Tag Archives: Future

The Cars of the Paris Auto Show Reveal a Quirky, Urban, Electric Future
October 7, 2018 12:01 am|Comments (0)

The Renault Ez-Ultimo brings the high-end glitz to the show this year. Just because cities of the future may prioritize ride sharing over private cars doesn’t mean you should have to slum it on the way to opening night at the Opéra national de Paris.

This rounded bronze box is about as far from a production car as a concept can be (could those wheels even turn? where’s the ground clearance for cobbled streets?) but Renault says it shows a vision of an autonomous future, where passengers demand more from vehicles. In particular, the interior “reflects French elegance” with wood, leather, and marble.

Citroën went the opposite direction, unveiling a very real, very modest EV. The DS3 Crossback E-Tense is a fashionable crossover SUV, and an update on Citroen’s tres popular DS3 supermini car. The electric version comes with a 50-kWh battery—about half that of a high-end Tesla—a range of 186 miles on the generous European test cycle, and a 0-60 time of 8.7 seconds. None of those specs are going to blow buyers away, but at the right (to be revealed) price, the quirky car, with sharp angles and odd window cutouts, could rival the Nissan Leaf or Renault Zoe, as a city runabout.

Europe has taken styling cues from the US for the Peugeot E-Legend concept, albeit with a little added flair. There are plenty of muscle car hints in the styling, with a side profile reminiscent of the modern Dodge Challenger, and a Mustang-like front squint. Of course it’s a concept, so it’s electric and autonomous, and supposed to show that those things don’t have to be boring or bland.

The retro theme continues inside with velvet upholstery and fake wood screensavers for the displays when they aren’t in use. It’ll apparently have a 100-kWh battery pack and all-wheel drive, but it’s so concept-y that wise money should be on all that potentially changing, if and when the E-Legend makes it to production.

It wouldn’t be a European auto show without a city car, and Smart is the brand synonymous with cars so small they can be parked end-on to a curb. The Smart Forease moves that theme into an electric age. The rather optimistic concept banks on the future always being sunny, given that it doesn’t have a roof. Not even an optional one. (Have these people been to Europe?)

Smart has already stopped the sales of all internal combustion engined cars in the US, and if this car makes it across the Atlantic (and to reality) it could find a place in some Californian garages. The Golden State has good EV electric rebates, and as close to a guarantee of good weather as you’re going to find.

Infiniti is keeping it real with its Project Black S hybrid, based on a Q60 coupe and its V6 engine. Infiniti engineers turned to electrification, and lessons from partner Renault’s Formula 1 team (there’s the French connection) to give the machine an e-boost.

It’s a hybrid, but one that delivers performance rather than economy. The three motors add 213 horsepower to bring the total to 563, and drop the 0-60 mph time to under four seconds.

Toyota didn’t use the Paris show to unveil radical new concepts, but did introduce a term that will be new to most buyers: self-charging hybrids. This is no magical perpetual motion-type technology: Self-charging hybrids are just cars that can run on battery power, but can’t be plugged in. The type Toyota has been selling for years with the Prius, when they used to be just called “hybrids.” As they’ve gone from being radical, to commonplace, to somewhat lame given the influx of more robust electric options, Toyota is looking to rebrand to remind people that the tech is still quite clever, and does save fuel.

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Telexistence Robot Is The Future Of Shopping You've Seen In Movies
June 2, 2018 6:05 pm|Comments (0)

, Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Telexistence inc

Telexistence Model H unveil

Telexistence Inc is a Tokyo-based robotic startup that I stumbled upon that made me think about the future of retail. Telexistence unveiled its first mass production prototype for Model H. The premise is simple, the drone is dormant until a user logs on with a VR headset and starts moving it around. While the kit in the video is bulky (and I am not sure why that is the case) in the future it’s likely to be as simple as logging into a social network. In a way, this is the future that Mark Zuckerburg wants and one I can see happen en mass if drones start to really take off.

Per the Telexistence website; “Telexistence® is a concept of using a remote robot as his or her extended being, to release humans from space-time constraints.” The ideas was first proposed by Dr. Susumu Tachi, Professor Emeritus Professor of the University of Tokyo in 1980. It is an evolutionary form of a master-slave robot system where the operator receives sensor information from the remotely located robot and controls the robot to conduct remote tasks. When I saw the video, I thought of ‘I,Robot‘ – the Will Smith movie mixed with ‘Surrogates’ (Bruce Willis). While Telexistence is more about going to places you can’t, the idea of an ‘extended being’ and ‘master-slave robot system’ just sounds way cool and will capture the imagination of brands and business around the world.

The system looks pretty simple (but obviously isn’t) and while it does feature elements like infrared 3D location measurement, VR and haptic devices the system isn’t made for out of home or office use (in case you were wondering). The robot is also battery powered although no specifics are given on the website so it – like VR – may not be for long periods of usage.

Apart from the obvious uses for people of reduced mobility, this system could also help the lazy or those that are annoyed by endless browsing…quite a large percentage of online shoppers. The Telexistence system also potentially limits returns if the system knows what will fit you, and what will not, based on measurements that a user could give it. When a 1/3 of shopping is returned, minimising this is a change worth making for many.

Best of all, the system could extend opening hours, essentially making a closed store operate 24-7 (even though the video does show a human shopworker). Equally, the “store” could be faked and simply an extension of the e-commerce functionality and the shipment could be sent from any warehouse or even couriered to the buyer. It’s all up for grabs at this stage as people fight for the last mile and how to beat Amazon.

Telexistence might just have given retailers looking to get an edge on Amazon a chance to move their business sideways before they are overtaken or replaced. Start testing it now, the price of VR is dropping and consumers like to shop – Telexistence might just be the tool retailers have been looking for that’s easy to implement. 

Find out more about Telexistence here.

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Chesapeake Energy: Blind Faith In The Future
April 22, 2018 6:04 pm|Comments (0)

Chesapeake Energy (CHK) management today announced the payment of preferred dividends in cash. Mr. Market remarkably appears to accept this as proof positive of the continuing company financial progress by keeping the preferred stock and bond prices at decent levels. Yet the common stock appears to disagree.

Source: Seeking Alpha Website April 20, 2018

Maybe it is time for the preferred and bondholders to have a good look at the underlying fundamentals shaking up the common shareholders for a dose of reality. Progress is in the eyes of the beholder. So maybe it is time to get together for a far more unanimous assertion as to the current fundamental situation.

Source: Chesapeake Energy Fourth Quarter, 2017, Earnings Press Release

The market appears to have forgotten that the company lost billions in the previous year. The return to profits in 2017 was accompanied by puny cash flow that could not even cover the capital budget. Therefore, some part of the cash spent on dividends, interest, and capital expenditures was paid for by either property sales as well as more debt. This is not a case where preferred dividends and interest were affordable to the company. Clearly as shown above, the cash flow could not handle either. Therefore the payment of both is definitely not a sign of company health.

Instead it is a sign of management valiantly trying to hang onto reasonable credit terms and market acceptance. So far, management has been able to refinance debt and improve the debt profile tremendously. But the common price action may be the beginning of the end of this strategy. The market appears to be heading towards a new reality that may increase the forward challenges for management. If that is the case, it may turn out to be bad news for both bondholders and preferred stockholders as well as common shareholders.

Source: Chesapeake Energy March, 2018, Scotia Howard Weil Energy Conference Slide Presentation

The whole problem can be neatly summarized above. Despite all the ballyhooed progress management has made involving the gas operations (or any operations for that matter), legitimate free cash flow remains elusive. Not only is free cash flow elusive, but sufficient cash flow to service the debt has been delayed by weakening gas prices. Gas production appears to be in overdrive as a consequence of increasing oil production. Investors can probably blame rising oil prices for the rapidly expanding supply of gas in the face of weak gas prices.

Management is running hard to keep the operational improvements ahead of the weakening gas prices. The first slide does show some cash flow progress with the expectation of more cash flow progress this year. But the market appears tiring of the delay of obtaining sufficient cash flow.

It is not unusual to post earnings after years of impairment charges and losses. All that is necessary for earnings is a very conservative impairment charge reporting strategy followed by an aggressive (but GAAP approved) routine reporting strategy. Of those two the conservative impairment reporting strategy is by far the most important. The more conservative the impairment charges, the more likely that profits will be reported in the near future.

Source: Chesapeake Energy March, 2018, Scotia Howard Weil Energy Conference Slide Presentation

The company financial strain shows in the company presentation. Despite the improvements in production shown above, the management is opting to maintain production. Clearly, management needs to grow production considerably to escape the debt stranglehold on the company finances. Yet as shown above, the best that management can accomplish is production maintenance.

Oil production in particular should be coveted enough until production increases of oil are a high priority. Yet that does not appear to be the case for the Eagle Ford as shown above. Overall production growth, if any, will not be sufficient to change the overall financial health picture.

The common stock appears to be responding to this reality. There is every chance that management should suspend the preferred dividends regardless of the consequences to drill more oil wells. All the equities would benefit from this strategy.

Source: Chesapeake Energy March, 2018, Scotia Howard Weil Energy Conference Slide Presentation

The cash flow from operations (the GAAP measure) is projected to be insufficient yet again to properly service the debt. Not much debt is currently due. However, the company does have a negative working capital balance and will need the current property sales to fill the gap between budgeted expenditures and cash flow from operations. The roughly $ 10 billion debt balance was probably not decrease materially even with the property sales.

Oil prices have definitely rallied to some decent price levels. But there are far too many projects that can breakeven at far lower prices for oil prices to stay at current levels or higher for more than a year. That is probably not enough time for this company to resolve its financial challenges.

The common stock may be reflecting the dim financial outlook of the company. Maybe it is time for the other securities to pay attention. Buy and hold investors may want to avoid all the securities of this company until the current situation resolves itself. There is far safer preferred stocks and bond investments than Chesapeake Energy.

Management has done very well to achieve the progress made. But that progress does not represent an investment opportunity. Disciplined traders may yet have some trading opportunities in the securities of Chesapeake Energy. But the company securities are far too dangerous for a buy and hold strategy.

Disclaimer: I am not an investment advisor, and this article is not meant to be a recommendation of the purchase or sale of stock. Investors are advised to review all company documents and press releases to see if the company fits their own investment qualifications.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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Uber still believes autonomous vehicles have a future, says CEO
April 11, 2018 6:10 pm|Comments (0)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi said on Wednesday that the ride-sharing company still believes in the prospects for autonomous transport after one of its self-driving vehicles was involved in a fatal crash in Arizona last month.

FILE PHOTO – Dara Khosrowshahi, Chief Executive Officer of Uber Technologies, attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Picture

A 49-year-old woman was killed after being hit by an Uber self-driving sports utility vehicle while walking across a street in Phoenix, leading the company to suspend testing of autonomous vehicles.

Khosrowshahi declined to say when the company might resume testing or what might have gone wrong. He said the company was cooperating with federal investigators and dealing with the incident “very seriously.”

The accident has raised questions about the lack of clear safety standards for such vehicles.

But, speaking at a transport forum, Khosrowshahi said Uber was still betting on the technology in the long-term.

“We believe in it,” he said, adding that Uber considered autonomous vehicles “part of the solution” and in the long-term key to eliminating individual car ownership.

“Autonomous (vehicles) at maturity will be safer,” he said.

The company’s interest in investing in bike sharing and public transit should not be interpreted as a move away from self-driving cars, he added.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating the incident.

“They are a neutral party,” said Khosrowshahi. “They understand this.”

“We’ll figure out what we do afterwards.”

Arizona’s governor suspended Uber’s ability to test self-driving cars on public roads in the state following the crash. Arizona had been a key hub for Uber’s autonomous project, with about half of the company’s 200 self-driving cars and a staff of hundreds.

Governor Doug Ducey last month called a video of the incident “disturbing and alarming” and the crash “an unquestionable failure.”

NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt on Tuesday told Reuters he had no update on the investigation.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Susan Thomas and Rosalba O’Brien

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This Week in the Future of Cars: Working Through the Chaos
April 6, 2018 6:01 pm|Comments (0)

About 8 months ago, Tesla CEO Elon Musk warned his troops that building the Model 3 would require “production hell.” For once, the man known to sometimes be a bit too optimistic about timelines nailed it. Last year’s Tesla’s production numbers were dismal; now, according to numbers released this week, they’re looking up.

Meanwhile, WIRED’s Transpo team explored why self-driving car crashes look different from human ones; how the electric car could fare after Environmental Protection Agency rolled back fuel economy standards this week; and why an electronic logging rule has truckers shaking their horn-honking fists at the Trump administration.

It was a messy week. Let’s get you caught up.

Headlines

Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

  • Last Friday night, Tesla announced that its Autopilot feature was activated when a Model X carrying driver Wei Huang crashed into a highway barrier last week, killing him. As senior writer Jack Stewart reports, the crash comes amidst a wider debate about the role of humans in semiautonomous vehicles. Should engineers ever expect (imperfect) to compensate for (imperfect) tech?

  • EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt went ahead and rolled back rules that would have forced the auto industry to nearly double 2012’s fuel economy standards by 2025. But transportation editor Alex Davies explains why there’s still hope for electric vehicles: China’s aggressive electric vehicle quotas and environment-loving millennials.

  • When a video showing the fatal collision between a self-driving Uber and a woman on an Arizona road came out, it almost made sense at first—of course the car didn’t see the pedestrian on a darkened road. But as I discovered, self-driving car crashes and fender-benders don’t look like human crashes. Car software can miss things that seem obvious to humans, and yet also prevent collisions that look downright unpreventable.

  • Tesla’s last week of the first quarter looked pretty good, Model-3-production-wise. But as Jack reports, the electric carmaker still needs to bring consistency to its production line.

  • Contributor Nick Stockton reports on the hottest topic at this year’s Mid-American Trucking Show: electronic logging devices. The tech, now required by law, replaces the pen and paper logging systems that truckers have used to keep track of their hours for decades. But truckers aren’t happy with the new system—and had hoped the Trump administration would fix it.

Educational Work Distraction of the Week

If your goal is to waste time like a WIRED transportation staff writer, have I got a tip for you. Streetmix lets the armchair urban planner fuss about with the elements of the city street, adding bike lanes, bus lanes, sidewalks, parklets, and streetcars as they see fit. The game—created by Code for America whizzes back in 2014—is a good reminder of the tradeoffs that cities face every day. Because there’s only so much street space!

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet

In the Rearview

Essential stories from WIRED’s canon

Last year, when the Trump administration swept into Washington, Alex anticipated the conversation we’d be having today: Can the federal government really roll back pollution regulations? As he explained then, it will have a hard time—and it’s all because of California.

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Walmart patents hint at future where its drones tend the farms
March 15, 2018 6:01 am|Comments (0)

NEW YORK/CHICAGO (Reuters) – Walmart Inc’s patent filings hint that it may see a future where farmers use its drones to not only spot crop problems but selectively apply chemicals or even disperse pollen to bring shoppers the freshest and cheapest food possible.

FILE PHOTO: A Walmart store is seen in Encinitas, California, U.S. on April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

The world’s largest retailer applied for six patents last year on drones that aim to prevent damage to crops, control pest attacks on farms and cross-pollinate plants, according to U.S. Patents and Trademark Office documents that were made public last week and seen by Reuters.

Groceries make up 56 percent of the company’s total revenue and Walmart may see drone technology as one way to get food from farms to store shelves faster and more cheaply to compete with Amazon.com Inc, following its purchase of Whole Foods Market last year and the expansion of discount chains like Aldi and Lidl.

In one application, Walmart seeks to patent a system that would use drones to identify crop-damaging pests and then dispense insecticides on the critters. Another suggests the use of drones carrying pollen dispensers to successfully pollinate crops.

Using technology to precisely apply pesticides rather than spraying entire fields can benefit the environment and save money for farmers. As part of a sustainability push in recent years, Walmart has also worked with suppliers to reduce the amount of fertilizer used to grow crops because it can pollute the environment.

Walmart spokeswoman Molly Blakeman said the company always looks for new ways to serve shoppers better but had no comment on the filings. The retailer applies for dozens of patents a year and many do not result in commercial products.

Walmart previously applied for a patent involving drones that could monitor crops’ growing conditions and send data to stores about when and from where produce might arrive, said Zoe Leavitt, a senior analyst from data intelligence firm CB Insights, which analyzes corporate patent filings. The series of six applications indicates Walmart is looking into farming more seriously, she said.

Walmart has so far applied for 46 patents for using drone technology, mostly to facilitate its delivery and logistics operations, or for use within warehouses to do things such as track inventory, according to data from CB Insights.

In U.S. agriculture, drones are most often used to survey farms that can span hundreds of acres. The devices fly above fields and take photos that help growers estimate the size of upcoming harvests or identify problems, such as weed infestations and nutrient deficiencies.

Other industries have also turned to drones, with AT&T Inc using the devices to look at cellphone towers in Texas last year after Hurricane Harvey. Insurers such as Allstate Corp use them to assess property damage. “The technology is very powerful and using that to control the supply chain as far out as possible will offer Walmart a distinct advantage over rivals,” said Bill Bishop, co-founder of retail consultancy Brick Meets Click.

The market for agricultural drones will top $ 1 billion by 2024, up from about $ 338 million in 2016, according to research firm Global Market Insights. However, Walmart’s patent applications stand out because they indicate the company sees greater potential to address problems on farms, rather than simply spot them, said David Dvorak, chief executive officer for Field of View, a U.S. company that sells drone camera systems. “It sounds like Walmart is trying to develop a complete system that can actually do something about it,” Dvorak said.

The patent push involving agricultural technology harks back to McDonald Corp’s efforts in the 1960s to patent the processing of potatoes into French fries so it could reliably deliver consistent quality fries at the lowest cost in massive volumes.

“Companies like Walmart for a long time have created sustainability initiatives and this is really where the rubber is meeting the road,” said Jayson Lusk, head of agricultural economics at Purdue University.

Such environmental-focused initiatives can be attractive to consumers, Lusk said. Eventually Walmart, which is courting more urban, higher income and health conscious shoppers for their online grocery business, could require suppliers to buy food from farmers who use agricultural technology to reduce chemicals to produce crops, he said.

“A way how this might come down is the imposition of standards on their suppliers,” Lusk said.

Reporting by Nandita Bose in New York and Tom Polansek in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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Disney creates streaming video unit for digital future
March 14, 2018 6:13 pm|Comments (0)

[unable to retrieve full-text content]LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Walt Disney Co said on Wednesday it had created a new unit for its streaming video and international businesses as the company retools its traditional media operation for a world rapidly embracing online video.
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Gadget Lab Podcast: Pixel Buds, AirPods, and the Future of Ear Computers
November 18, 2017 12:00 am|Comments (0)

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'The future is exciting. Ready?' asks Vodafone in new ad push
October 5, 2017 12:00 am|Comments (0)

LONDON (Reuters) – “The future is exciting. Ready?”, Vodafone is asking in a new campaign it hopes will capture a sense of optimism about technology, an association mobile operators have to some extent lost in recent years to the likes of Facebook, Google and Apple.

The slogan, which replaces “Power to You”, in use since 2009, will be deployed in all of the company’s 36 markets from Friday in the biggest ad campaign in its 33-year history, Vodafone said.

“Technology can be complex, can be overwhelming and can sometimes alienate people,” said Serpil Timuray, Vodafone’s chief commercial operations and strategy officer.

”But at the same time we know that digital innovations have significant benefits for individuals and for societies.

“In order to express this point of view, we will be repositioning the Vodafone brand on the theme of future optimism.”

The new strapline has echoes of “The future’s bright. The future’s Orange” – a slogan that helped Orange establish itself as a new rival to Vodafone when it launched in 1994.

Vodafone, the world’s second largest mobile operator, declined to say how much it was spending on the brand overhaul, which also includes a new visual identity based on its “speech mark” logo.

Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Mark Potter

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Why Cloud Video Conferencing Is the Future?
May 16, 2017 9:00 am|Comments (0)

In such a large market, cloud computing will play an increasingly important role. More and more video conferencing service providers such as ezTalks …


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