Today’s Top Stories
The Bay Area That Could Be: One view on how to reduce economic inequality in San Francisco
Now That There are Drone Rules, Drones Can Rule: New guidelines for commercial drones may well fill the skies.
Slack’s Facebook-Level Ambitions: Hey, it’s only 900-million-or-so daily active users behind.
Meet the New Bitcoin: Ether is the hot cryptocurrency. If only people would stop hacking it.
Would Someone Tell GE It’s An Old Company?The venerable company just poached two major Siri engineers to build its cloud platform.
The Bay Area That Could Be. San Francisco real estate broker Frederick Kuo is on Quartz arguing that his city has become one huge metaphor for economic inequality in America. It’s not a novel observation, but after laying out the ugly statistics Kuo offers some prescriptions: developers should work with local housing groups to increase the level of below market rate units, zoning density must increase as well, and transportation systems have to be improved so living farther away from the city center is more practical. Kuo’s op-ed is equal parts love for the Bay Area and unhappiness over what’s happening there, but it also offers practical steps that can begin to ameliorate the problem from multiple directions.
Now That There are Drone Rules, Drones May Rule. Press releases from the Federal Aviation Administration can be tough going, but yesterday’s announcement that the agency had finalized rules for small commercial drones is a big deal. The new rules, which take effect in August, are for commercial ventures, not hobbyists. They introduce height and speed limits that are meant to “minimize risks to other aircraft and people and property on the ground.” Key restrictions: Flights can’t be higher than 400 feet, they have to happen only during daylight hours, and–this might be the hardest one to manage–you can’t fly over people. These are significant limitations, but it’s only the beginning. Various industries will start experimenting as soon as the rules take effect, starting with journalists. Hobbyists need clearer guidelines, but drone manufacturer DJI was supportive (BBC): “The new rules codify common sense, making it easier for a farmer to fly a drone over his fields, for a contractor to inspect property without climbing a ladder, and for a rescue service to use drones to save lives.” Maybe, but this really holds back the big players like Amazon and Google who were planning large-scale drone delivery services that would require, for example, flying over people.
Slack’s Facebook-Level Ambitions. Facebook has taken over everything, so it’s logical for those looking for The Next Thing to imagine what will unseat Facebook in the next dynastic shift. The conventional wisdom candidate in recent months has been Snapchat, but might the work-centric messaging app Slack have a shot (The Atlantic)? With a news hook built around Slack’s announcement that it’s cleverly integrating more outside services inside its flagship application, Adrienne Lafrance looks at how Slack’s capabilities are inching toward its ambitions as a full-fledged platform. It’s early on. Slack has around 3 million daily active users; Facebook has more than a billion. But from a different starting point Slack is working its way toward an online platform that people never have to leave.
Meet the New Bitcoin. Whither the blockchain? Bitcoin rival Ethereum is the hot cryptocurrency platform of the moment (Wall Street Journal), but the recent hack of Ethereum startup DAO led to a more-than-40-percent drop in the value of the “ether” currency. Ethereum is getting support from high-profile partners: it’s part of Microsoft’s Azure suite, Deloitte is building an Ethereum-centric “digital bank,” and the Winklevoss brothers are involved as well. So plenty of stars are aligned for Ethereum — assuming its services can stop getting hacked.
Would Someone Tell GE It’s An Old Company? We keep stumbling on stories showing how 124-year-old General Electric is behaving like a startup (Bloomberg). The latest, Why General Electric Won Talent From Apple (The Information), tracks GE’s hiring of two top Siri engineers who are now “building out the cloud computing infrastructure for GE’s software platform for industrial users.” That platform, Predix, captures data generated by GE’s jet engines, wind turbines, locomotives, and power-plant turbines, and building a new software business out of that data. It could, for example, help companies increase the productivity of a turbine while balancing that increase with maintaining the life of the big machine. It’s an astonishingly complicated undertaking as GE scales up a software business that generated “only” $5 billion for it last year. And this is definitely a story about scale, as one wag notes in the comments: “The internet of industrial things make the IoT look like a can opener.”
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