Founded in late 2013, did the impossible, coming seemingly out of nowhere to take on some of the biggest players in mobile. The company has made a name by embracing a fawning fanbase and offering premium smartphone features at budget pricing, even as the likes of Samsung and Apple routinely crack the $1,000 barrier on their own flagships. history is awash with clever promotions and fan service, all while exceeding expectations in markets like the U.S., where fellow Chinese smartphone makers have run afoul of U.S. regulations. The company’s measured approach to embracing new features has won a devoted fantasied among Android users. Over the past year, however, the company has looked to bleeding edge technology as a way forward. OnePlus was one of the first to embrace In-Display fingerprint sensors with last year’s 6T and has promised to be among the first to offer 5G on its handsets later this year. CEO formed the company with fellow Oppo employee Carl Pei. The pair have turned the company into arguably the most exciting smartphone manufacturer in the past decade. OnePlus has big plans on the horizon, too, including further expansion into the Indian market and the arrival of its first TV set in the coming year. At Disrupt SF (which runs October 2 to October 4), Lau will discuss OnePlus’ rapid accent and its plans for the future. Tickets are available .
SalesPal CEO Ashvin Naik, Google Cloud’s Chanchal Chatterjee, Audioburst’s Rachel Batish and T-Mobile’s Chip Reno discuss the future of artificial intelligence at the Global AI Conference in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle) Artificial intelligence can rev up recommendation engines and make self-driving cars safer. It can even . But what else will it be able to do? At today’s session of the , a panel of techies took a look at the state of AI applications — and glimpsed into their crystal balls to speculate about the future of artificial intelligence. The panelists included Chanchal Chatterjee, AI leader at ; Ashvin Naik, CEO of , which markets AI-enabled sales analysis tools; Rachel Batish, vice president of product for , an audio indexing service; and Chip Reno, senior advanced analytics manager at . The moderator was Shailesh Manjrekar, head of product and solutions marketing for , a multi-cloud data storage and management company. Here are five AI frontiers that came up in today’s conversations, plus a couple of caveats to keep in mind: Smarter grocery stores: AI-enabled grocery shopping was pioneered right here in Seattle at , but the trend is catching on. Today called the Intelligent Retail Lab in Levittown, N.Y. Britain’s takes a different tack: Users fill up a virtual shopping cart, then schedule a one-hour delivery slot. Google Cloud helped Ocado develop the , including a recommendation engine that figures out customers’ shifting preferences, an algorithm that handles and prioritizes customer service emails, and a as Ocado’s previous system. Energy-saving server farms: Chatterjee pointed to how Google used its DeepMind machine learning platform to . Before AI was put on the case, 10 years’ worth of efficiency measures could reduce energy usage by merely 12 percent, he said. Within six months, AI brought about a 40 percent reduction. “That was a huge difference that AI made in a very short amount of time that we could not do with 10 years of research,” Chatterjee said. Financial market prediction: Hedge fund managers and bankers are already , detect market manipulation and assess credit risks. But Chatterjee said the models are getting increasingly sophisticated. AI is being used to predict how margin trades could play out, or whether undervalued financial assets are ripe for the picking. AI models could even anticipate . “When the lock-in period expires … that’s a great time to short,” Chatterjee said. Deeper, wider AI conversations: Chatterjee predicted that our conversations with voice assistants are likely to get wider, deeper and more personal as AI assistants become smarter. Audioburst’s Batish said conversational AI could provide a wider opening for smaller-scale startups and for women in tech. “Women are very much prominent in conversational applications and businesses,” she said. Salespal’s Naik agreed with that view — but he worried about the dearth of compelling applications, based on his own company’s experience with voice-enabled devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home. “They’re gathering dust. … We use them just to listen to music or set up alarms. That’s it,” he said. AI for good, or evil? Chatterjee said AI could be a powerful tool to root out fraud and corruption. AI applications could be built “to see what influence relationships have on outcomes — that tells you if there are any side deals being made,” he said. But Batish worried about the rise of , virtual and . “I’m actually afraid of what that could bring into our world,” she said. “It would be interesting to see how companies are trying to be able to monitor or identify fake situations that are being built out of very complicated AI.” Watch out for job disruption: Many studies have pointed out that automation is likely to disrupt employment sectors, especially in the service, manufacturing and transportation sectors. “Anything that is repetitive, that can be extracted from multiple sources, that doesn’t have a lot of creativity amd innovation, is at risk due to AI,” Chatterjee said. “That means that more people will have to move into other sectors.” Watch out for the hype: “I’d like to see people get away from the hype a little bit,” T-Mobile’s Reno said. “I’m on the client side, so I see all the pitches involving AI and ML or deep learning. … A lot of times, AI is not applicable to certain use cases where we’re applying it. Just good old-fashioned statistics or business intelligence is fine. So I think that the future of AI relies on getting past the hype and getting more into aligning these awesome tools and algorithms to specific business cases.”
According to a new report from reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and shared by , the next-generation iPhone should likely feature two-way wireless charging. This feature would let you charge other devices using your iPhone. Other flagship smartphones already feature two-way wireless charging, such as the , the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and the . Samsung released new to justify such a feature. Thanks to PowerShare, you can place the Galaxy Buds case on the back of your Samsung Galaxy S10 to charge them. But you can also use it with another phone or another accessory — it should work with any Qi-compatible device. And now that Apple sells AirPods with a wireless charging case, chances are Apple will also showcase the new case sitting on top of the next iPhone. According to Apple could include the new feature across the lineup. Updates to the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR should get two-way wireless charging. Apple could also increase battery sizes to mitigate the impact of this new feature. The next iPhone XS could receive a 20 to 25 percent bump, the next iPhone XS Max could get a 10 to 15 percent bump. The iPhone XR, which already has the longest battery life, should more or less keep the same battery.
Did you spend years in your parents’ basement playing ping pong? Or foosball? Or Catan? If so, join the GeekWire team and 2,000 Seattle area geeks on March 7th for the annual — the most unique and fun event on the Seattle tech calendar. Presented by First Tech Federal Credit Union, the Bash is now open to geeks of all ages. Grab tickets , and join the GeekWire team for robotics, video games, virtual reality, sumo wrestling and a zipline. A limited number of spots in the ping pong and foosball tournaments are available . The GeekWire Bash is a great team building activity whether strategizing over tabletop games, soaring through the air on the zipline or cheering each other on in other offbeat activities. Group tickets available. Some of this year’s featured activities: —Get a sumo face ready and try to not hit the mat, thanks to sumo sponsor NTT .—Bring kids to explore the new featuring STEM-oriented activities.—Pop into the open play ping pong area.—DJ Morgan of KEXP will keep the energy high from the First Tech DJ Booth.—Tabletop gaming is back with partners at Meeples Games providing intro Magic lessons and sharing their mobile game library.—Dodgeball meets laser tag in a virtual world: Be one of the first to experience multi-player arena VR at the VRcade by Virtual Sports.—Watch more than 200 kids in 4th to 8th grades compete with their autonomous robots in the first annual ! Here are more highlights from the GeekWire Calendar: : A full-day celebration of the best science fiction and fantasy films of the past year at the SIFF Cinema Egyptian in Seattle; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m Saturday, March 9. Getting women to land and stay in tech jobs continues to be a challenge despite active efforts. is a place where women and men can gather to celebrate women in tech. This year’s theme is “You Can’t Be What You Can’t See” and hopes to bring visibility to women leading successful careers in the technology sector, hopefully leading to more interest among younger women to enter the field. This event is free to the public and takes place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on March 8. : A presentation from industry leaders in a number of fields at Google in Kirkland; 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, March 11. : A presentation of techniques about content and even body language in technical interviews at North Seattle College in Seattle; 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, March 11. : A presentation offering advice for entrepreneurs interested in the Life Sciences at the Agora Conference Center in Seattle; 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 13. : A presentation by Mark Altman author of the two-volume History of Star Trek, takes a look at where the franchise might be headed in the future at the ACT Theater in Seattle; 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 14. For more upcoming events, check out the , where you can find meetups, conferences, startup events, and geeky gatherings in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Organizing an event? .
Sales automation startup Outreach was the only Seattle company to make CB Insights’ list of future unicorns. (Outreach Photo) Can algorithms predict the next billion-dollar companies better than human venture capitalists? It seems possible, at least based on a formula created by CB Insights and The New York Times. Back in 2015, the companies published a list of 50 startups that would eventually becomes “unicorns,” or those valued at $1 billion or more. It identified candidates using CB Insights’ which analyzes the health of a startup based on various data including strength of market, financial performance, and overall traction — a “FICO score for startups,” as described by the investment data firm. Fast forward to today, and 48 percent of the companies on the 2015 list are now considered unicorns. “At the risk of sounding immodest, that is pretty good,” CB Insights this month. “And if we were a venture firm, this kind of hit rate would make us legendary.” That’s why it’s worth giving a look. (CBInsights Photo) The 50 future unicorns hail from various industries and the median company has about $111 million in total funding. A majority are based in the U.S., with 22 from California, five in New York, and two in Massachusetts. Outreach CEO Manny Medina. (Outreach Photo) There is just one from Seattle: sales automation startup , which this past spring, announced it was space this summer, made its , and was the only Seattle company to crack the top 25 in list for 2018. Outreach CEO Manny Medina said the company more than doubled its revenue in 2018 and met all goals and metrics. Outreach now has more than 3,100 customer accounts and 50,000-plus users. It employs 315 people and plans to reach 450 by the end of 2019. “This upcoming year we will make more investments in scaling the business efficiently and prepare for an IPO a few years out,” Medina told GeekWire. “This includes continued investment from our product to support, measure, and automate customer facing workflows. Our job is to make all sales reps great and drive higher revenue efficiency for their companies.” The 5-year-old sales engagement platform uses machine learning to help customers such as Cloudera, Adobe, Microsoft, Docusign, and others automate and streamline communication with sales prospects. Medina, a former director at Microsoft, originally launched a recruiting software startup called GroupTalent in 2011 with his co-founders Andrew Kinzer, Gordon Hempton, and Wes Hather. But the entrepreneurs in 2014 to focus on building tools for salespeople. Chris DeVore, managing director at Techstars Seattle — Outreach was a 2011 graduate of the accelerator — said the company is a good example of why he focuses on investing in people over ideas. “Outreach is one of my favorite stories,” . “The business they set out to build wasn’t working, but because they stuck together as a founding team and kept adapting and learning, they figured out how to find a productive thing. But that wasn’t because of where they started or the early metrics. It was because as humans, they were so committed and resilient and so gritty that they figured it out. “And that’s really what you’re betting on,” DeVore continued. “It’s a 10-year journey and it’s never always up and to the right. There are always setbacks and near-death moments. It’s the human capacity for resilience and persistence every time that will turn a bad investment into a good one.” While it’s a safe bet to invest in tenacious and dogged founders, CB Insights’ track record with its Mosaic score shows how data-driven formulas can drive smart investment decisions. That strategy has worked well for firms such as Seattle-based , an online revenue-based funding vehicle that uses proprietary technology to figure out which companies to back. Lighter Capital has invested in more than 300 companies across 500 deals since 2012 and plans to invest in close to 200 startups this year, CEO B.J. Lackland . A recent found that 38 percent of venture capitalists use data to source and evaluate investment opportunities. “Our survey shows strong adoption of data to inform investment decision-making and a growing appetite to increase usage,” Steve Bendt, vice president of marketing at PitchBook, said in a statement. “While the majority of respondents believe VC investing will always involve the human element, there’s enthusiasm to explore how machine learning can automate traditional VC.”
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.