Technology

With Dabbl, you can earn gift cards for interacting with ads

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Dabbl is giving users a straightforward reason to interact with ads — the ads earn them money in the form of gift cards.

For example, when I signed up for Dabbl this morning, I was presented with a menu of several different campaigns. The first one that I chose was from Oreo, where I answered a bunch of questions about how I feel and what I know about Oreo products. The whole thing took about 30 seconds, and I earned 30 cents towards a gift card from businesses like AMC and Bed Bath & Beyond.

There are other companies rewarding users for watching ads, whether that’s on their smartphone lockscreen or in games. But founder and CEO Susan O’Neal told me she avoids describing Dabbl’s approach as a “reward,” because “having your time and opinion tangibly valued feels more gratifying than a reward or another kind of gimmick.”

“Media companies are compensated for delivering impressions which are supposed to represent consumer attention, whereas our users are compensated for their attention,” O’Neal said via email.

In addition, she noted that users engage with Dabble campaigns “at a time that is convenient to them,” not when they’re trying to watch another video or play a game. And the campaigns are really about active engagement, for example asking users to watch a video and answer questions about what resonated with them.

Dabbl Little Debbie

“Because there isn’t any incentive to answer randomly, we’ve found that most people answer honestly,” O’Neal said — which in turn improves the connection to the brand. Dabbl says the average campaign sees 23 seconds of active attention from each consumer.

The campaigns that I saw promised to pay between 25 and 50 cents, but O’Neal said the company is still collecting data to improve the pricing model.

Formerly known as Adjoy, Dabbl launched a customizable version of the platform for partners back in August, and it’s currently powering ShopRite’s Downtime Dollars program. Today, it’s launching its a direct-to-consumer Dabbl app, and a self-service campaign manager for brands to promote themselves through the app.

Dabbl is currently available on Android and the web, with plans to launch on iOS in the future..

Featured Image: Mix3r/Shutterstock

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Hear about the future of space propulsion at Disrupt Berlin

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If hardware is hard, rockets must be even harder. Natalya Bailey should know. She’s the co-founder and CEO of Accion Systems, a startup spun out of MIT’s Space Propulsion Laboratory that is developing a new type of propulsion for spacecraft. Today we’re announcing she’ll take the Disrupt Berlin stage along with Shasta Ventures founder and managing director Rob Coneybeer.

General admission tickets are available at early bird pricing, too, in case, you know, you want to attend the 2-day event and see this talk in person.

Bailey and her co-founder Louis Perna founded Accion System in 2014 in an attempt to commercialize the propulsion technology they developed at MIT. In 2015 they demonstrated it working for the first time in space. But this propulsion system isn’t a rocket engine the size of a Tesla semi. The system Accion is building is the size of a quarter and designed for micro-satellites.

The company is now several years old and raised a total of $12.5M with Coneybeer’s Shasta Ventures leading Accion System’s Series A in May 2016. We’re excited to have the pair. Together they represent an interesting cross-section of practical science meets startups and we’ll be sure to inquire on advice other entrepreneurs can use to build companies and products for outer space.

Throughout Disrupt Berlin attendees will hear about the latest technology and how it can make an impact on businesses. The show is jam-packed, and just like every Disrupt, the focus is on startups and the bleeding edge of technology. Fifteen startups are launching in Startup Battlefield and hundreds of young companies are exhibiting in Startup Alley. And though spots are limited, every Disrupt attendee can participate CrunchMatch, a free program that connects founders and investors based on their specific criteria, goals and interests.

General admission tickets are still available. We hope to see you at the show. This is the second Disrupt we’ve held in Berlin and we’re excited to be back. The area’s startup scene is bursting with new startups and investors. We couldn’t stay away any longer.

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Sellers can now invoice buyers through PayPal’s new chat extension for Messenger

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PayPal and Facebook are expanding their integrations today with the launch of an extension for Messenger that allows PayPal sellers to invoice buyers directly through private messaging. The feature is ideal for use with Facebook’s numerous Buy and Sell groups as well as Facebook Marketplace, in addition to being an easy way to send PayPal invoices in general.

The launch comes on the heels of last month’s debut of person-to-person PayPal payments in Messenger, and the arrival of PayPal’s first customer service Messenger bot for handling customer questions and requests for help.

The two companies had been working closely together prior to that, too, including through a partnership announced last year that allowed U.S. customers to shop online merchants via their Messenger bots, then transact in the app via PayPal.

This time, the focus is on shifting small business transactions and those between buyers and sellers into Messenger.

The new PayPal chat extension allows a seller to create and send their invoice without leaving the their conversation, so the buyer can act on it immediately. To use the extension, sellers open the extension tray in Messenger, select PayPal, then create a simple invoice by filling in details like item name, description, price and quantity. The invoice can also include a photo.

When the buyer receives the invoice, they just press “Pay with PayPal” to complete the transaction. If they’re signed into OneTouch, they can checkout without having to re-authenticate with their password.

Like other PayPal transactions, those taking place over Messenger are covered by PayPal Purchase Protection for Buyers – meaning, when the invoice is issued and paid, buyers are protected.

PayPal says the Messenger integration is only one of other partnerships it has planned to help make commerce easier wherever transactions are occurring, but doesn’t have any other deals it’s preparing to announce at this time.

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The launch could have a notable impact on how business is done on Facebook. The social network said last fall that its Buy and Sell groups were visited by some 450 million people monthly; and Messenger today has 1.3 billion monthly users. Meanwhile, Facebook has recently been expanding its investment in Marketplace, having just added dedicated sections for cars and housing rentals, in an effort to better compete with Craigslist.

At the time, the company said search volume in Marketplace had grown 3X globally since the start of 2017, with 18 million listings being added in the U.S. alone in May. There was also 77 percent growth in unique conversations between buyers and sellers over the first half of this year, Facebook noted.

That leaves room for a product like PayPal’s to aid with transactions, given Facebook’s lack of interest in building out a payments business itself.

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Misfit’s new hybrid smartwatch offers a better notification system

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Hybrid smartwatches are a weird category right now. No one’s really mastered the perfect balance between the smart and dumb, though a handful of products have done a decent job, most notably Withings/Nokia’s Steel/Steel HR line. Fossil-owned wearables company Misfit has made some valiant efforts, as well, including the Phase — though the model was a bit of a mixed bag.

The Command is really the direct successor to that line (though the Phase is still around at a reduced price, for what it’s worth). It’s got the same standard array of features, including basic fitness tracking, smartphone notifications and a “smart button” that can do things like trigger a picture or music playback on a connected phone.

The device also attempts to correct some of its biggest issues. The new watch is thinner than its predecessor (though, it’s still kind of big) and features a new mode to attempt to get around the whole problem of offering up notifications without a display.

With the Phase, the company offered up a small circle on the bottom of the watch face that changed colors based on the kind of notification that was coming through. It was nice though, but in practice, it was a pain in the butt trying to remember all of those arbitrary associations.

To address this, the Command features a subeye mini-face similar to what Nokia has on its watches. On the left side is a progress bar that uses the small hand to show how close you are toward achieving your daily step goal. On the right are a number of small icons associated with different functions. It’s still not perfect, but it seems to be a positive step away from the Phase’s inscrutability.

The design’s not bad either, though it’s a bit more brutalist than the Phase. It’s big and industrial and metallic, with a face that has a bit of a maritime aesthetic. It’s pretty good-looking for a hybrid smartwatch, though. The Command runs on the same standard watch battery as its predecessor, which should last up to a year.

It’s up for pre-order starting today at $150. It will start shipping on the 28th. 

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Capital One begins journey as a software vendor with the release of Critical Stack Beta

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If every company is truly a software company, Capital One is out to the prove it. It was one of the early users of Critical Stack, a tool designed to help build security into the container orchestration process. In fact, it liked it so much it bought the company in 2016, and today it’s releasing Critical Stack in Beta.

This is a critical step toward becoming a commercial product, giving the bank its first entrée into software selling.

Capital One is embracing modern applications delivery methods like containerization, and it needed a tool specifically tuned to the security requirements of a financial services company. That’s what Critical Stack purports to give it, and they liked it so much, they thought others who required a similar level of security would too.

Critical Stack is compatible with Kubernetes, the popular container orchestration tool, but it’s been designed to provide a higher level of security than the base product, while giving large institutions like banks a packaged approach to container orchestration.

“One of the many strengths of Kubernetes is its rapid development cycle. You understand how challenging that can be to keep up with that moving target. We have an orchestration layer that has an abstraction away from that. Critical Stack is a stand-alone tool within the ecosystem of tools compatible with Kubernetes,” Liam Randall, Critical Stack president and co-founder told TechCrunch.

Critical Stack does everything you would expect a Kubernetes distribution to do including managing the container delivery and lifecycle management, but it’s specifically designed to allow operations to automate security and compliance policies around the containers, something banks and other highly regulated businesses need to do.

The company also concentrated on putting that kind of functionality in an interface that’s easy to use.

Photo: Critical Stack

While the company isn’t open sourcing this tool, they believe by selling it, they can get a similar set of benefits. “When you think about a lot of the great platforms, the best lessons learned come from working with other partners,” Randall said. While he and his team found a broad set of use cases internally, they felt that getting the product into the hands of others would only help enhance it — and it doesn’t hurt they could make some money doing it.

Featured Image: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

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Google collects data on Android users’ locations when location services are turned off, report says

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A 3D printed Android logo is seen in front of a displayed cyber code in this illustration taken March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration - RTSBS6B

A 3D printed Android logo is seen in front of a displayed cyber code in this illustration taken March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration – RTSBS6B

A new report shows that Google has been accessing data about Android users’ locations, even when the user believes that the data is being kept private.

According to a report from Quartz, Google has been able to access users’ data about their locations due to Android phones collecting addresses of cell towers. That data is then sent back to Google, which may be an invasion of privacy, the report says.

Google confirmed the practice to Quartz, but said that it was ending the practice at the end of the month, Quartz reported.

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“In January of this year, we began looking into using Cell ID codes as an additional signal to further improve the speed and performance of message delivery,” a Google spokesperson told Quartz. “However, we never incorporated Cell ID into our network sync system, so that data was immediately discarded, and we updated it to no longer request Cell ID.”

Fox News has put in an additional request to Google to clarify a number of issues, such how the additional information improved speed and performance of message delivery, the exact date the practice will end and what steps were taken to show the data was discarded.

Google has built its business on advertising, of which location sharing is an important part. In its most recent quarter, parent company Alphabet said it generated $27.7 billion in revenue, of which just over $24 billion came from advertising. Between Google and Facebook, they take in nearly 85 cents of every $1 spent on digital advertising. according to some estimates.

Research firm eMarketer said in September it expects the duopoly to account for 63.1 percent of total U.S. digital ad spend, up from a prior outlook of 60.1 percent.

Eric Feinberg, of GIPEC -Cyber Intelligence Company believes this practice is a huge risk for people, especially people whose location have to be hidden for a reason. “I think it has the possiblity of putting people at risk, especially users in the military and government jobs that may not want that may not want their locations disclosed due to the sensitivity of these jobs,” Feinberg told Fox News via email.

There are approximately 215,000 cell towers in the U.S. as of September 2017, compared to just 900 in 1985, prior to the modern day explosion of smart devices such as phones and tablets. On average, the maximum range of a cell tower is just under 22 miles, but if multiple towers are used, it could pinpoint a user’s location to approximately a quarter-mile or closer if it’s in an urban area, like a major city.

Quartz noted that the tracking practice did not appear to be limited to any one Android phone or tablet. Even after the device was reset to a factory default setting and location services were disabled, Quartz still noted that the location was being transmitted to Google.

Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

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You can virtually inhabit Toyota’s new humanoid robot

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Toyota has a new, third-generation humanoid robot bears the charming name “T-HR3” and is designed to be a helpful and safe assistant to humans. It also features a so-called “master maneuvering systems,” which is essentially a VR-powered remote operating platform that a human can use to have the T-HR3 mirror its movements. Yes, kind of like a jaeger from kaiju movie Pacific Rim.

The T-HR3 is designed to work in an assistant capacity to humans across a range of different potential uses, including in-home care, at hospitals, on construction sites, in areas impacted by disaster and even, Toyota says, in the far reaches of outer space. The robot resembles a somewhat short person with long arms and smooth white panels covering its mechanical bits, with optical sensors but into the head.

An operator in the Master Maneuvering System has both arm and leg coverings that will convey their movements to the robot, allowing the operator to use a full range of motion to walk in place, manipulate arms and even grip with direct translation of their natural actions. The operator can also see from the robot’s perspective, thanks to a head-mounted display (an HTC Vive, in the video) they wear.

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The synced up movement also has safeguards in place to ensure that the robot’s movements don’t interfere with the operator, so that you can’t accidentally (or intentionally, I guess) club yourself with the bot while sitting in the chair.

Remotely operated, dexterous humanoid robots have a lot of potential across basically all of human activity. And if we happen to need to defend against inter-dimensional kaiju invaders, at least now we have a path to make that happen.

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Investors, find Disrupt Berlin Startup Alley companies here

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Listen up, investors at Disrupt Berlin 2017. This one’s for you.

We’re thrilled to announce that you can now peruse the companies that will be on display in the Startup Alley at Disrupt Berlin 2017 on our handy Startup Alley Hub.

In addition to being a fantastic resource, the site is mobile-friendly, so you can easily view info on all of your favorite Alley companies right from your mobile device at the conference.

The hub is separated into days and categories, so you can see all the e-commerce companies that will be on display on day 1 of the conference, for example, making it simple to keep track of the companies you’re interested in talking to.

Each company on the hub has a profile that contains information about the company and their product or service, as well as any investors in the company thus far and how much money they’ve raised to date. The profile also contains contact information for the company’s founders and other representatives so you have all the information you need to get in touch right at your fingertips.

And if you’re so inclined, you can share interesting company profiles with your followers on social media sites with the share buttons on the left side of each company profile.

We wanted to make it easy for all the investors at Disrupt to learn more about the companies they’ll be connecting with in Startup Alley, and we think the Startup Alley hub is a pivotal resource for you as you plan your days at the show.

Speaking of the show, Disrupt Berlin 2017 takes place 4-5 December at Arena Berlin, and we can’t wait to see all of you VCs, entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts at the show.

And if you somehow still haven’t purchased your Disrupt Berlin ticket, you can do so here and save big before Early Bird sales end this Wednesday.

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HPE adds recommendations to AI tech from Nimble acquisition

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When HPE acquired Nimble Storage in March for a cool billion dollars, it knew it was getting some nifty flash storage technology. But it also got Nimble’s InfoSight artificial intelligence capabilities that not only monitored the underlying storage arrays, but all of the adjacent datacenter technology.

Today, the company announced it has enhanced that technology to provide recommendations based on the body of data from Nimble’s 10,000 customers.

Bill Philbin, HPE SVP and GM for storage and big data solutions, says when companies are running applications, they need to know when things are going to go wrong before it happens. It’s not unlike sensors telling a factory owner that the machine is going to break soon. It allows you to take action proactively on your terms before something breaks down.

“As customers look how to build datacenters more efficiently, one of the biggest areas they struggle with is how to provide an optimal applications experience for consumers,” he said. The InfoSight tool can give them insight into how to optimize the hardware these applications are running on.

The company is not only looking at the individual customer’s datacenter to make recommendations. It’s using the entire Nimble customer base (and eventually extending that to other HPE storage products) to understand what issues trigger problems. When it sees a similar set of issues across multiple customers, the system learns the optimal way to fix that and can make the appropriate recommendation on how to repair or prevent a potential problem.

The way it works is the company collects millions of data points from the storage arrays, hypervisors and virtual machines under its purview, then encrypts and anonymizes the data and sends it to the InfoSight cloud analytics engine, where the data gets processed in real time and presented to customers. The customers log into the InfoSight portal to see how the system is doing at any given moment and get recommendations on how to keep the system stable and running smoothly.

In addition to the recommendation enhancements, they are also announcing InfoSight for 3Par, another storage solution that HP bought in 2010. This gives 3Par customers access to a similar solution for its line of storage products.

Philbin say adding this technology to 3Par is just a starting point. The company wants to eventually have InfoSight running across the entire storage product set to provide a similarly rich set of information and recommendations for each group of storage products in the HPE family.

Featured Image: Getty Images

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Baidu and electric vehicle startup NIO lead $195M investment in Chinese limo booking app

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Chinese internet giant Baidu is continuing its push into the automotive space after it led a RMB 1.3 billion ($195 million) Series B investment in Shouqi Limousine & Chauffeur, an offshoot of the state-owned Shouqi Group which was Beijing’s first licensed ride-hailing app.

NIO Capital, the investment arm of billion-dollar electric car startup NIO, and Silk Road Huachuang joined the round, which added RMB700 million (US$105 million) to an original RMB600 million (US$88 million) Series B announced in July.

Shouqi Limousine & Chauffeur does just as the name implies. It competes with ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing but differs in its approach — preferring to own its fleet of cars rather than encouraging drivers to own provide a vehicle themselves, the approach that Didi, Uber and others favor.

Right now, Shouqi claims a fleet of 60,000 cars which cover 53 cities and districts across China. The business has more than 20 million registered users, of which 2.4 million are active, it added. Those figures are dwarfed by Didi — which claims over 450 million users — but Shouqi said its limousine and chauffeur business has seen success thanks to the fact that it adheres to China’s ride-hailing regulations.

Now with this funding it plans to go after the electric vehicle market with help from Baidu — which operates the Apollo self-driving car platform — and NIO’s experience and platform. It also plans to go after  ring artificial intelligence into its service using Baidu’s DuerOS platform and NIO’s smarts.

Shouq was valued at $750 million when it closed the first portion of the round in July but there’s no update on that figure following the closure of this second installment.

Featured Image: Visual China Group

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