps, knowing their network configuration and what to Google when something goes wrong — because things go wrong. Amazon’s own Alexa app doesn’t help. The single app is loaded with several tentpole functions including voice calling, skill setup, remote operation and access to Alexa — it’s overwhelming and unwieldy once several Echos are configured under the same account. Something has to change. If the smart home is to reach new demographics, barriers have to be dropped and centralized control has to become paramount. A layman should be able to purchase a couple of voice control hubs, connected lights, and a thermostat and set them up through a single app even though the devices might use different networking methods. Amazon has already taken a big step towards working with different smart home wireless protocols. In 2017 the company introduced the Echo Plus. This version of the Echo speaker included support for Zigbee (Philips Hue lights use Zigbee). Later, in 2018 the company upgraded the Echo Plus and included a temperature sensor and offline smart home networking so when the Internet goes down, the user can still control their connected products. Amazon has a growing portfolio of smart home companies. Along with its own Echo products, Amazon owns Ring, a video doorbell company, Blink, a wireless video camera system, and recently purchased, Mr. Beams, an outdoor lighting company. Now, with Eero, it can offer buyers a WiFi solution by Amazon. The only thing missing is a unified experience between these devices. In order for any company to win at the smart home, consumers need to fully trust this company and Amazon has so far only had several, relatively, minor incidents concerning the privacy of its users. A couple reports have surfaced reporting Amazon handing over voice data to the authorities. Other reports have taken issue with Amazon’s video doorbell company’s neighborhood watch system that could lead to profiling and discrimination. Amazon can weather disparaging reports. Amazon cannot weather dysfunctional products unable to reach Amazon’s revenue-generating services. Amazon is not alone in its quest for smart home domination. Google, Samsung, and Apple take this growing market seriously and will not let Amazon eat the whole pie. Consumer electronic giants will likely continue to scoop up smart home gadget companies that have traction with consumers. Look for companies like Arlo, ecobee, Belkin, Wyze Labs, sevenhugs and Brilliant to be acquired. These companies offer some of the best products in their respective fields and would compliment the companies currently owned by the big players as they look to offer consumers a the most complete experience.
Fan-controlled football league to use blockchain; Amazon inks more streaming rights; and more sports tech news

Fan-controlled football league to use blockchain; Amazon inks more streaming rights; and more sports tech news

6:15am, 8th May, 2018
TAYLOR’S TAKE ON THE WEEK IN SPORTS TECH: A new football league controlled by fans is the latest endeavor to make use of blockchain technology. The begins play next year and will allow fans to be apart of everything from play-calling to hiring general managers. The FCFL will feature eight indoor football teams playing one hour-long games in a production studio on a 50-yard field. Games will air on Twitch, the Amazon-owned streaming platform whose video overlay technology will allow fans to call plays in real-time. The league is also using helmet cameras, embedded chips in balls, drones, and other tech. The league this week that it has partnered with , a Seattle-based blockchain consulting group, to implement a first-of-its-kind blockchain token system. Fans will be able to earn Fan Access Network (FAN) tokens built on the Ethereum blockchain; the more tokens collected, the more power they’ll have to make decisions. , co-founder of FCFL, told GeekWire that his team wanted to use blockchain for three reasons: Voting transparency: “We’re letting fans dictate the careers of coaches and players, and the plays on the field,” he said. “We need to be able to provide true transparency in the voting process so there are no questions about the results.” Tokenization: “We’re building a ‘real-life video game’ so it’s a natural fit to have tokens in the game,” he said. “We’re tokenizing voting power in the league so the more FAN tokens a fan owns/earns, the more voting power the fan will have.” Digital collectibles: “We’re going to be tokenizing the players in the league and creating non-fungible digital ‘collectible tokens’ for each player, similar to trading cards,” he said. “We’re working with New Alchemy on some interesting ways to incorporate the collectible player tokens into fantasy sports games for the league.” New Alchemy is also an investor in the league, making a “low seven-figure” investment, Farudi said. Farudi and his colleagues tested an initial version of FCFL last year , an Indoor Football League team, and letting fans control plays with an app. FCFL is the latest evolution, expanding the format to an entire league with partners like Twitch and IMG Original Content. Highlights from the week in sports tech Amazon bought up more live sports rights, this time to stream the U.S. Open in Ireland and the U.K. on Prime Video. The NFL is investigating what it alleges as widespread fraud related to its $1 billion concussion settlement, reports . Amazon-owned Twitch from the NBA’s new 2K esports league. reports that MLB and the NBA are in talks to divest their stakes in DraftKings and FanDuel. Seattle startup Vicis for safe football helmets. Seattle esports betting startup Unikrn made another acquisition, to create the first “crypto gaming platform.” Another Seattle startup, IdealSeat, to integrate its ticketing intelligence platform. University of Pittsburgh awarded two projects for its first : tech that improves swimming technique, and a bio-screening platform that measures a user’s nervous system. Did you sign up for ESPN+? In case you missed it, on ESPN’s new $5 per month streaming service. Mobile Sports Report is out with . Blockchain-based startups are . Thanks for tuning in, everyone! — Taylor Soper
NFL going with Amazon again for ‘Thursday Night Football,’ renews streaming deal for two years

NFL going with Amazon again for ‘Thursday Night Football,’ renews streaming deal for two years

6:15am, 8th May, 2018
Amazon’s first Thursday Night Football stream plays on its website homepage in September. (Screenshot via Amazon) While National Football League teams have made the usual offseason changes aimed at improving their competitive chances next season, the league itself is staying with one big player — Amazon. The NFL announced Thursday that it had reached an agreement to once again partner with Amazon Prime Video for streaming rights to “Thursday Night Football.” The tech giant will stream 11 games (broadcast by FOX) to a global audience during both the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Last season marked the first year of the streaming partnership between the league and Seattle-based Amazon, which took the reigns after Twitter’s one-year shot at the effort. Last year’s deal was for a reported $50 million, and rumblings on Thursday indicated that the NFL may have upped that price as competition from other services such as YouTube and Facebook was strong. Amazon re-ups NFL Thursday night streaming deal for 2018, 2019. Slightly surprising – figured league would want a new partner, and YouTube is very interested in live sports. — Peter Kafka (@pkafka) Looks like same deal as before (though I assume NFL will have extracted some kind of rate increase) – games streamed to Prime members worldwide. One new tweak – will also be available (presumably for free) to Twitch users. — Peter Kafka (@pkafka) Had heard from a few folks over the last few months that YouTube was a strong contender for this deal. Also a little surprised the NFL went back to Amazon. — Kurt Wagner (@KurtWagner8) Surprising in that many thought NFL would continue its digital speed dating after previously working with Amazon and Twitter. Plenty of other potential parties inc YouTube and Facebook. But NFL staying w Amazon for this for next 2 years. — Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) “Amazon was a tremendous partner for ‘Thursday Night Football’ in 2017 and as we continue our mission of delivering NFL games to fans whether they watch on television or on digital platforms, we are excited to work with them again for the next two seasons,” Brian Rolapp, chief media and business officer for the NFL, said in a news release. PREVIOUSLY: Amazon will deliver to more than 100 million Amazon Prime members worldwide in over 200 countries and territories, on the Prime Video app for TVs, game consoles, and connected devices, which includes Amazon Fire TV, mobile devices and online. Across 10 games last season when on the technology behind the effort, Amazon attracted more than 17 million viewers, or an average of 1.7 million per game. Games will also be available to Twitch viewers, the live-streaming interactive video platform that is a subsidiary of Amazon. Amazon also partners with the NFL for the Prime original series “All or Nothing,” which is produced by NFL Films. The third season of the docuseries will launch on Friday with a closer look at the Dallas Cowboys. Amazon’s first “Thursday Night Football” game of the upcoming season will be during week four when the Los Angeles Rams host the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 27. Games kick off at 8:20 p.m. ET.