Posts tagged with "Bloomberg"

Watch out! Glitches in cheap smartwatches may allow strangers to track children

December 12, 2019

While kids who wear smartwatches can keep in closer touch with their parents during the day, unfortunately, mom and dad may not be the only ones who are tracking their children’s activities. Security researchers have discovered vulnerabilities in cheap smartwatches for children that make it possible for strangers to override parental controls and follow kids, according to a report by Bloomberg.

Rapid7, a Boston-based cybersecurity firm, purchased three smartwatches on Amazon.com, costing from $20 to $35, according to Deral Heiland, research lead for IoT Technology at the company. He said the models—GreaSmart Children’s SmartWatchJsbaby Game Smart Watch, and SmarTurtle Smart Watch for Kids— were picked randomly from dozens for sale on Amazon and marketed as appropriate for grade school-aged kids.

According to the Bloomberg report, all three devices offer location tracking, messaging, and chat features. They were manufactured in China and shared nearly identical hardware and software. They also had similar security issues, Rapid7 found.

The watches let authorized users view and change configuration details by texting the watch directly with certain commands. In practice, this didn’t work and “unlisted numbers also could interact with the watch,” Rapid7 said in a report.

This security issue could be fixed with a vendor-supplied firmware update, but “such an update is unlikely to materialize, given that the providers of these devices are difficult to impossible to locate,” the cybersecurity firm noted.

The watches have a default password of “123456,” but one of the watch’s manuals doesn’t mention the password, according to the researchers. Another mentioned the password in a blog but not in its printed material. The third doesn’t characterize the numbers as a password nor does it provide instructions on how to change it, according to the researchers.

“Given an unchanged default password and a lack of SMS filtering, it is possible for an attacker with knowledge of the smartwatch phone number to assume total control of the device, and therefore use the tracking and voice chat functionality with the same permissions as the legitimate user (typically, a parent),” Rapid7 said in its report.

An unauthorized user could shut off all the safety protocols a parent had set up on the smartwatch, Heiland told Bloomberg in an interview.

Rapid7 said its researchers weren’t able to contact the sellers nor what they believe is the manufacturer of the watches, a Chinese company called 3g Electronics. The company didn’t respond to a message from Bloomberg News seeking comment.

The GreaSmart Children’s SmartWatch is no longer for sale on Amazon, according to Rapid7. GreaSmart, Jsbaby, SmarTurtle didn’t respond to a requests for comment. Oltec, a merchant that sells the SmarTurtle watch on Amazon, didn’t respond to a message sent via Amazon’s site.

“Consumers that are concerned with the safety, privacy, and security of their IoT devices and the associated cloud services are advised to avoid using any technology that is not provided by a clearly identifiable vendor, for what we hope are obvious reasons,” Rapid7 warned in its report.

Research contact: @business

Double take: Winklevoss brothers buy a startup founded by identical twins

November 20, 2019

They are best-known for losing the Facebook concept—which they had named ConnectU—to the ambitious Mark Zuckerberg when they all attended Harvard University. And for winning $65 million in a suit against Zuckerberg in 2008.

But now the Winklevoss twins—Tyler and Cameron, age 38—have become crypto entrepreneurs. And Bloomberg reported on November 19 that they have made their first-ever acquisition, from a duo of entrepreneurs to whom they bear a strong resemblance.

Duncan and Griffin Cock Foster, 25, are also identical twins, Bloomberg says. While the Winklevoss brothers rowed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the other twins rowed in high school. That said, the Cock Fosters weren’t involved in the birthing of the social network Facebook.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” Tyler Winklevoss told the financial news outlet in a phone interview. “There are so many great parallels, it was just the right fit.”

The two sets of twins came together over their belief in the future of so-called nifties. A niftie may be a cat from the CryptoKitties game, in which players breed the digital felines, or a token representing ownership in art, stamps, and comic books—an asset that is being kept track of via a blockchain digital ledger and is tradeable.

To buy such collectibles, people typically have to open digital currency wallets, buy cryptocurrency on an exchange—a process that can take hours and can be confusing.

The Cock Fosters’ Nifty Gateway, which the Winklevosses’ Gemini Trust bought for an undisclosed sum, lets anyone pay for nifties with a credit card, via a streamlined experience similar to checking out through Amazon.

The company currently lets people buy nifties from Open Sea marketplace and CryptoKitties and Gods Unchained games.

It doesn’t disclose its customer numbers or payment volume. But Duncan Cock Foster forecasts that nifties could one day attract as many as one billion collectors, Bloomberg reports. The Winklevosses expect that the market for nifties will be as big as the collectibles, art, and gaming markets combined.

 “We believe in this future where all your assets will be on a blockchain and you may want to buy, sell and store them, and Nifty fits that vision,” Tyler Winklevoss said.

While initially Gemini, with more than 220 employees, and Nifty, with three workers, will continue to operate as stand-alone companies, that could change, and some of Nifty’s features could make way into Gemini services.

Duncan now owns about 300 nifties; and his brother, 100. While most people currently don’t even know what the word means, the two sets of twins hope that will change.

“All great companies, all great ideas there’s a period where you see a truth and many other people don’t, and you have to have that conviction,” Tyler Winklevoss said.

Research contact: @business

Over and out: Nike to complete pilot with Amazon Retail; sell its own products directly

November 14, 2019

Nike is breaking up with Amazon, Bloomberg reports. The athletic shoe and apparel brand will stop selling its products directly through Amazon Retail—ending a pilot program that began in 2017.

The split reflects a massive pivot in Nike’s retail strategy. It also follows the hiring of ex-EBay Inc. Chief Executive Officer John Donahoe as the company’s next CEO, effective January 13, 2020—a move that signaled the company is going even more aggressively after e-commerce sales, apparently without Amazon’s help.

Indeed, the footwear titan says the move is just one piece of its plan to shift to a “more direct, personal” retail experience.

Specifically, the company said in a statement, “As part of Nike’s focus on elevating consumer experiences through more direct, personal relationships, we have made the decision to complete our current pilot with Amazon Retail. “We will continue to invest in strong, distinctive partnerships for Nike with other retailers and platforms to seamlessly serve our consumers globally.”

Nike said it will continue to use Amazon’s cloud-computing unit, Amazon Web Services, to power its apps and Nike.com services, Bloomberg reported.

Amazon, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment. The company has been preparing for the move, according to two people familiar with the matter. It has been recruiting third-party sellers with Nike products so that the merchandise is still widely available on the site, they said. Amazon has also been working to stem the flow of counterfeits on the site through various initiatives, including one project that lets brands put unique codes on their products to make it easier to identify fakes.

Nike shares rose as much as 1.4% in New York trading Wednesday, while Amazon was off as much as 0.6.

The question now, according to Bloomberg, is whether other Amazon partners follow Nike’s lead. The financial news outlet said, “Few other brands possess the kind of muscle Nike has, so it may be harder for them to leave.”

“Nike has enormous reach and its products are in demand, so it can afford to be selective about where its products are distributed because customers will come find Nike where it is offered,” Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail, said in an interview. “I don’t think as many brands can be as selective as Nike.”

For years, the only Nike products sold on Amazon were gray-market items—and counterfeit—sold by others. Nike had little control over how they were listed, what information about the product was available and whether the products were even real.

That changed in 2017, when Nike joined Amazon’s brand registry program. Executives hoped the move would give them more control over Nike goods sold on the e-commerce site, more data on their customers, and added power to remove fake Nike listings. The news of the Amazon tie-up, which Nike executives called a “small pilot,” sent shoe-retailer stocks tumbling and left many wondering if other major Amazon holdouts would quickly follow.

But Nike reportedly struggled to control the Amazon marketplace. Third-party sellers whose listings were removed simply popped up under a different name. Plus, the official Nike products had fewer reviews and, therefore,received worse positioning on the site.

Analysts said physical sporting-goods retailers would benefit from Nike’s departure from Amazon.

Research contact: @business

Investor who made smutty comments at summit loses $600 million contract in backlash

October 15, 2019

A financial executive who was crude and lewd at an industry conference has lost a major contract as a result, The Washington Post reports.

Specifically, the news outlet said, last week the State of Michigan pulled fully $600 million of its pension fund from wealth management firm Fisher Investments after the company’s founder and chairman, Ken Fisher, made boorish and sexually explicit comments during a fireside chat at the Tiburon CEO Summit, October 7-9 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco.

In a letter obtained by the Post on October 10, Michigan Chief Investment Officer Jon Braeutigam informed the state’s investment board that its Bureau of Investments, housed under the state Treasury Department, had terminated its relationship with Fisher Investments because of CEO Ken Fisher’s “completely unacceptable comments.”

During a moderated keynote discussion on October 8. Fisher allegedly compared his wealth management strategy to picking up women for sex, according to summit attendees who recounted what they heard in interviews with The Washington Post.

He spoke of doing acid and his belief that charities are immoral. He also made crude comments about genitalia, attendees said, and mentioned financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was indicted on federal sex-trafficking charges earlier this year before dying by suicide in prison.

Despite a Tiburon policy that requires summit attendees to keep private what they hear and discuss there, three CEOs publicly shared their accounts of what Fisher said in the interest of exposing his behavior and holding the self-proclaimed “self-made multibillionaire” accountable.

Alex Chalekian, founder and chief executive of Lake Avenue Financial , came forward first, posting a video to Twitter hours after Fisher’s remarks. Chalekian called the fireside chat a “true debacle” and said Fisher’s words were “absolutely horrifying,” the Post reported.

Rachel Robasciotti, founder and CEO  of wealth management firm Robasciotti and Philipson, and Sonya Dreizler, a speaker and consultant to financial services firms, publicly confirmed Chalekian’s account online and in media reports.

“When you have power and you get onstage to share your worldview, and when your worldview includes women as sexual objects … that is irresponsible,” Robasciotti said in an interview with The Washington Post. “You’re peddling your worldview, and people are adopting it.”

Amid the backlash, Fisher was initially defiant in an interview with Bloomberg, defending his remarks by saying he had “given a lot of talks, a lot of times, in a lot of places and said stuff like this and never gotten that type of response.” He also claimed attendees had mischaracterized what he said and were being unfair.

Fisher, 68, later issued a formal apology. He has been barred from attending future Tiburon summits.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Chevy designs 2020 Corvette Stingray Convertible with hard, retractable roof

October 4, 2019

When Prince released his chart-topping song, Little Red Corvette, in 1983, Chevrolet already was gearing up for its 1984 C4 model—which would sell more units (51, 547) than in any year since 1979 (53,807); and would not be topped again.

In fact, just 18,789 Corvette C7 units sold in 2018; and fewer than 10,000 have left dealerships this year so far, according to the website CorvSport.

Now, the automaker intends to revive and expand the cult audience for its sports car with some unique tweaks to its design, Bloomberg reports. The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible, which the company launched on October 2 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is the first Vette in history to have a hard, retractable roof, rather than one made of canvas. Chevy is hoping that younger drivers will find the design appealing—creating a whole new generation of loyal buyers.

The hardtop on the new mid-engine Corvette Stingray Convertible folds “seamlessly” into the body, as Bloomberg describes it—maintaining the fighter jet-inspired lines of the coupe version, providing a quieter cabin; and offering the same storage space as the coupe, even with the top down.

That’s 12.6 cubic feet, or enough to stow two sets of golf clubs in the trunk during open-air driving. An additional storage compartment in the front of the car, like those found in Lamborghinis, fits a single, carry-on roller bag and laptop case.

“Our goal from the beginning was to make sure customers didn’t have to sacrifice any functionality, performance, or comfort when choosing the hardtop convertible,” Josh Holder, Corvette program engineering manager, said in a written statement to the business news outlet about the new car.

Indeed, Bloomberg says, by transplanting the engine to the middle of the car, evening out its center of balance, General Motors is positioning it to handle better on the track and take on the likes of Porsche, Ferrari, and Lamborghini.

Pricing on the entry-level 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe starts at $59,995. The starting price on the entry-level convertible is $67,495. Whether car collectors and new fans will be willing to shell out that money for a Chevy rather than a luxury brand is yet to be seen.

Research contact @business

You want fries with that? McDonald’s aims to personalize drive-thru menu boards

March 27, 2019

Chicago-based fast-food monolith McDonald’s announced on March 25 that, in its largest acquisition in 20 years, it will spend $300 million to acquire the Israeli company Dynamic Yield—a leader in personalization and decision logic technology, according to a report by Bloomberg.

With the new technology, McDonald’s envisions that it can change up the food it offers on its electronic menu boards, depending on factors such as the weather–coffee on cold days and McFlurries on hot days, for example—or the time of day, current restaurant traffic, trending items, or regional preferences.

What’s more, the menus will be able to instantly suggest and display additional items for a customer’s order based on his or her current selections.

“This will enable McDonald’s to be one of the first companies to integrate decision technology into the customer point-of-sale at a brick and mortar location,” the fast food chain stated in a press release.

McDonald’s tested this technology in several U.S. restaurants in 2018. Upon closing of the acquisition, McDonald’s will begin to roll it out at the chain’s drive-thru at restaurants in the United States in 2019; and then expand it to other top global markets.

McDonald’s also will begin work to integrate the technology into all of its digital customer experience touchpoints, such as self-order kiosks and McDonald’s Global Mobile App.    

“Technology is a critical element of our Velocity Growth Plan, enhancing the experience for our customers by providing greater convenience on their terms,” said McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook, adding, “With this acquisition, we’re expanding both our ability to increase the role technology and data will play in our future and the speed with which we’ll be able to implement our vision of creating more personalized experiences for our customers.”

Upon closing, McDonald’s will become sole owner; and will continue to invest in Dynamic Yield’s core personalization product and world-class teams. Dynamic Yield will remain a stand-alone company and employees will continue to operate out of offices around the world. Dynamic Yield also will continue to serve current clients and attract future prospects.

Research contact: @McDonald’s

Ashton Kusher-backed Calm app is valued at $1B

February 7, 2019

Calm.com—the San Francisco-based startup that claims to have become the number-one app for sleep, meditation, and relaxation since it began doing business in 2017—has been valued at $1 billion in a funding round led by TPG Growth, the company announced on February 6.

According to Bloomberg, Calm raised $88 million in the round, which included existing investors Insight Venture Partners and Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures, as well as Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency.

The funding makes San Francisco-based Calm a major player in the wellness industry—or, as the company says, the World’s First Mental Health Unicorn. (It joins the ranks of 312 other U.S. startups that have been valued at $1 billion or more and are known as “unicorns.”)

The Calm website says that the app “helps users cope with some of the most important mental health issues of the modern age-including anxiety, stress, and insomnia.”  Among its popular features are:

  • The Daily Calm, a ten-minute meditation guided by the company’s Head of Mindfulness Tamara Levitt;
  • Sleep Stories, soothing bedtime tales for adults read by celebrities such as Matthew McConaughey, Stephen Fry, and Leona Lewis;
  • MasterClass: A series of audio classes taught by mindfulness experts; and
  • Music: Exclusive music to help users focus, relax, and sleep.

Companies such as mindfulness app Headspace and meditation wearable maker Muse have also raised money from VCs, although at lower valuations, Bloomberg reports.

“Our vision is to build one of the most valuable and meaningful brands of the 21st century,” co-founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer Michael Acton Smith said in a statement. His co-founder and co-CEO, Alex Tew, added that the company would prioritize spending on international growth and creating new content.

The app has been downloaded more than 40 million times, it said in a statement, and it has more than one million paying subscribers.

Research contact: @calm

Closer to a cure: United Neuroscience tests Alzheimer’s vaccine

January 18, 2019

Today, 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s—and, every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

For the past 20 years, biotech companies have been striving to tackle Alzheimer’s—with little success.  However now, Bloomberg reports, a four-year old Dublin-based biotech team—comprising leaders in neurology, vaccines, drug development, and disruptive ideas—believes it may be on to something.

To be clear, the news outlet says, United Neuroscience hasn’t solved Alzheimer’s yet, nor has it claimed to. But previously unreported results from a small, recent United clinical trial find that 96% of patients responded, without serious side effects, to the Alzheimer’s vaccine the company calls UB-311. The researchers describe the drug as “a novel synthetic peptide vaccine targeting beta amyloid [the main component of the amyloid plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer patients] in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.”

The patients demonstrated improved brain function and showed a reduction in the protein plaque gumming up their neurons, the company’s report says.

“The positive results show that we can safely raise and maintain [anti-beta amyloid] antibody titers in a predictable and sustained manner,” said Peter Powchik, EVP of Research and Development at UNS, in a company release.

“High response rates, reproducibility of response, and generation of antibodies directed to relevant toxic protein species are key elements of an effective therapeutic vaccine for neurodegenerative conditions. The UNS platform is proving that it can deliver on these requirements,” Powchik claimed.

Indeed, Bloomberg explains, United’s vaccine stimulates the patient’s own immune system to attack amyloid, which some researchers believe to be the leading cause. The vaccine’s job is to slow the proteins’ clumping and, if possible, reverse some damage and restore brain function.

United’s clinical trial, a Phase II study completed last year, tested the vaccine with a group of 42 patients who had mild cognitive impairment and appeared to be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

One set of patients was in the control group and received a placebo; while two other groups received three shots of the vaccine and then boosters either every three or six months over the course of a 18 months.

Although the small number of patients prevents United from drawing any major statistical conclusions, the company has been encouraged enough to move ahead with development of the vaccine, possibly with a larger partner, according to CEO Mel Mei Hu.

For now, United says it’s focused on raising capital to fund a more conclusive UB-311 study and to keep refining its widening range of vaccines. The 35-person company is gearing up to start trials of UB-312, aimed at Parkinson’s disease, and a second Alzheimer’s vaccine meant to combat tau [a protein that causes tangles in the brain].

“They have taken thoughtful initial steps with this very promising technology,” Eric Reiman, a leading Alzheimer’s researcher and an adviser to United Neuroscience, told Bloomberg. “But this is still the beginning of the beginning.”

Research contact: @UNSTechBio

‘Hipster squads’ sign on to promote Breitling’s luxury timepieces

January 4, 2019

Most Millennials don’t wear watches; their ubiquitous smartphones make such timepieces redundant. However, the 130+-year-old Swiss luxury watchmaker Breitling has come up with a plan to attract consumers outside its elderly demographic, according to a recent report by Bloomberg.

Breitling has thrived on chunky, functional timepieces that come with busy dials and are favored by older men. Until last year, the company’s expensive product lineup was starting to look as outdated as its marketing—which, Bloomberg says, featured macho men in their aircraft and blond women in revealing outfits breathlessly awaiting their landing.

Now, the company is courting a new clientele—young, digital, and outdoorsy—with its #SQUADONAMISSION, a team of brand ambassadors that includes actors-cum-hipsters Brad Pitt, Adam Driver, Charlize Theron, and Daniel Wu as members of the Cinema Squad; and other celebrity teams who represent the qualities of a Jet Squad, an Explorers Squad, and a Surfer Squad.

In a description of the new campaign by AdGully, Breitling says that the first stage of the squad initiative features a full range of print, online, outdoor, point-of-sale, and broadcast advertising; as well as comprehensive use of all major social media channels worldwide.

The first photo shoots were done completed during the first half of 2018. The Breitling Jet Team Squad was photographed at its base in Dijon, France; the Explorers Squad members were captured on film on the Lofoten Islands in Norway; and the actors were shot by celebrated fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh in California.

In explaining the rationale behind the new campaign, Breitling CEO Georges Kern told Bloomberg, “We have enormous brand awareness, but we need to increase awareness for our products. It’s all about storytelling.”

Along with the new brand ambassadors the company has introduced a portfolio of striking timepieces. Brought out for the first time at the industry show, Baselworld 2018 in Switzerland last March, the Super 8—a new member of the Navitimer 8 family—takes it design inspiration, the company says, from the Breitling Reference 637 stopwatch,;which was used in World War II by bomber pilots and crews. The stainless-steel model has a black dial, while the titanium version features a military green dial. Both have large, luminescent Arabic numerals and a convex sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides. The hour and minute hands also are luminescent, making the Navitimer Super 8 easy to read in all lighting conditions. The cost starts at a reported $3,500, with several more expensive versions.

The streamlined Super 8—less bulky than Breitling’s usual timepieces—is designed to attract a younger buyer who has the money and the taste for luxury to enjoy wearing a collectible watch.

Perhaps seeing it on the wrists of the company’s celebrity squads will make it irresistible. Only time will tell.

Research contact: @squadonamission

How China’s ‘Singles’ Day’ became biggest shopping event ever

November 5, 2018

Singles’ Day, celebrated on November 11, is now the world’s biggest online shopping event—so much so that a countdown clock on the website shows the days, hours, minutes and seconds until shoppers in China and worldwide can claim their discounts (some of them, up to 95%) from a variety of retailers.

In less than a decade since Singles Day was first celebrated in China in 2009, Alibaba Group Holding has turned a quirky celebration for unmarried young adults into a global extravaganza drawing in thousands of retailers and hundreds of millions of shoppers of all ages—hitched or otherwise, according to a November 1 report by Bloomberg.

Just how big is this shoppers’ holiday? More than twice as much merchandise is sold over the 24-hour period as during the entire five-day U.S. holiday-buying spree that begins on Thanksgiving, runs through Black Friday and ends on Cyber Monday. Every year has exceeded the one before, with last year’s sales climbing 39% to 168.2 billion yuan ($24.2 billion). That’s on par with the gross domestic product of some smaller European nations. Most of the buying was via Taobao and Tmall, Alibaba’s main shopping sites.

This year, the shopping experience has spread to other e-commerce operators and will include more brick-and-mortar stores than ever before, the organizers claim. But Bloomberg says there is one, big unknown: To what extent, if any, the brewing U.S.-China trade war will cut into Singles’ Day sales.

It remains to be seen whether a depressed Chinese stock market and higher import tariffs resulting from U.S.-China trade tensions will curb consumers’ enthusiasm. On the other hand, Alibaba has significantly boosted the brick-and-mortar element of Singles’ Day by accelerating its investments in malls, convenience stores and food delivery services — part of what it calls its “new retail” initiative.

Essentially, Bloomberg reports, any transaction made via payment service Alipay will count. The initiative involves equipping traditional retailers with new technology to manage inventory and to serve as distribution centers for online shoppers, as well as connecting mom-and-pop stores to its platform. There are also 200,000 so-called smart stores that seek to combine the online and offline retail experience

While the Chinese mainland continues to dominate sales, according to the Bloomberg report, Alibaba continues to make it more global. That means getting foreign brands involved in selling to the Chinese. It’s also working to promote its English-language websites.

Research contact: @luluyilun