Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Digital Crypto Currency from... the US Central Bank?!

Over at SlashDot, we read:

America's lawmakers and Federal Reserve officials "are so concerned about Facebook's plans to launch a new digital currency," reports Politico's financial services reporter, "that they're contemplating a novel response -- having the central bank create a competitor."
Momentum is building for an idea that was once considered outlandish -- a U.S. government-run virtual currency that would replace physical cash, a dramatic move that could discourage major companies like Facebook from creating their own digital coins. Facebook's proposed currency, Libra, has forced the Fed to consider the issue because of a fear that private companies could establish their own currencies and take control over the global payments system. Some Fed officials share the concern about a new balkanized currency system outside government control that Facebook has threatened to unleash. "Libra bust this way out into the open," said Karen Petrou, a managing partner at Federal Financial Analytics who advises executives on coming policy shifts. 

But it's not just Facebook. The matter is also taking on urgency as other countries consider creating their own digital currencies -- another potential challenge to the primacy of the U.S. dollar. The head of the Bank of England has floated the idea that central banks could create a network of digital currencies to replace the dollar as the world's reserve currency... The Bank for International Settlements, which represents the world's central banks, said early this year that most were conducting research into central bank digital currencies and many were progressing from conceptual work into experimentation and proofs-of-concept...

The details of a possible [U.S.] Fed-developed digital currency are still vague. But advocates and experts say such an instrument could give consumers a new way to make payments without having to rely on banks and without incurring fees when they transfer money. The digital currency would likely take some inspiration from the technology that underpins other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. The discussions are informal at this point. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have written to the central bank asking officials to consider how they might approach a digital currency, and some Fed officials have begun to acknowledge the government might someday play a role. "It is inevitable," Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Patrick Harker said at a recent conference, according to Reuters. "I think it is better for us to start getting our hands around it."
Read more here and here...

Monday, October 21, 2019

Alphabet (Google) Wing Drone Delivery Service Debuts in Virginia

Alphabet's Wing drone delivery service made its first commercial delivery in Christiansburg, Virginia on October 18, 2019. Wing is a spinoff from Google's parent company, Alphabet. The drone (UAV) service delivered a package through the air from a distribution center to a home in Christiansburg, Virginia, on behalf of FedEx.

Wing received Federal Aviation Authority approval for door-to-door drone delivery. Wing’s partners for this service include FedEx Express, Walgreens, and Sugar Magnolia (a local Virginia retail operation). This constitutes the first businesses in the United States to offer this form of local air delivery to customers.

FedEx is also participating in the U.S. Department of Transportation's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program in conjunction with the Memphis Shelby-County Airport Authority, conducting drone operations on airport property to generate data to help inform future UAS policymaking.

During the trial, Wing drones will transport select FedEx packages to qualifying homes in Christiansburg, demonstrating last-mile delivery service.

Read more here and here

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Waymo Placing Fully Autonomous Vehicles on the Road

Waymo, the autonomous vehicle business under Alphabet (neƩ Google), sent an email to customers of its ride-hailing app in Phoenix, Arizona (USA) that their next trip might not have a human safety driver behind the wheel. Fully autonomous / robot cars are here!

Waymo opened a testing and operations center in Chandler, Ariz. in 2016. Since then, the company has ramped up its testing in Chandler and other Phoenix suburbs, launched an early rider program and slowly crept toward commercial deployment. The early rider program, which required vetted applicants to sign non-disclosure agreements to participate, launched in April 2017.

Read more about the service here...

Boeing Wins at the WTO against Airbus

The World Trade Organization (WTO) found in favor of Boeing and the U.S. in retaliation for the unlawful EU subsidization of Airbus. The October 2, 2019, $7.5 billion annual award is the largest made, and comes after almost 15 years of litigation at the WTO. The U.S. successfully argued that the EU / four of its member states conferred more than $18 billion to Airbus in subsidized financing.

This entitles the U.S. to impose an additional 10 percent duty (tariff) on airplanes from France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom, as well as an additional 25 percent duty on certain goods including single malt Irish and Scotch whiskies, coffee from Germany, cheeses from several countries, and certain garments from the United Kingdom.

EU officials claim to have little interest for mutual imposition of countermeasures. They have emphasized that such countermeasures strain transatlantic trade relations and inflict damage on citizens and businesses. The timing of the new tariffs is politically sensitive given the recent global imposition of national security tariffs by the U.S. on steel and aluminum, as well as the potential addition of global national security tariffs on automobiles and parts.

Read more here...

Thursday, October 3, 2019

UPS First out of the Gate in the US for Drone Delivery

The FAA has settled on UPS to be the first nationwide drone delivery service. The company’s drone subsidiary just got the official nod to take its delivery service nationwide.
UPS announced today that it is the first to receive the official nod from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate a full “drone airline,” which will allow it to expand its current small drone delivery service pilots into a country-wide network. In its announcement of the news, UPS said that it will start by building out its drone delivery solutions specific to hospital campuses nationwide in the U.S., and then to other industries outside of healthcare
With the FAA’s approval, the company appears ready to ramp up its drone operation to go head-to-head with competitors like Alphabet's (formerly Google) Wing, DHL, and Amazon.

Read more here ...

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

A Huge Multi-National That Only Utilizes Remote Workers

There are obvious benefits to remote workers. Staff are more productive. It improves morale. It enhances talent recruitment and retention. And remote work offers cost savings. But how can a large organization manage?

Take page from GitLab, which has an all-remote policy. While officially based in San Francisco, the company has 850 employees across more than 55 countries, all of whom work from home. Company culture, of course, can be difficult to maintain when everyone is remote. GitLab workers stay connected through daily team calls and watercooler chats on Zoom and Slack, where employees often gab about non-work activities. "Visiting grants" help cover costs when staffers travel to regions where other employees are located.

Remote work can ease the carbon footprint of companies. It can also boost productivity and lower operating costs. But how to deal with the obstacles to effective dispersed teams? GitLab offers a few model processes.

For example, organizations should address how to ensure workers are,w ell, working. One of GitLab's core values: Measure results, not hours. "We can't measure how long you work," he says. "We don't want to measure it. We don't want your manager to even talk about it with you unless they think you work too much," says GitLab CEO Sijbrandij.

One area to address is to coordinate and communicate effectively across time zones GitLab does this by documenting everything. In addition to the publicly viewable merge requests, meetings and presentations get uploaded to YouTube. When employees have questions, they're encouraged to search the company's comprehensive (1,000 printed pages) online handbook.

Read more here ...