Adobe announces deeper data sharing partnership with Microsoft around accounts

Microsoft and Adobe have been building a relationship for some time, and today at Adobe Summit in Las Vegas the two companies announced a deeper integration between the two platforms.

It involves sharing Marketo data, the company that Adobe acquired last September for $4.75 billion. Because it’s marketers, they were duty-bound to give it a new name. This data-sharing approach is being dubbed Account Based Experience, or ABX for short. The two companies are sharing data account data between a number of sources, including Marketo Engage in Adobe Experience Cloud and Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales, as well as the LinkedIn, the business social platform Microsoft bought in 2016 for a whopping $26.2 billion.

Microsoft has been trying to find ways to put that LinkedIn data to work, and tools like Marketo can use the data in LinkedIn to understand their account contacts better. Steve Lucas, former CEO at Marketo, who is now senior vice president and head of the Marketo team at Adobe, says accounts tend to be much more complex sales than selling to individuals, involving multiple decision makers. It’s a sales cycle that can stretch on for months, and having access to additional data about the account contacts can have a big impact.

“With these new account-based capabilities, marketing and sales teams will have increased alignment around the people and accounts they are engaging, and new ways to measure that business impact,” Lucas explained in a statement.

Brent Leary, principal at CRM Essentials, who has been working in CRM, customer service and marketing for years, sees this as a useful partnership for customers from both vendors. “Integrating Microsoft Dynamics and LinkedIn more closely with Marketo gives Adobe’s Experience Cloud some great data to leverage in order to have a more complete picture of B2B customers,” Leary told TechCrunch.

The goal is to close complex sales, and having access to more complete data across the two product sets can help achieve that.

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Linear Labs’ next-gen electric motor attracts $4.5 million in funding

Linear Labs, a startup developing an electric motor for cars, scooters, robots, wind turbines and even HVAC systems, has raised $4.5 million in a seed round led by Science Inc. and Kindred Ventures. 

Investors Chris and Crystal Sacca, Ryan Graves of Saltwater Ventures, Dynamic Signal CEO Russ Fradin, Masergy executive chairman and former-CEO Chris MacFarland, as well as Ustream co-founder Gyula Feher also participated in the round. 

The four-year-old company was founded by Brad and Fred Hunstable, who say they have invented a lighter, more flexible electric motor. The pair came up with the motor they’ve dubbed the Hunstable Electric Turbine (HET) while working to design a device that could pump clean water and provide power for small communities in underdeveloped regions of the world. 

Linear Labs currently has 50 filed patents, 21 of which are issued, with 29 patents pending.

The founders come with a background in entrepreneurship and electrical engineering. Brad Hunstable is former CEO and founder of Ustream, the live-video-streaming service that sold to IBM in 2016 for $150 million. Fred Hunstable, who comes with a background in electrical engineering and nuclear power, led Ebasco and Walker Engineering’s efforts in designing, upgrading and completing electrical infrastructure, environmental and enterprise projects as well as safety and commercial-grade evaluation programs.

The HET uses multiple rotors that can adapt to varying conditions, according to the company. It also produces twice as much torque density and three times the power density than permanent magnet motors. Linear Labs says its motor produces two times the output per given motor size, and minimum 10 percent more range. 

The HET design makes it ideally suited for mobility applications such as electric vehicles because it produces high levels of torque without the need for a gearbox. This helps cut production cuts, the company contends. 

“The holy grail in electric motors has always been high torque and no gearbox, and the HET achieves both in a smaller, lighter and more efficient package that is more powerful than traditional motors,” Linear Labs CTO Fred Hunstable said in a statement.

The upshot could be electric vehicles with better range and more powerful electric scooters.

The commercialization of the electric motor will result in substantial leaps in terms of energy savings, reliability enhancement, and low-cost manufacturing, according to Babak Fahimi, founding director of the Renewable Energy and Vehicular Technology (REVT) Laboratory at the University of Texas at Dallas. 

The company plans to use the seed funding to market its invention to customers. It’s also hiring talent and recently added new people to its leadership team, including John Curry as their president and Jon Hurry as vice president. Curry comes from KLA-Tencor and NanoPhotonics. Hurry has held positions at Tesla, Faraday Future, General Motor’s hydrogen fuel cell program and Lucid Motors.

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Flipkart ranked highly for ‘fairness’ of working conditions in India gig platform study

The Oxford Internet Institute has published what it bills as the world’s first rating system for working conditions on gig economy platforms.

The Fairwork academic research project is a collaboration with the International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore, the University of Cape Town, the University of Manchester, and the University of the Western Cape.

As the name suggests, the project focuses on conditions for workers who are being remotely managed by online platforms and their algorithms — creating a framework to score tech firms on factors like whether they pay gig economy workers the minimum wage and ensure their health and safety at work.

The two initial markets selected for piloting the rating system are India and South Africa, and the first batch of gig economy firms ranked includes a mix of delivery, ride-hailing and freelance work platforms, among others.

The plan is to update the rating yearly, and to also add gig economy platforms operating in the UK and Germany next year.

Fairness, rated

Fairwork’s gig platform scoring system measures performance per market across five standards — which are neatly condensed as: Fair pay, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management, and fair representation.

Platforms are scored on each performance measure with a basic point and an advanced point, culminating in an overall score. (There’s more on the scoring methodology here.)

Most of the measures are self explanatory but the emphasis on fair contracts is for T&Cs to be “transparent, concise, and provided to workers in an accessible form”, with the contacting party subject to local law and identified in the contract.

While, in instances of what those behind the project dub “genuine” self-employment, terms of service must be free of clauses that “unreasonably exclude liability” on the part of the platform.

For fair management, a good rating demands a documented process and clear channel of communication through which workers can be heard; decisions can be appealed; and workers be informed of the reasons behind the decisions.

The use of any decision-making algorithms must also be transparent and result in “equitable outcomes for workers”. And there must also be identified and document policy to ensure equity in areas such as hiring and firing, while any data collection must be documented with a clear purpose and explicit informed consent.

Fair representation calls for platforms to allow workers to organize in collective bodies regardless of their employment status and be prepared to negotiate and co-operate with them.

Critical attention

Criticism of the so called ‘gig economy’ has dialled up in recent years, in Western markets especially, as the ‘flexible’ working claims platforms trumpet have attracted closer and more critical scrutiny.

Policymakers are acting on concerns that demand for casual labor is being exploited by increasingly powerful tech firms which are applying algorithms at scale while using self-serving employment classifications designed to workaround traditional labor rights so they can micromanage large-scale workforces remotely while sidestepping the costs of actually employing so many people.

Trenchant critics liken the result to a kind of modern day slavery — arguing that rights-denuded platform workers are part of a wider beaten down ‘precariat’.

A report last year by a UK MP was more nuanced but still likened the casual labor practices on UK startup Deliveroo’s food delivery platform to the kind of dual market seen in 20th century dockyards, suggesting that while the platform could work well for some gigging riders this was at the exploitative expense of others who were not preferred for jobs in the same way — with a risk of unpredictable and unstable earnings. 

In recent years a number of unions have stepped up activity to support contract and casual workers used by the sector, as the number of platform workers has grown. Even as gig platforms have generally continued to deny granting collective bargaining to their ‘self-employed’ workers.

Against this backdrop there have also been a number of wildcat style ‘strikes’ by gig economy workers in the UK triggered by sudden changes to pricing policies and/or conditions, or focused more broadly on trying to move the needle on pay and working conditions.

A UK union-backed attempt to use European human rights law to challenge Deliveroo’s refusal to grant collective bargaining rights for couriers was dismissed by the High Court at the end of last year. Though the union vowed to appeal.

Regardless of that particular set-back, pressure from policymakers and the publicity from legal challenges attached to workers rights have yielded a number of improvements for gig workers in Europe, with — for example — Uber announcing it would expand free insurance products for drivers across much of the region last year. And it’s clear that scrutiny of platforms is an important lever for improving conditions for workers.

It’s with that in mind that the researchers behind Fairwork have launched their rating system.

“The Fairwork rating system shines a light on best and worst practice in the platform economy,” said Mark Graham, professor of Internet geography at the University of Oxford, commenting in a statement. “This is an area in which for too long, very few regulations have been in place to protect workers. These ratings will enable consumers to make informed choices about the platforms and services they need when ordering a cab, a takeaway or outsourcing a simple task.”

“Our hope is that our five areas of fairness will take a life of their own, and that workers, platforms and other advocates will start using them to improve the working conditions across the platform economy,” he added.

And now to those first year scores in India and South Africa…

Best and worst performers

In India, ecommerce giant Flipkart came out on top of the companies ranked, with its delivery and logistics arm eKart scoring 7/10.

Though — if it wants to get a perfect 10 — it’s still got work to do on contracts, to improve clarity and ensure they reflect the true nature of the relationship, according to the researchers’ assessment.

Flipkart also does not recognize a body that could support collective bargaining for its workers.

Three tech platforms shared the wooden spoon for the worst conditions for Indian gig workers, according to the researchers’ assessment — namely: Food delivery platform Foodpanda and ride-hailing giants Ola and Uber who scored just 2/10 apiece, fulfilling only the minimum wage criteria and failing on every other measure.

UberEats, Uber’s food delivery operation, did slightly better — scoring 3/10 in India, thanks to also offering a due process for decisions affecting workers.

While in South Africa the top scorer was white collar work platform NoSweat, which got 8/10. It also could do a little more work to do to improve its contracts, and also doesn’t recognize collective bargaining.

Bottom of the list in the country is ride-hailing firm Bolt (Taxify) — which scored 4/10, hitting targets on pay and some conditions (mitigating task-specific risks), while also offering a due process for decisions affecting workers but failing on other performance measures.

Uber didn’t do much better in South Africa either — coming in second to last, with 5/10. Though it’s notable the company does offer more protections for workers there vs those on its platform in India, including mitigating task-specific risks and actively seeking to improve conditions (such as by offering insurance).

We’ve reached out to Uber for comment on its Fairwork ratings.

There’s clearly no one universal standard for Uber’s business where working conditions are concerned. Instead the company tunes its standard to the local regulatory climate — offering local workers less where it believes it can get away with it.

That too suggests a stronger spotlight on conditions offered by gig economy platforms can help improve workers’ lot and raise standards globally.

On the improvements front the Fairwork researchers claim the project has already led to positive impacts in the two pilot markets — claiming discussions are “ongoing” with platforms in India about implementing changes in line with the principles, including with a platform that has some 450,000 workers.

Though they also point out the first-year ranking show the overwhelming majority of India’s platform workers are engaged on platforms that score below their Fairwork basic standards (with scores <5/10) — which covers more than a million gig economy workers.

In South Africa another positive development they note is alcohol delivery platform Bottles committing to supporting the emergence of fair workers’ representation on its platform, after collaborating with the project.

The local NoSweat freelance work platform has also introduced what the researchers couch as “significant changes” in all five areas of fairness — now having a formal policy to pay over the minimum wage after workers’ costs are taken into account; a clear process to ensure clients on the platform agree to protect workers’ health and safety; and a channel and process for workers to lodge grievance about conditions.

Commenting in a statement, Wilfred Greyling, co-founder of NoSweat said the project had helped the company “formalise” the principles and incorporate them into its systems. “NoSweat Work believes firmly in a fair deal for all parties involved in any work we put out,” he said, adding. [The] platform is built on people and relationships; we never hide behind faceless technology.”

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Google Gmail adds 'dynamic email,' to avoid the pain of new tabs

Google said Tuesday it has begun rolling out what it calls “dynamic email,” an enhancement to its web-based Gmail page that in some cases eliminates the need to open a separate tab to accomplish a task.

Dynamic email feels somewhat like an extension of the dynamic replies that will pop up in response to an existing Gmail message, or the autocomplete functions available in Google Search: a simple tool to save time. Dynamic email works by sucking a small portion of the web directly into the Gmail pane, automating a particular task.

Here’s an example: In Google Docs, if a collaborator comments on a line in a sales contract, they can notify you via Gmail to take action. Instead of a link to the document that you’re forced to open, you can simply comment directly in the email, and the comment will be added to the document in question.

It’s also a way to add more “stickiness” to Google’s Gmail page. If you use another email app to access Gmail, the dynamic functions won’t appear; instead, all you’ll see is a static page. It’s also not available within the mobile app, though that will be coming soon.

Unfortunately, many of the dynamic email partners are services and advertisers, which may or may not be valuable: Booking.com, Despegar, Doodle, Ecwid, Freshworks, Nexxt, OYO Rooms, Pinterest and redBus. Pinterest, for example, will send you a list of trending pins, which you can add directly to your boards. And OYO’s listing of suggested rooms includes the ability to hover over photos in the email and see characteristics of the room in question, even launching what appears to be new pages right within the email. (Google’s original post contains some more demonstrations of how it all works.) 

If dynamic webpages hiding within your email sounds a bit insecure, Google says that every partner who wishes to implement dynamic email must be reviewed by Google. Fortunately, you can also opt out of the new dynamic email if that’s your choice, and revert to a static page later, too.

What this means for you: How a partner or Google itself implements dynamic email will determine how useful it is. I personally prefer to type in a search query, and I use a personalized response to email, too. But automated meeting requests with one-click RSVPs are now part of standard business communication, and it’s possible that we’ll quickly assimilate to dynamic email, too. 

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Huawei’s P30 Pro goes toe-to-toe with the Samsung Galaxy S10+ on power, price, and photography

After a short run alone at the top of the Android heap, Samsung’s Galaxy S10 has some serious competition. Huawei unveiled its latest flagship P30 and P30 Pro today, and they’re packed with some of the best specs we’ve ever seen in an Android phone.

Just like the P20, Huawei is making a big deal out of the phones’ picture-taking skills. The Leica-branded triple-camera array that was introduced with the Mate 20 makes its way to the P30, while the P30 Pro gains a fourth time-of-flight (TOF) camera for better portraits and depth sensing:

P30

  • 40MP wide angle, f/1.8
  • 16MP ultra wide angle, f/2.2
  • 8MP telephoto, 3x zoom, f/2.4

P30 Pro

  • 40MP wide angle, f/1.6
  • 20MP ultra wide angle, f/2.2
  • 8MP telephoto, 5x zoom, f/3.4
  • Huawei TOF camera

Aside from the lenses, however, Huawei has fine-tuned the processing behind the P30 cameras to provide even greater abilities, particularly with the P30 Pro. The new periscope telephoto camera offers 10x hybrid zoom and up to 50x digital zoom. A new RYYB color sensing rule allows more light for better nighttime shots. And the TOF camera allows for fine-tuning of portrait shots and professional long-exposure pictures at the touch of a button.

huawei p30 pro cameras Huawei

The Huawei P30 Pro has a quad camera system with a time-of-flight sensor.

Even with the addition of extra cameras, the P30 retains the sleek look of the P20, with an iPhone X-like vertical camera array in the top-left corner. The glass back comes in an array of gradient colors inspired by “the miraculous sky,” giving the handset a unique look that changes depending on the light you’re in. Particularly striking are the new “Amber Sunrise” that mimics a fiery daybreak, and “Aurora,” which conjures images of the Northern Lights.

Flagship performance

Aside from its photo skills, the P30 and P30 Pro are more than capable of zipping though a full day’s worth of apps and notifications:

P30

  • Dimensions: 149.1 x 71.4 x 7.6 mm
  • Display: 6.1-inch Full HD, 2340 x 1080
  • Processor: Kirin 980
  • RAM: 6GB/8GB
  • Storage: 64GB/128GB/256GB
  • Battery: 3,650mAh

P30 Pro

  • Dimensions: 158 x 73.4 x 8.4 mm 
  • Display: 6.47-inch Full HD 2340 x 1080 Curved OLED
  • Processor: Kirin 980
  • RAM: 6GB/8GB
  • Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB
  • Battery: 4,200mAh

While the P30 Pro’s curved edges are easier on the eyes than the P30’s visible bezels, both displays are the same resolution this time. That means the P30 Pro gets a downgrade from the Quad HD 1440p screen on the P20. That’s not likely to make much of a difference to most eyes, but pixel purists will surely notice the change.

Both phones also have a tiny notch for the 32MB front camera, meaning you won’t get Huawei’s 3D Face unlock here. Like the S10, both phones have an in-display fingerprint sensor, though Huawei opted for an optical scanner rather than the ultrasonic one on Samsung’s phones. We’ve had our issues with in-display scanners, but it’s a nice visual upgrade over the stale front-facing sensors on the P20 at any rate.

huawei p30 fingerprint Huawei

The P30 finally dispenses with the front-facing fingerprint scanner for an in-display sensor.

Elsewhere, you get IP68 water resistance on the P30 Pro, while the P30 only has IP53 ingress protection, so you can’t dunk it. The P30 is also missing wireless charging, while the P30 Pro supports 15W fast wireless charging as well as 40W wired charging. However, one advantage the P30 does have over the P30 Pro is a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Huawei will not be making a version of the P30 or P30 Pro for the U.S., so your mileage will vary when it comes to carriers. It’s available today in a number of options starting at 799 Euros for the P30 and 999 Euros for the P30 Pro.

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