w/Issue #86 - 12th August 2022
Happy Friday. I'm Rick Huckstep and welcome to the 86th edition of the Wiser! newsletter.
Wiser! continues to be free for the 13,976 subscribers who want to make sense of what's happening in today's tech economy. This week the stories that caught my eye are;
- Amazon's use of palm-reading biometrics to make cashless payments,
- Pearsons, the world’s largest book publisher, teasing the market about using NFTs to control the second hand book market,
- and of course the latest episode of the Elon Musk Twitter soap opera (you couldn’t make it up!)
As always, you’ll find dozens of links, headlines and stories from across the tech economy to keep you informed and up to date.
And a reminder: the next quarterly trend report is all about big brands and their web3 strategies for NFTs, crypto and the Metaverse. Make sure you’re Premium Member to get your copy.
Hey Presto! With The Wave Of Your Hand, Amazon Knows Who You Are
The latest tech in play is palm biometrics. Instead of fumbling for a credit card at the checkout or waving your phone at a card machine, Amazon One reads your palm. With the wave of your hand over a scanner, the bill is paid. Hey presto!
Palm Reading: Amazon has announced plans to expand its palm-scanning payment technology to 65 Whole Food stores in California. Amazon One is a palm-scanning payment system that uses machine learning to identify customers with just their hand prints.
The tech works like this:
Users visit a kiosk or a point-of-sale station at the participating stores
They link the biometric profile of their palm to a payment card. They do this while they wait 😂.
From then on, all they have to do is hover their hand over a scanner at the checkout and, bingo, they've paid for their stuff,
Convenience: Customers no longer have to go through the time-consuming trouble and effort of getting their credit card out or waving their iPhone over the card reader. That's another first world problem solved!
However, this isn't proving to be all plain sailing for Amazon.
Privacy Concerns: Here's the thing that's dogging the Amazon tech: Amazon One holds the hand-palm biometric data in the cloud.
Which is different to how Apple does it with FaceID or TouchID or Samsung does it with Samsung Pass. Apple and Samsung store the data on the local device. Amazon One stores it in the cloud (because your hand is not an electronic device until you get a chip implanted under the skin.)
Deja Vue: We've been here before! When Amazon bought ticketing company AXS last year, they had a plan to roll out the palm-recognising tech at a Denver music venue. But fans pushed back, citing concerns over data privacy, sharing the data with government agencies and the risk of their IDs being hacked.
Was this unnecessary paranoia from the music fraternity? Er, no! Amazon have form when it comes to privacy concerns..
🕵️♀️ Amazon have been known to hang onto Alexa voice data even after the users have deleted it.
🕵️♀️ In 2020, Amazon introduced a self-imposed moratorium on selling biometric facial recognition data to law enforcement agencies in the US.
🕵️♀️ In 2019, the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post reported that Amazon's Ring camera company partnered with more than 400 police forces across the U.S. to gain access to homeowners’ camera footage.
The Takeaway: Matching convenience with privacy is tricky.
Apple has navigated this terrain well, only falling foul with the CSAM issue when they announced they'd be checking uploaded iCloud images against a child sex abuse database. Tim Cook has made privacy a defining differentiator and claimed that ground.
For Amazon, it's not proving so easy. And whilst Amazon wants to make consumers' lives as effortless as possible, it's going to also have to address the growing list of concerns that it can be trusted with their data.
- Facebook defends itself after handing over chat messages to US police who were investigating a mother and daughter over an illegal abortion.
- Amazon buys iRobot. In this latest in a series of seemingly sudden and somewhat surprising acquisitions, Amazon is spending $1.7 billion for the company best known for its robot vacuum cleaners.
- Amazon can now map your home and figure out what's in it.
🎙 Big Tech Little Tech
In the latest episode of the Big Tech Little Tech podcast, co-host Shaun and I have a long overdue catch-up. Hardly surprising given that it's been over a month since we recorded the last one.
In episode 6 we talk about Amazon's move into healthcare, the beginning of the end for Facebook and (of course) the Twitter soap opera with Elon Musk.
Plus lots of other stuff and nonsense loosely related to tech, like how many people are younger than me in the world (it's a lot!) and what we thought of the Lionesses and video tech in football.
For all the latest on the Big Tech Little Tech podcast with lots of links and background info on the topics we cover in each episode, check out the Big Tech Little Tech webpage here.
🐦 And remember to follow the Big Tech Little Tech Podcast on Twitter.
Does Elon Musk Have A Get-Out-Of-Jail Free Card Up His Twitter Sleeve?
Anyhow, the point is that Musk disclosed he has just sold another $6.9 billion of Tesla stock...just months after he said he'd sell no more! That’s $32 billion of Tesla he’s cashed in in less than a year.
Second guessing Musk is a fool’s game I'm addicted to playing. Bottom line, Musk is going to lose.
Elon Sells More Tesla Stock As He Prepares For Twitter Court Case
Liquidation: Elon Musk has sold more than $6.9 billion in Tesla shares, according to new filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission published late yesterday.
Why It Matters: It's bad news for Tesla shareholders as the boss cashes in on the over-inflated and hyped-up price of the auto manufacturer. Just as the competition in the electric vehicle market is hotting up, drawing to a close Tesla's unchallenged domination of the sector.
The selloff comes weeks after the Tesla CEO withdrew a $44 billion offer to buy Twitter. The only way to read this is that Musk is preparing for the eventuality that the Delaware Court of Chancery compels Musk to complete the take-over deal he wanted and signed up to.
About Face: It has been less than four months since Musk said he didn't plan to sell any more Tesla shares after he disclosed he'd just offloaded $8.5 billion of Tesla to part-fund the Twitter take-over.
As news broke of the latest sell-off, a Twitter user asked Musk if he was "done selling?”.
Musk replied, "Yes. In the (hopefully unlikely) event that Twitter forces this deal to close and some equity partners don’t come through, it is important to avoid an emergency sale of Tesla stock."
The point is: it looks increasingly unlikely that Elon's spam bot distraction is going to win the day. Instead, his only get-out-of-Twitter-jail free card would be for some of the bankers to bail out. They could blame the plunge in credit markets.
Even if they do withdraw their credit line, the Court could still compel Musk to go through with it. Which would mean he'd have to stump up the cash himself.
Get Out Of Jail Free: I wrote a longer article about how this would work and what it would mean for the bankers in this separate article below. You can read it here on Medium or on the website 👇.
- Elon Musk has accused Twitter of fraud. Musk has counter-sued Twitter claiming he was “hoodwinked” into signing the purchase agreement.
- It appears that Musk’s super-sleuth interrogation of the Twitter bot problem and “proprietary analysis” of Twitter data is no more than a website tool called Botometer. I ran my Twitter profile against and it confirmed that there is only a 20% chance I'm not human.
Are Pearson’s Plans for NFT eBooks The Future Of Web3?
Second Hand Books: Pearson is the largest publisher in the world. "Books" is a $138 billion global industry. A Pearson book is resold 7 times on average.
Here's The Thing: Pearson get nothing every time a book changes hands after the initial sale. Now, they want to get a piece of the action.
NFTs: This is what CEO Andy Bird told investors and analysts on last week's quarterly earnings call. The solution? NFT eBooks.
- The Metaverse real estate boom turns into a bust. Sales volumes and average prices for virtual land have plunged this year, part of a broader slide in crypto and non-fungible token prices.
- Instagram is expanding NFT features to more than 100 countries. Meta has started to roll out NFTs after integrating with Coinbase Wallet. The company is testing NFTs on Facebook and it aims to enable cross-platform NFT posting.
- Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager with $8 billion AUM, has partnered with Coinbase, the only publicly listed crypto exchange in the US, to give institutional investors access to crypto trading, custody, prime brokerage, and reporting capabilities.
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Week In Tech Markets
🪙 Coinbase report $1.1 billion loss
The crypto exchange also reported revenue down 31% at $803 million. Its stock fell 11% in post-market trading on news of the Q2 results. The results reflect the drag from the decline in the crypto markets through this year.
Why it matters: Coinbase is one of the crypto market’s key players when it comes to the mainstream acceptance of digital currencies.
As the largest public market crypto exchange in the USA, Coinbase has become the battleground for a very public debate with securities regulators over what is, and is not allowed in the cryptocurrency markets.
The SEC have listed seven crypto assets that it deems to be securities. If the SEC win the definition game, it will have huge implications for Coinbase, the projects minting the cryptotokens, and for the holders who bought and traded them.
🥽 Meta raise $10 billion in its first-ever bond offering
No surprise here. MetaFacebook are deep trouble and the direction of travel is only going one-way. The capital is to be used to fund share buybacks (thereby boosting share performance) and to make investments as it pivots to the Metaverse.
🏦 SoftBank posted a record $23.4 billion loss
This comes after the technology investment fund posted a $26 billion loss in May!
Other Market News
- Chipmaker Nvidia announced preliminary financial results and issued a warning that Q2 revenue would be about 17% below its prior forecast, causing its stock to fall 6.3%
- Meta have appointed 36-year old Susan Li as their Chief Financial Officer, replacing Dave Wehner, who had been in post for the last 8 years.
- Just 1% of Netflix’s users have taken to their new gaming service. According to analysis by Apptopia, Netflix games have been downloaded (just) 23.3 million times and have an average 1.7 million daily users.
Headlines from the Tech Economy
- An AI trained on 4chan learnt to spew out misogynistic hate speech. To the surprise of precisely no one.
- TikTok is on track to overtake Facebook in influencer marketing spend in 2022, and will overtake YouTube by 2024. However, Instagram will still capture 3x the influencer marketing dollars as TikTok, or $2.23 billion versus TikTok’s $774.8 million.
- A ruling by the European Union’s top court could have major implications for online platforms and apps that use background tracking and profiling to target users with behavioral ads or personalising content. It set a precedent that even this inferred data derived from things a company learned about a user could be considered personal data.
- Starbucks to launch a web3 initiative, including coffee-themed NFTs. Previously Starbucks have said that its NFTs wouldn’t just serve as digital collectibles, but would provide their owners with access to exclusive content and other perks.
- A Netflix documentary tracking the life and times of true tech maverick John McAfee is a guaranteed wild ride.
- Amazon granted more shares to employees in the 2nd quarter than in the whole of 2021. That's 138 million restricted stock units with the single intention of hanging onto top talent.
- Clubhouse is being broken up into little houses. After it’s 15 minutes of fame at the start of 2021, Clubhouse has gone nowhere. So it’s trying something new, which is to create a platform for communities. It’s very Web3 in its thinking and I kind like it. I’ll be checking it out this week.
- Americans see misleading info daily in search results. A new survey conducted by the Poynter Institute and YouGov, with support from Google, found that 62% of people say they see false or misleading misinformation online every week.
- The date has been set for the tech industry's most important private antitrust lawsuit in history (Epic Games v. Apple) - Friday, October 21, 2022. At issue is Apple (and Google’s) restrictive control and pricing of the App Store. If Epic win, it will be huge.
- The FCC has rejected Elon Musk’s bid for $886 million in broadband subsidies for Starlink. The SpaceX Starlink system of low-earth orbit satellites had applied for funding to provide internet broadband for rural areas. But the FCC said no. This is the same strategy played out at Tesla, who for years benefitted from taxpayer subsidies as it defined the electric vehicle market.
- A US appeals court ruled that AI systems cannot be considered an inventor under US patent law.
By The Numbers
- 4%: A new report indicates Apple’s iOS has lost 4% of ad spend market share since Apple launched the user tracking and privacy measures last year.
- 4-5: This is the number of hours a day that consumers in more than a dozen countries are spending in apps.
- 339%: The number of installs of Buy Now Pay Later apps has reached a record 10 million during the first half of 2022. That's an increase of 339% since 2019.
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