Lyft valuation hits $15.1 billion after fresh $600 million in funding

Lyft has raised an additional $600 million in a Series I financing round led by Fidelity Management & Research Company, pushing its post-money valuation to $15.1 billion. The company’s value has more than doubled in the past 14 months.

Senator Investment Group LP joined Fidelity in the capital raise. Fidelity has poured more than $800 million into the ride-hailing company, making it one of Lyft’s largest investors.

Lyft has spent the past 18 months aggressively expanding into new U.S. cities, as well as into Canada and pursuing its autonomous vehicle ambitions. Lyft’s plans — along with some of rival Uber’s scandalous missteps — have helped the company increase its market share in the U.S. to 35 percent. In January 2017, Lyft had just 22 percent market share in the United States.

Of course, scaling up is a costly affair. And Lyft has spent the past year seeking investor money. The ride-hailing company has raised $2.9 billion in primary capital — that includes the $600 million announced Wednesday — since April 2017.

In total, Lyft has raised $5.1 billion since its inception. Other investors from previous rounds include AllianceBernstein, Baillie Gifford, KKR, Janus CapitalG, Rakuten and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

Teachers can put Chromebooks on lockdown when giving Classroom quizzes

Technology’s heavy hitters are in Chicago this week, showing off their latest ed-tech offerings at International Society for Technology in Education conference. For Google, that means some key updates to Classrooms, the free, browser-based educational software that’s currently used by “over 30 million students” globally, by its count.

The app is getting a number of tweaks, including, most notably, more control over quizzes. The Google Forms Quiz now features a “locked mode,” which prohibits students from surfing the web or opening apps until the answers are submitted — in other words, it stops them from cheating on the machine, while taking a test.

Interestingly, this is the first feature added to the app that’s exclusive to managed Chromebooks — i.e. those devices that are sold with the sole purpose of being used in the classroom. That marks a change for the app, which is otherwise open and platform agnostic, for any machine that can access the web. The reason here seems pretty straight-forward, of course — locking users out of other apps requires a lot more system control than more standardized features.

Also new is a Classwork page, which is designed to be a sort of go-to destination for both teachers and students, organizing questions and assignments in a single destination. Among other things, that information can now be organized by topic or unit, whereas everything was previously just categorized by date. The new People page, meanwhile. lets teachers add and remove fellow teachers, students and guardians, while other tweaks have been made to the Stream and system settings pages.

Microsoft also used the occasion to announce new lesson plans from partners like the BBC and an Aquatic DLC for Minecraft: Education Edition.

Most People Are Dead Wrong About Bitcoin and Criminals

It seems that these days, cryptocurrency can’t catch a break in the news cycle.

In early April, the Securities and Exchange Commission urged a federal judge to freeze $27 million that was allegedly garnered through the illegal sale of shares in LongFin — a company whose stock shot from $5 to $142 after announcing it was acquiring a cryptocurrency business. At the same time, the Federal Trade Commission charged a group of individuals with fraud. They’re accused of promoting an allegedly deceptive investment scheme by fooling investors into paying them via bitcoin or Litecoin, while another defendant is also accused of promoting the allegedly deceptive cryptocurrency Jetcoin.

Headlines like these give off the impression that the crypto space is inherently nefarious. And you wouldn’t be alone in assuming that bitcoin and other digital currencies are assets aimed at criminals transacting in secret. But it’s important to understand that cryptocurrencies are not anonymous; rather, they’re pseudonymous. You know what else is pseudonymous? Checking accounts.

Cryptocurrencies are actually more transparent than traditional finance. In our current double-blind system, the Fedwire Funds Service and Automated Clearing House (ACH) Network route payments without knowing the provenance of the funds, so we rely on Financial Institution members to self-police. In the world of digital assets, the practice is similar, but we can isolate bad actors and track their funds in the system. Crypto can easily be more secure than your checking account, but there are too many people in the crypto space taking shortcuts — either out of ignorance or laziness.

For instance, Japan’s Coincheck exchange service is the most recent large-scale hacking victim, losing $500 million worth of NEM coins. It’s an alarming sum of money, to be sure, but even more alarming is the fact that Coincheck admitted to storing NEM funds in a “hot wallet” online instead of a “cold wallet” offline. It also failed to use multisignature wallets, which require at least two (and often more) signatures before funds are released.

We don’t have a security problem in the crypto space — we have a competency problem.

Putting Things in Perspective

In a recent article for The Guardian, J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon was quoted saying: “If you were in Venezuela or Ecuador or North Korea or a bunch of parts like that, or if you were a drug dealer, a murderer, stuff like that, you are better off doing it in bitcoin than U.S. dollars. So there may be a market for that, but it would be a limited market.”

Dimon’s argument does hold water — to a point. Some terrible things have certainly been financed by bitcoin, including drug purchases, money laundering, prostitution, etc., but U.S. dollars are the most popular currency used to finance these operations.

Dollars backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government have financed exponentially more illegal activity and terrorists than bitcoin. Criminals use money just like regular people, but at least bitcoin provides an immutable public record of all transactions. You can’t say the same for cash.

In fact, bitcoin is becoming less popular with criminals as law enforcement units get better at tracking large amounts of the currency linked to criminal activity. Now, bad actors are favoring coins such as Monero, which are designed to prevent tracking. For instance, in December 2017, hackers held as many as 190,000 WordPress sites per hour for ransom for Monero. But because of their association with criminal activity, these currencies are unlikely to gain the legitimacy associated with other digital assets.

The Next Chapter

As I already mentioned, cryptocurrencies are actually a more transparent means of exchange because of the public nature of blockchain. Unlike cash, we can go back to the beginning of its existence and examine the origins of a specific asset, meaning that in the future, banking a crypto business need not be any riskier than banking other digital businesses. As a matter of fact, I expect crypto businesses will be less risky in the future than cash businesses.

Furthermore, as cryptocurrencies continue to gain momentum, we’ll likely see an increase in regulations — a prediction that’s already come to fruition in markets like Japan and Australia. Regulations can initially constrict market activity, but ultimately, they give both individuals and institutions the confidence to make investments.

Companies like Chainalysis have emerged to help track digital transactions associated with criminal activity and prosecute those responsible. Chainalysis caters to bitcoin businesses, banks, and exchanges in order to help them ensure they’re meeting regulatory measures.

By mapping the illicit transactions of individual customers, the startup can help trace the destination of ransom payments and identify criminals when they attempt to “cash out” their illegally procured funds at an exchange. Because this requires bank account numbers and other personally identifiable information, no matter how many times a criminal transfers money between online wallets, he or she will still be associated with the illegal activity.

Meeting Innovation Head-On

The next logical step for the crypto space is to bring it into the banks. In doing so, we’ll make sure transactions are compliant, rather than pushing them into unregulated platforms. Even still, many legacy financial institutions are resisting cryptocurrency and perceiving it as a competitive threat rather than an empowering asset. Some even refuse to acknowledge crypto’s rise in popularity.

Bank of America, for example, banned the 17,000 financial advisors in its wealth management arm, Merrill Lynch, from entering into bitcoin-related investments for clients. Additionally, the bank (along with J.P. Morgan Chase and Citigroup) has prohibited customers from buying cryptocurrencies using its credit cards, citing the increased difficulty they pose when it comes to compliance with laws, including regulations against money laundering.

Not all industry players are failing to consider how they can use blockchain technology to power innovation, though. Companies like Mastercard are pursuing their own blockchain solutions that will enable increased transparency, a dramatically increased transaction speed, and lower costs in payments across international borders.

By embracing digital currencies and the blockchain technology that powers them, financial institutions can position themselves for major competitive advantages.

With cryptocurrency in the news cycle on a weekly basis, it’s easy to fall into the trap of misinformation. But by looking past inflammatory headlines and getting to the root of crypto, you’ll uncover just how many exciting possibilities this unique space presents.

How to Create Your Own Custom Alexa Skills

Your Amazon Echo device is already pretty customizable in terms of what skills you add to it. What you may not realize is if you don’t find a skill out there that’s quite what you’re looking for, you can actually make your own using Alexa’s Skill Blueprints.

As the name implies, Alexa Skill Blueprints are templates of sorts for creating your own skills. This site houses over 20 different templates for creating everything from trivia games to your own interactive fairy tales.

When you launch a skill template the site will show you a sample of what you can do with it. Click “Make Your Own” to create a version for yourself.

Youtube/ Amazon

Every skill comes with pre-filled content that you can use just the way it is or customize to for your own unique needs.

Once you’re done creating, your skill will be available to use pretty much instantly on all the Amazon devices associated with your account. If you think you’ve got a winner on your hands, you can also share your skill with others so they can use it on their Alexa devices as well.

New patent reveals Apple is continuing to work on waterproof iPhones

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office made a new patent available to the public that suggests Apple is continuing to work on waterproofing its iPhone, Apple Insider reports. The patent shows the company might be working on accessories for its smartphones that would prevent water from entering the device.

Specifically listed as “Sealed accessories for electronic devices,” the abstract explains the patent as a connector that creates a “liquid-tight seal” when attached to the electronic device. These accessories have the ability to function normally even when in wet, moist, or dirty environments.

Rather than making the iPhone port waterproof, the patent showcases ways Apple could use elements of the connector to create the seal within the port. The document states this seal will be what protects the electronic device against “the harmful ingress of water” — which will allow for it to have an IP68 rating.

While the document doesn’t state exactly which electronic devices the accessories will apply to, the next-generation of iPhones and iPads could possibly come with the new certification. This means the devices would be capable of being immersed in 1.5 meters of water for about 30 minutes.

Apple first began waterproofing its devices with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Since then, it’s done the same with the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and iPhone X — all of which have an IP67 rating. But with that rating, iPhones can survive in one meter of water for about 30 minutes. An IP68 rating would make Apple’s next lineup of smartphones its most water-resistant yet.

For now, our pick for the best waterproof phone is Samsung’s latest flagship, the Galaxy S9, which boasts the same IP68 certification Apple is rumored to include. Its predecessor, the Galaxy S8, also included the same rating.

The patent from Apple isn’t the only one to crop up this month. Earlier in June, the company’s roundup of patents seemed to focus more on the design of the future iPhone. This includes the removal of the notch from the 2019 iPhone in an effort to embed sensors in the display itself. Another patent relates to manufacturing ceramic iPhone bodies in multiple colors, which could alter the way future iPhones look.

Is Your Business Ready for the Internet of Things?

The summer season has arrived! Warmer weather means families are spending time enjoying outdoor activities like hiking, bike rides, and beach days. With less time in the office comes more time on other devices, especially wearable technology like Apple Watches or FitBits. In other words, it is time to think about IoT security.

IoT stands for Internet of Things. Today, we are interconnected like never before, and more and more of our everyday devices are connecting to the internet and to each other. Consequently, more personal and business data is being shared. Your IT strategy must now encompass all the different ways through which you and your team are connecting to your business network.

You are probably wondering how an employee’s fitness tracker affects your cybersecurity strategy. Fitness trackers need to connect to another device like a computer or smartphone in order for the user to view all of the data they collect throughout the day, or input information like foods eaten or how many glasses of water they had. In this example, your employee might be connecting their fitness tracker to both their work and home computers. If their home computer is less secure, a hacker may be able to use the fitness tracker to also infiltrate your network. This is just one example. New IoT devices are now coming onto the market constantly. Soon, smart home assistants could be as common as smartphones. You may even make use of them in your office. With all of this innovation and change, it can be hard for your IT strategy to keep up.

IoT devices are known for being unsecured and lacking built-in security systems. They are also designed to be found and recognized by other devices, so if the default password has not been changed, it can be extremely easy for a hacker to find and access a device by exploiting a known default password. In order to secure your network in the face of increased connectivity, you need to put proactive policies in place, rather than depending on the device’s security systems. Hackers are sophisticated, and their favorite targets are those they expect to be unsecured. They assume that small-to-medium sized businesses are not investing in cybersecurity and will not keep up with the latest technology trends.

We’re here to prove the hackers wrong. With FUSE3 Communications in your corner, you can be confident that we will keep you up-to-date on the latest cybersecurity best practices. We can also help you develop and implement policies that will help manage which personal devices your employees connect to your business network, and educate them around the security steps they need to take when doing so. Even seemingly small steps, like making sure they change their devices’ default password, can make a big difference.

Contact FUSE3 Communications today. Partner with us to keep up with today’s latest technology trends and manage the risks so that hackers never catch you off guard.

Tips for safe summer travels: your cybersecurity checklist

Summer is just around the corner in the Northern Hemisphere, and with it comes vacation plans for many. Those looking to take some time away from work and home are likely making plans to secure their home, have their pets taken care of, and tie up loose ends at work. But how about securing your devices and your data while you’re away? Here are some things to take into consideration if you want to have a trip free of cyber worries.

Before you leave

Some of the things on your cybersecurity checklist can be taken care of before you leave. They include the following:

  • Make sure the operating systems and software on all the devices you are going to take along with you are up to date. Having to install updates while you are on the road can be a pain due to slow and unstable connections. Use your at-home Wi-Fi, which you know is secured with a password. (Right? If not—do that right away.)
  • You may want to take precautions to secure devices that you’ll be leaving behind in your workplace and home. If a burglar gets hold of your desktop, they should not be able to harvest any valuable data. All devices should be password protected (including the ones you are taking along with you).

  • Back up the valuable data on the devices you are bringing so that if you lose them, it won’t be a double disaster.
  • Do not announce the dates of your upcoming travel plans on social media. That’s a great way to alert criminals to case your house and break in during the time you’ll be gone. Post your travel pics when you get back. They will still be cool.
  • Disable the auto-connect options shortly before you leave and have your devices forget the network SSIDs in their lists. Threat actors can abuse these features for man-in-the-middle attacks.
  • If you have contactless debit and credit cards, get shields in which to store them so you can carry them around without leaking information.
  • Think twice about bringing a multitude of devices. The chances of anything getting damaged, stolen, or lost are much higher when you’re on the road.
  • Make sure your travel insurance covers all the devices and any other valuables you plan to take along.

While you are traveling

Travel plans can range from road trips to a nearby camping spot to flights to five-star beach resorts. Because of the wide range of travel options, some of the following advice may or may not apply:

  • If you park your car at the airport, obviously make sure no valuable devices are left behind. This is also a good time to disable the Bluetooth of your phone, because the car is probably the only useful Bluetooth connection you need. And when Bluetooth is off, it can’t be abused.
  • Airports and other waypoints on your travels will often offer public, free, and unprotected Wi-Fi. Consider the risks associated with them when you use them, or use a VPN to enhance the security by encrypting your connection.
  • If you need to use Wi-Fi at your hotel, make sure their connections are secured with passwords. And if you need to access sensitive material for work, set up VPN on your laptop beforehand.

  • Privacy screens make sure that only the person sitting straight in front of the screen can read what is on it. This can stop people from secretly watching what you are doing. Good privacy screens are easy to apply and are available for laptops and many handheld devices.
  • Don’t use public computers for sensitive Internet traffic. This certainly includes online shopping and any other financial transactions. While you are traveling, it’s safer to spend money at your destination instead of online.
  • If you use webmail to read your mail when you are away from home, keep in mind that this may be less secure then reading the mail in your favorite email client. Some webmail services have html enabled by default.
  • Use a fully updated anti-malware solution for all your devices. Malwarebytes has solutions for many operating systems and types of devices.
  • Since you may not want to take your laptop and every other device with you as you go sightseeing, make sure there is a safe place to keep the items left behind. Not every hotel safe is big enough for a laptop. Ask your hotel concierge if they have other options for securing devices. Simply leaving them behind in your room is not the safest move.

If you travel abroad

Some extra attention to detail may be required when you travel abroad.

  • Make sure you leave your country with the devices fully charged. You may need to use them for a while before you get another chance to re-charge. It may require different cables, power plugs, and adapters to charge your devices at your destination or checkpoints along the way. Come prepared.
  • Not only the US, but also some other countries will look at your social media accounts to find any information that could make you a less welcome guest. It might be prudent to remove any questionable comments to thwart further investigations.
  • If traveling into the US from abroad, be prepared that you might be asked to hand over your device and your password to get in. Make sure there is nothing to be found on it that you don’t want to be found.

When you get back

Back home safe and sound? Don’t rest yet. Check a few more things and then you can start posting online about your relaxing, fun, and incident-free vacation.

  • Update your anti-malware solution and run manual scans on your devices to check for any uninvited guests you may have picked up on the road.
  • If you bought devices abroad, check them for compliance and whether they are compromised. In some countries, devices are sold with monitoring software pre-installed.
  • Check your bank account for any unexpected withdrawals or spending. Warn your bank or credit card provider if you suspect foul play or if you have lost sight of your credit card at some point. it’s especially important to do this if you suspect your login credentials may have been stolen.
  • As an extra precaution, you may want to change the passwords that you used during your time away. If someone managed to get ahold of one during your trip, you’ll stop them from doing any damage with a changed password.

Don’t let all this ruin the fun

While most of the things mentioned above are precautions we (should) take every day, they are not the first ones that come to mind when you are planning that awesome trip you have worked for all year. But as always, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Recommended reading: 7 tips to stay cyber safe this summer

Safe travels!

The post Tips for safe summer travels: your cybersecurity checklist appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

The future of the Mac comes from iOS apps

Apple made a big splash at WWDC this year when it announced that it would be letting developers port their iOS applications over to the Mac sometime next year — and that Apple had already started the process by bringing over the iOS versions of the Home, Stocks, News, and Voice Memo apps to macOS 10.14 Mojave.

The project — rumored to be codenamed Marzipan — is still in the early stages, and Apple isn’t even planning on offering it to developers until 2019. And there’s already a fair amount of confusion and outcry over what Apple’s doing here: whether or not it will see the death of the traditional Mac app as we know it, exactly how these new kinds of apps will work, whether they’ll feel like traditional “native” Mac apps, and even whether or not it’s fair to call these apps “ports.” So here’s what’s actually going on.

To understand what Apple’s doing, first we need to understand why we’re even having this discussion in the first place. Apple wants to make it easier for mobile developers to get something like their mobile apps on the Mac.

Why? Well, for one thing, it’s clear that there are way more developers making iOS apps than Mac apps right now. The Mac app ecosystem isn’t necessarily in trouble, but compared to what has been happening on the iPhone for the past few years, it definitely feels a little stale. Making it easier to move iOS apps over to the Mac would certainly help.

As Apple developer Guilherme Rambo wrote in a piece a few years back, right now, some developers are often forced to choose between developing and supporting an iOS app or a Mac app — and in a world where there are far more iOS users, the Mac often misses out on great software.

And getting small, mobile-first apps on the desktop turns out to be wildly convenient. Having used Android on a Chromebook, it’s really great to have a lightweight app for lightweight tasks like scrolling Instagram or firing off a to-do list. Windows has been trying to do something similar with its frameworks (to limited, but increasing success), and Android apps on ChromeOS are out of beta, although they still need to add things like windowing support.

The trick in all this is how you get those mobile apps ported (or whatever word you really want to use) over from mobile to the desktop. And Apple’s solution is, in many ways, the most interesting take on this problem we’ve seen yet.

Let’s start with the difference between Mac and iOS apps. After all, at first glance, they seem to be pretty similar: they use the same base code languages, like Objective-C or Apple’s own Swift, and plenty of the underlying APIs are the same.

So what’s the difference? It seems blindingly obvious to boil it down to this, but it’s the user interface. Mac apps work with a keyboard and a mouse, while iOS apps work with a touchscreen. Simply moving iPhone apps over to the Mac in a way that’s similar to Google’s first betas of Android on ChromeOS is not the experience Apple wants. At all.

So Apple’s solution is to give developers the tools they need to make iOS apps get a more Mac-like user interface.

Until now, many Mac applications were based off a software framework called AppKit, which provides all the user interface elements that make a Mac app what it is: all the windows, menus, buttons, scrollers, and text fields, along with all the high-level software-side things your computer needs to actually display applications. AppKit dates back to the 1980s, descended from the original NeXTSTEP Application Kit. (For a more detailed history, here’s a good place to start.)

Pre-Marzipan: macOS apps are AppKit-based, and iOS apps are UIKit

When Apple developed iOS, it created an entirely new software framework for displaying applications, called UIKit, which was designed for the smaller screens and more limited touch controls that iOS devices offer. But that means that a huge chunk of how iOS apps are displayed on devices (down to the way colors are shown, as pointed out by John Gruber here) uses different fundamental code frameworks from Mac apps. Adding to that complexity is that AppKit is designed for mouse and keyboard inputs, whereas UIKit is designed for touch.

With Marzipan, Apple is looking to bring over the UIKit framework to Macs, meaning that developers will — in theory — be able to bring over a version of their applications that will run on Macs, without having to completely rewrite them from scratch for the AppKit user interface. (Additionally, by adding UIKit to macOS as a native framework, the ported apps will run natively, instead of in a simulator or emulator). Note that Apple is adding UIKit, not replacing the traditional AppKit. Both will live side by side. Here, look at a chart!

There’s already precedence for this sort of porting in Apple’s own ecosystem — iPad apps and tvOS apps for the Apple TV already work on a similar basis. They’re built in UIKit and share the same code as an iPhone version. But developers can more easily port them from one platform to another, and each platform still has its own interface with its own considerations, design, and controls. Just like you don’t expect an iPad application to simply be a giant iPhone app, or an Apple TV app to work like an iPad app with a remote control, Marzipan applications ported to the Mac — again, in theory — would have their own user interfaces and designs and layouts best suited for the desktop.

That’s the theory, anyway. But in practice, having tried out a few of Apple’s new apps on macOS Mojave, these apps feel a lot like iPad apps. You can’t tap them, of course, but there’s something about the layout and the controls that feels very much like the iPad. You can resize the windows (unlike Android apps on ChromeOS), but the redrawing of the window contents is sometimes a little slow. There’s just not a classic Mac feel to these apps.

There’s no app where that’s more apparent than the Home app, for controlling all the smart home devices you have. It looks a lot like a straight port — with big giant buttons for everything that looks like you should tap it. But you can’t tap it because Apple fundamentally believes touchscreens on laptops are a Bad Idea. As we do almost every year now, we asked Apple why that’s the case, and the answer hasn’t really changed: Apple believes touchscreens on laptops are uncomfortable to use and most user research shows that even customers with touchscreens barely use them.

But don’t come away from this thinking that the end result is going to be a bunch of apps that look and feel just like iPad apps on the Mac. These few apps Apple has released are just the first cut, and Marzipan is at least a year away from being available to developers — Apple says it’s a “long-term project.” Over the course of the next year, we expect that Apple will develop the frameworks and APIs to make these apps feel a little more native to the Mac. And as pointed out by Steve Troughton-Smith, poking around the rudimentary Marzipan support in the Mojave developer beta suggests Apple is already starting do just that: adding interface elements, like the classic Mac app sidebar to UIKit, that let developers make iOS apps feel more at home on macOS.

Plus, we’ve already seen a bunch of untapped (so to speak) potential in these apps. When I started diving into the Mac menubar for these apps, all the classic Mac File and Edit and View menu options were there. There were a few keyboard shortcuts, just not as many as you’d expect. But it would be quite simple to add more.

Right now, Marzipan is still in the early stages, and only Apple has access to it (unless you’re very good at digging through Apple’s filesystems). The four apps that Apple has ported still sure do look a lot like iOS apps that just run on a Mac, which might not be the best start as examples for developers looking to follow suit if the goal is to have good, native Mac experiences.

As Tapbots developer Paul Haddid commented on Twitter, “UIKit on Mac feels more like running an iOS App in a resizable simulator than a next gen Mac app,” and Troughton-Smith’s early experiments seem to agree, noting that the resizing of UIKit windows is currently pretty sluggish.

As noted by Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi in an interview with Wired, Apple is already planning to help developers on their way in this process. Once the tools roll out to developers next year, they’ll be able to designate in Xcode that they want to make a variant of their app that will run on macOS, which will automatically replace how some parts of the app interact. (For example: long presses on iOS will morph into a two-finger right click on a Mac).

In theory, could developers just simply do the bare amount of effort and just make a windowed version of an iPhone app with Marzipan? Sure, and there will likely be some low-effort attempts at doing just that. But that’s missing the point of what this is supposed to offer. The goal here isn’t to replace native Mac applications with iOS versions — the idea is that developers will be able to make bespoke, Mac versions of applications that otherwise wouldn’t have ever made it over to macOS, and expand what developers can offer on the Mac without having the extra lift of writing a new, separate app from scratch.

It’s the same reason why ported iOS apps won’t necessarily indicate that Apple is making a touchscreen iMac or MacBook Pro, in the same way that tvOS running ported UIKit iOS apps doesn’t mean that Apple’s making an iPad without a touchscreen that only works through a TV remote. Ideally, these will in some form still be Mac apps with the same mouse and keyboard focus that any Mac app entails. (Then again, it doesn’t mean that Apple isn’t doing that, either. Predicting what Apple will or won’t do on any given day is tough.)

That said, the ported apps won’t be a 1:1 recreation of an AppKit app, either: UIKit apps are still UIKit apps, which means — at least right now, based on how Apple’s own apps look — there’s always going to be some hereditary DNA, like this extremely iOS interface from Apple’s ported Home app. But that doesn’t meant that Apple won’t be tweaking this over the next year, or that we won’t achieve some sort of middle ground. And there still will presumably always be room for traditional Mac apps for developers who choose to support them.

But there’s another part where UIKit apps might serve on macOS — replacing the web-app-style Electron applications that have sprung up in recent years like Slack and Simplenote with native UIKit-based ports of the iOS counterparts. A lot of the most popular apps on the Mac right now are Electron apps, and that could potentially be a threat to the Mac. If everybody gets used to just using modified web apps, what’s to stop them from switching to a Chromebook or (heaven forbid) Windows? Not that much!

And developer David Barnard argues that UIKit-based apps for desktop could offer those convenient, app-based experiences from our phones on computers more easily, especially for services that have better apps than websites (like banks or weather apps). More to the point, Marzipan apps could probably offer a better experience than Electron apps. Look no further than Slack, which is a RAM-hogging goliath on the Mac but runs sweetly and smoothly on the iPad.

A lot of this will depend on what Apple makes available to developers — right now, there’s no word on when these tools will start rolling out to third parties to start tinkering with beyond “next year,” much less a consumer release. And there’s still plenty of questions, like whether UIKit ported apps will be offered as universal software like how iOS, iPad, watchOS, and tvOS apps are currently bundled, or whether or not developers will be able to offer both UIKit and AppKit versions of their apps on the Mac App Store.

But if developers are able to take advantage of the potential that Apple seems to be offering here — and again, that’s a big, theoretical “IF” — it could mean a fresh wave of new, native apps for the Mac that will hugely change how we interact with our computers, much in the same way that apps have forever changed the mobile landscape.

Oh, and two final pieces of completely unjustified speculation, just for fun.

First: One of the knocks on the iPad Pro is that there aren’t enough “Pro” apps on the level of what’s available on the Mac. But the iPad Pro has such a powerful processor and there are so many capabilities built-in to the iOS operating system now, that issue seems to be more of a failure of imagination than a failure of the operating system to support them. Maybe if developers get in the habit of making powerful apps for the Mac with these new tools, they might just go ahead and make them available on the iPad, too.

Second: iOS apps run on ARM processors, Macs run on Intel processors. So far as we can tell, there’s no real hassle in getting Marzipan apps going on those Intel chips. If you were thinking of maybe someday making an ARM-based Mac, you might want a bunch of apps that you know would run well on them!

Users’ Advantages of Big Data and IoT in E-Commerce

If it’s true that “IoT is the senses and big data is the fuel” of a smart connected world, then what’s the role of big data and IoT in today’s ever-evolving e-commerce industry?  

First of all, IoT is about the deployment of smart devices that use data and connectivity. The real value of the Internet of Things for businesses and, e-commerce platforms, in particular, is the delivery of intelligent insights that can provide new business outcomes.
As more devices get connected, the inflow of various types of data gathered grows exponentially. This can bring multiple advantages to any e-commerce businesses willing to harness the power of big data for providing their users with an improved online shopping experience.

In fact, gathering big data can have an enriching effect on users’ ability to find the things they need in an easy, quick, and personalized way.

Here are some of the most crucial advantages that big data and IoT can bring to e-commerce businesses:


A More Personalized Shopping Experience

Harnessing big data for improving users’ online shopping experience, is a practice every e-commerce business should be constantly relying on. When a user searches for a specific product or service, every e-commerce site should have access to as much data on the user’s internet habits as possible, in order to provide him with personalized search results. If on the one hand, this process benefits customers because it allows for an easier and faster research, on the other hand, it contributes to increasing customers’ engagement which, translated, mean increased revenues for businesses.
Data analytics can be incredibly accurate in providing users with targeted search results on e-commerce platforms. Amazon, leading platform for online purchases, is a great example of how big data should be used for products’ recommendations. When looking at a specific product on Amazon, users are being presented with other “similar products” they might be interested in, based on purchases made by previous customers. A countless number of e-commerce platforms have taken advantage of the outstanding power of big data for products recommendations and other targeted marketing purposes. Seasonal personalization, for example, is another really powerful targeted marketing strategy. The idea behind it is, again, the analysis of customers’ browsing history and past behavior, but this time the seasonal element comes into play. Seasons and holidays are taken into account by the recommendation algorithms in order to maximize the effectiveness of these recommendations. Customers behavior changes during specific times of the year and well-tuned algorithms can recognize these changes. During the winter holiday season, for example, users tend to buy gifts for other people, rather than purchasing products for themselves – recommendations are thus shifted to feature products that are popular during the holiday season.
Data is also key when it comes to taking products recommendations a step further. This means that users historical shopping habits don’t simply allow e-commerce platforms to recommend similar products but also provide them with the ability to make predictive offers for what online shoppers might want and need. The Shopify App Store, for example, enables retailers to predict customer behavior by recommending the most convenient products for their users. The predictive model for each online retailer is defined based on its products, users, and sales forecasts.
Even though most e-commerce businesses are already aware of the power of harnessing big data for products recommendations and predictions, what’s the role of IoT and connected devices in personalizing users’ shopping experiences?
Data from IoT connected devices will be increasingly used to receive insight into users lifestyle habits and to build targeted marketing campaigns. Possibilities for e-commerce businesses are endless, starting from the central role that IoT plays in predicting users’ needs and delivering a solution even before the problem occurs. Connected objects use data in an even more efficient way because they provide insights on exclusive information such as brand preferences, products conditions, and environmental factors. Is there a more personalized shopping experience than one that sends a product replacement even before the user realizes the current object is outdated?
Once again, Amazon has proven to be one of the first players enhancing the power of IoT in the e-commerce arena. The introduction of Dashbuttons, Wi-Fi-connected devices, has allowed consumers to order their favorite products with the press of a simple button. Each Dash Button is paired with a product of choice, which is selected during the setup process. More than providing users with considerable time savings, Amazon is thus able to gather a lot of data regarding consumption patterns for each brand and each product.


Improved Clients’ Satisfaction and Engagement

Qualitative feedback from customers is one of the most powerful tools e-commerce businesses have to increase clients’ satisfaction and engagement. In this case, the human insights can play a really central role in a data-driven business strategy because they can give businesses a qualitative glimpse into a customers opinion about their products and services. That’s why so many e-commerce sites encourage customers to provide detailed feedback on their purchases, even if that means highlight potentially negative aspects about their experience, as this represents a hard evidence to make necessary changes. Once customers have shared their thoughts and insights, businesses can combine this valuable qualitative feedback with analytics to make necessary changes and thus, improve client’s satisfaction and engagement. In the long run, providing an honest feedback is in the users’ best interest as it can prevent other users from buying questionable products. There are many online resources to draw from when it comes to gathering and analyzing reviews, for both businesses and users.

Product Review Monitoring, for example, is a platform that automates customer reviews research, analytics and provides intelligent answers to the most important questions around products’ performance.

Customers, at the same time, can tap into products’ reviews sites such as Best Reviews Guide, for making wise decisions about which products to buy, based on plenty of other users insights and suggestions.

However, there’s more to customers’ engagement than just reviews. IoT enables e-commerce businesses to analyze customers buying patterns and behavior in order to understand their level of satisfaction. For example, Walmart uses IoT to learn about their most popular products social media. IoT allows retailers to deliver a comprehensive shopping experience, based on consumers’ preferences, for improved clients’ satisfaction and engagement. This has positive effects on customer service too, as it enables businesses to anticipate possible complaints, leading to easy and prompt resolution and a smoother customer experience.


More Accessible Inventory Management and Faster Deliveries

The use of RFID chips, tags that can exchange data with a reader using radio frequency signals, and IoT sensors have drastically lowered the hours required to track inventories, and provided businesses with more accurate results. RFID chips can also assist warehouse workers in finding the correct items and detecting when they’re running low on a product while automatically ordering more. In this case, IoT plays a crucial role in drastically reducing the workload associated with managing a stock and the risk of losing potential customers. In fact, when an item on an e-commerce site is sold out, chances are that customers will start looking for it elsewhere. A more accessible inventory management, for e-commerce companies, means more time to focus on other key aspects of the business.

At the same time, RFID and GPS can help e-commerce businesses in tracking and monitoring deliveries in real time. Not only it provides businesses with a precise estimate of when the delivery will reach the destination but it also puts an end to the issue of losing shipments or misplacing them. Real-time delivery tracking has been possible for a while now, but the use of RFID can finally add the capability of managing bigger issues such as the route and speed that logistics crew are allowed to handle.



To sum up, e-commerce is expected to become the future of retail, as more and more customers understand the benefits of shifting to the digital shopping arena. As this happens, online retailers will necessarily need to adapt their sales strategies and methods to the ever-evolving technological landscape. Big data and IoT undoubtedly play a central role in this ongoing technological disruption.

At the same time, users shouldn’t underestimate the essential impact of their data contribution, as this can benefit them in the first place, by allowing for an enhanced, customized shopping experience.