Amazon opens its second cashierless store in Seattle; Chicago and San Francisco are next

Amazon’s expansion into brick-and-mortar shows no sign of slowing down. The retailer today opened the doors at its second Amazon Go convenience store in Seattle, located in downtown Seattle at the corner of 5th and Marion. And like the first, it’s cashierless — shoppers can check out without the need to scan the items in their bas…Read More

Apple reportedly reaches deal with third-party reseller to allow authorized iPhone repairs

Apple and Simply Mac, a third-party Apple reseller and service provider, have reached a deal that will see the iPhone maker provide the necessary hardware to let Simply Mac conduct authorized screen repairs, according to a report from 9to5Mac.

Prior to the deal, Simply Mac was subsiding on a limited number of Touch ID and Face ID-related repair machines and had begun conducting unofficial screen repairs for customers as a result (a move that reportedly did not please Apple, as it raises the risk of hardware issues down the line). While Simply Mac charges the same price as Apple for screen repairs, it serves some customers who don’t have access to a local Apple Store in areas like the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and the South.

According to 9to5Mac, iPhones containing Touch ID and the iPhone X require special equipment to repair broken screens to ensure the home button and TrueDepth module are fully functioning after replacing the LCD panel on the front of the device. Simply Mac had the appropriate equipment at only five of its 50 or so stores in the US. The new deal will see Apple pay for equipment for 30 Simply Mac locations, 9to5Mac reports, while Simply Mac will cease conducting unofficial screen repairs without the necessary equipment. Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Apple has historically charged high prices for screen repairs out of warranty, and the company increased the cost last year by $20. It’s now as high as $169 for newer models like the iPhone 8 Plus, while the iPhone X costs $279 to have its screen repaired. If you have AppleCare+, however, all screen repairs cost just $29, but the company began charging more for that warranty for larger phones starting last year as well. (AppleCare+ now costs between $129 and $149, depending on whether you have a Plus model.)

Given the cost and the AppleCare requirement, which only covers two incidents of accidental damage, it makes sense that many customers seek out third-party repair specialists, especially customers who don’t live near an Apple Store. Oftentimes, those repair services are not authorized, like Simply Mac is, and may not be performing appropriate repair jobs without leaving the phone with a deficiency of some sort. It’s also naturally harder to perform iPhone screen repairs outside the internal Apple network as more of the front-facing panel of the device is layered with complex hardware like Touch ID and the TrueDepth camera, requiring those special machines Simply Mac needed from Apple.

Facebook’s ‘trustworthiness’ scores weed out fake news, false user reports

Facebook probably has a scorecard for you — in a recent interview with the Washington Post, Facebook product manager Tessa Lyons shared that the network has a system for determining which users are more trustworthy. The “score” is used to push potential fake news to the top of the list for fact-checking organizations.

Lyons explains that the score works to classify users that have reported posts on Facebook using the reporting tool. Some users, she says, report posts not because they are false but because they don’t agree with the content. Users that regularly flag posts that actually contain fake news will have a high score. Users that flag posts that waste fact-checker time have a lower score.

By factoring in the “trustworthiness” of the user, those user-reported fakes are arranged in a way that helps make the best use of fact-checker time, the company says. The score is used along with other factors that help the fact-checking team determine which posts to look at first.

Facebook isn’t going to tell you what your score is, however, or even tell you how that score is generated. The network is keeping the scoring system confidential under the belief that bad actors could use that information to artificially boost their trustworthiness score. Facebook also didn’t say if every user has a score or not and also didn’t divulge if there are other ways the network uses those scores.

The score was developed sometime over the past year, Lyons said.

The interview offers a glimpse into what’s going on behind the scenes as Facebook works to clean up the platform, or more accurately, to attempt to prevent false information from going viral. The company has launched a host of new initiatives to try to curb the spread of fake news, with varying degrees of success. The network also ranks the trustworthiness of publications using user opinion instead of attempting the task themselves.

The network now uses related articles to attempt to shed more light on the subject, along with including more information about publishers. One feature uses Wikipedia to crowd-source related information. The company has also launched partnerships with organizations such as the Atlantic Council to improve the platform’s approach to fake news.

Google may release a digital display smart speaker in time for the holidays

When it comes time to do your holiday shopping later this year, you might end up throwing a new Google speaker into your shopping cart.

According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Google is planning to release a smart speaker that comes equipped with a digital display, just in time for the holidays. The product will likely resemble Amazon’s Echo Show, so the release will put Google in higher competition with other companies such as Amazon and Alibaba, which also occupy the market for voice-controlled smart speakers. With the addition of a display, the upcoming new model is also expected to allow users to watch videos and view maps.

The new speaker will join Google’s existing range of smart speakers, utilizing the voice assistant Google Assistant. The lineup currently includes the Google Home, the Home Mini, and the Home Max. The Home and Home Mini are often compared to Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot, and the more high-end Home Max is considered to rival Apple’s HomePod speaker.

“Google targets to ship some 3 million units for the first batch of the new model of smart speaker that comes with a screen,” an industry source told the Nikkei Asian Review. “It’s an aggressive plan.”

In 2017, 35 million speakers were purchased around the world, with Amazon products taking up 63 percent of the market and Google occupying 32 percent. However, those numbers took a turn during the first quarter of 2018, during which Amazon’s share of the market fell down to 28 percent, and Google’s increased to 36 percent. Companies like Alibaba, Apple, and Xiaomi occupied the remaining percentage.

According to Joey Yen, an analyst at research company IDC, there is a reason that Google is continuing to expand its focus on hardware. Not only is the company building its lineup of smart speakers, but Google also took over a design team of 2,000 employees from Taiwanese smartphone company HTC last year.

“It could be easier to learn users’ behaviors, experiences and data in a more direct way if they could control the end-devices that go into people’s homes,” Yen said.

This upcoming speaker isn’t the only new technology Google is planning to release. Reports indicate that Foxconn is helping the search engine giant manufacture a new Pixel phone, to be released around October.

Come watch the Equity podcast record live at Disrupt SF 2018

Disrupt SF is right around the corner, which means startupland is prepping to congregate once again in the city for another epic run of investors, startups and celebrities. This year, Disrupt is heading to Moscone West, so the event will be bigger and better than ever.

And I have some good news for you. Initialized Capital’s Garry Tan will join Connie Loizos and Alex Wilhelm live on the Showcase Stage at 3 pm on Thursday, September 6, to dig through the latest, greatest and worst from the world of venture capital.

That’s right, you can come to Disrupt and watch us sit on tall stools holding mics while we talk about the week’s money news in front of a bustling crowd of onlookers. Live tapings are fun because we can’t run the intro a second time if we mess it up. So come on down and hang out with us. Alex may even wear a shirt with buttons.

And it gets better. If you want to obtain a discounted ticket to Disrupt (and why wouldn’t you?), head to the ticket page and use the code “EQUITY” to get 15 percent off. Come for Equity and stay to see Aileen Lee, Reid Hoffman, Drew Houston, Anne Wojcicki, Arlan Hamilton, Ashton Kutcher, Mike Judge and so very many more people you’ve heard of on the Disrupt stage. To whet your appetite until the big show begins, click here to see the full agenda. It’s a good one. See you at Disrupt!

For more Equity, head here to catch our latest episode. Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercast, Pocket Casts, Downcast and all the casts.

Facebook wants to help you find a mentor with its latest Groups feature

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Facebook isn’t settling for just finding long-lost acquaintances, a new job, or even a date — the social media network will now help users find mentors. On Thursday, August 9, Facebook launched Mentorship, a program within Groups that helps users find a mentor for professional or personal development or parenting.

Teased last year, Mentorship pairs two group members together for one-on-one support. The feature isn’t open to every group, but groups within patenting, professional development, and personal development categories can qualify. Adding the feature is up to the Group administrator, however. Group administrators need to create the program first, using one of the templates that come with the new feature. Template programs allow admins to select a type of program, including career advancement, skill development, and encouragement.

Once a mentorship program is created, users within that group can sign up and note if they want to be mentored or if they want to mentor someone else. The Group administrator is responsible for creating mentor pairs.

On Facebook, the two can communicate inside a mentorship program page or within Messenger. Facebook says it included guides within each type of program, including encouraging the pair to check in with each other at least once a week. The program lists a number of steps and shows progress within that process. The Mentorship page also includes a few details about the other user participating.

Facebook says it built the feature while considering privacy and safety. The mentorship communication isn’t publicly available or visible to the group administrator, just the two in the mentorship program. The program also isn’t available to users under 18 and offers the same reporting and blocking tools that users have on posts.

“Our goal is to build tools that help people get the support they need,” Facebook’s Gabriel Cohen, the product manager for the new feature, wrote in a blog post. “We hope that Mentorship makes it easier for people to build relationships that help them reach their goals.”

Facebook says that tests of the program helped early users find support, including one user who turned a hobby into a business and a parenting group for LGBTQIA mothers.

HIPAA, IT, and Compliance: Are You Up To Date?

Summer is winding down and open enrollment is right around the corner. Is it time for you to think about HIPAA compliance?

Many business owners and decision-makers believe that HIPAA belongs to the world of doctor’s offices and insurance companies, but it’s a little more complicated. HIPAA applies to covered entities and their business associates. Covered entities include health plans and certain healthcare providers, the groups that immediately come to mind when you think of healthcare. Business associates are a much broader group, and can encompass entities like third party claims processing administrators, and accounting or legal firms serving healthcare providers.

Do HIPAA regulations apply to your business? There are ways in which you may find yourself working with protected information.

Some common means through which companies come into contact with HIPAA protected data include:

  • Health information in Worker’s Compensation claims
  • Data collected as part of employee wellness programs, like employee physicals
  • Information collected via an employee’s Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
  • Self-insured health plans

Some companies are choosing to follow HIPAA regulations even if they are not covered entities or business associates. Why would they do that? Well, if you collect any health information, your employees and staff may expect you to follow HIPAA compliant practices, even if you are not technically required to. For example, the popular wearable technology company Fitbit gains a competitive edge through following HIPAA compliant practices even if it is not a covered entity. Today, most employers possess some kind of employee health information and consumers and employees expect assurances that their information is being handled properly. Therefore, for some companies, it simply makes good business sense to follow HIPAA guidelines.

What kind of health information are you collecting and how can you keep it secure? For many businesses, HIPAA compliance begins, and often fails, with IT. That’s because cybersecurity is a major component to keeping your business HIPAA compliant. From proper storage to secure messaging, you want to make sure you are taking the necessary steps to remain HIPAA compliant. From an IT standpoint, some options you want to explore include:

  • Security Risk Assessment
  • Disaster Recovery Planning
  • Secure Messaging
  • Cloud Storage

Having the right IT provider is one of the best ways to protect your business and ensure you remain up-to-date with any technology-related compliance requirements. Even if you do not have current compliance concerns, it may be time to assess your cybersecurity practices.

Compliance and IT can be convoluted and overwhelming to navigate. That’s why FUSE3 Communications is here to help. We are IT experts who remain up-to-date on the latest compliance regulations. If you think HIPAA might be a concern for your business, or even if you simply want to explore your IT options, call FUSE3 Communications. Our team of IT experts can help you identify compliance holes in your current IT infrastructure. Strong IT practices are crucial for the overall health of your business. We are here to help with any IT questions you might have. Contact FUSE3 Communications today!

Coinbase adds instant trading and increases daily limits

Coinbase just announced two new perks that should please regular cryptocurrency traders. Starting on Tuesday, new Coinbase users will no longer have to wait out for five days to trade after signing up for the exchange.

As the company explained in a blog post:

… When someone makes the decision to sign up, they don’t want to wait days before they can start buying cryptocurrency. While we do support instant transfers via wire transfer and debit cards, purchases via direct debits from your bank account can take days to appear.

With this update, customers will receive an immediate credit for the funds being sent from their bank account. They can then buy and sell crypto to and from their USD wallet right away, but cannot send their funds off the Coinbase platform until the funds coming from their bank have settled.

With the new trading restriction lifted, Coinbase is also raising the daily purchase limit for its tier of verified users to $25,000, up from the previous $25,000 weekly limit.

New users chomping at the bit to start swapping for digital currencies or current high-rollers looking to push the daily limits should note that completing Coinbase’s identity verification, which requires uploading a driver’s license for U.S. users, is a pre-requisite for either new perk.

“Customers who have not yet completed this process will be required to do so before having access to instant purchases, new trading limits and the ability to withdraw or send coins off-platform,” Coinbase explains in the blog post.

Both changes will be available first for U.S. customers who have completed Coinbase’s ID verification requirements. Coinbase users around the globe should expect to wait a little longer for the features to become available.

Google Maps’ location sharing will now share your phone’s battery status, too

Early in 2017, Google added a feature to Google Maps that lets you opt to share your location in (near) real time with your close friends and family. Now they’re fleshing out that info with another important little detail: your phone’s remaining battery charge.

It looks like this:

Wondering why anyone might care about the status of your battery?

If you try to ping someone’s location and their phone is dead, there’s not much an app can do. Most location-sharing apps will just sit there and spin while they wait for some sort of response, leaving you to worry about all the reasons their phone might not be responding with a current location. Did they lose signal? Did someone steal their phone?

By clueing you in on whether someone’s phone is just about to die, you’ve at least got a better idea as to what’s going on when the updates go silent.

The folks over at AndroidPolice spotted this in a Google Maps APK teardown back in February, so we knew it was on the way. A few people have mentioned seeing it pop up on their devices since (including variations that only showed when the battery was low), but today it seems to have gone live for a much larger audience.

While the feature is clever, Google isn’t the first to think of it. For example: Zenly, the social map app acquired by Snapchat last year, had a similar feature at launch back in 2016.