The Quantious team’s top picks for timely trending news in the tech world.
This week in tech: 3D printing is used to create medical equipment for hospitals, Tesla is creating self-parking vehicles, Verizon acquires BlueJeans, advertising declines across Google and Facebook, Apple tracks changes in travel behavior, Microsoft’s video chat technology is integrated into hospitals, and Softbank reports its first loss in 15 years.
Can 3D Printing Plug the Coronavirus Equipment Gap?
(CNN, April 17)
The rapid spread of COVID-19 has caused a shortage in medical equipment for hospitals and other frontline workers. To help, multinationals, universities, local firms, lobbyists, and more are using 3D printing technology to create much-needed items. Compared to traditional manufacturing, which can take days or weeks, 3D printing can be done in hours. In recent weeks, items like face shields, respirator masks, nasal swabs and more have been printed and shipped out to hospitals in need. Although 3D printing has proven to be a huge help with these items, there are concerns about using the technology to create more complex medical equipment such as ventilators.
Elon Musk Says Teslas Will Park Themselves Later This Year
(CNET, April 16)
Last year, American electric vehicle and clean energy company, Tesla, released a feature on their cars called “Smart Summon.” With it, a Tesla vehicle can pick up its owner and keep an eye out on the road as they drive. Now, the company is attempting to upgrade the vehicles with a feature called “Reverse Summon.” This feature would enable owners to leave the vehicles while the cars find parking spots on their own.
Verizon to Buy Zoom Video Conference Rival Bluejeans
(CNET, April 16)
The coronavirus has changed the way we work. During this evolving situation, Verizon’s CEO, Tami Erwin, believes it’s necessary to provide access to a secure, comprehensive suite of enterprise tools that can easily integrate with existing solutions. To fulfill this mission, Verizon signed a deal to acquire video conferencing tool, BlueJeans, for just under $500 million. Verizon plans to integrate the newly-acquired platform into their 5G plan to assist in areas like telemedicine, distance learning, field service work, and more.
Even Google and Facebook May Face an Ad Slump
(NY Times, April 15)
The advertising business for tech giants like Google and Facebook is struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic. Prices for ads are extremely low, and Wall Street analysts predict that annual revenues will decline for both companies. For advertisers, many are using sensitivity around posting content, using features offered by both tech giants to opt out of coronavirus, tragedy, or infectious disease content. In addition, advertisers are putting the few digital ad dollars they have toward content across Google and Facebook, causing smaller social media platforms to suffer.
Coronavirus: Apple Tracks Changes in Travel Behavior
(BBC, April 14)
Apple has created a tool that shows changes in travel behavior using the Apple Maps app. The report shows the percentages of people walking, driving, and using public transportation today compared to January 13 (before COVID-19 lockdowns came into effect). Apple IDs are not associated with the mobility data, and the tool does not provide history of a user’s whereabouts. Though Google has a similar tracker that provides more information, Apple allows the raw data to be exported rather than simply providing a snapshot.
Microsoft’s Video Chat Technology Is Changing How This Hospital Fights Coronavirus
(CNET, April 14)
St. Luke’s University Health Network had issues caring for patients until they began utilizing Microsoft’s Teams video chat software. Initially, the health center used video chat devices in emergency rooms for suspected stroke patients. Now, they’re using the devices and Teams software to digitally access doctors from all over the world to help with the coronavirus pandemic. As the virus continues to spread, this technology gives doctors new ways to treat and communicate with patients — without the hassle of changing their protective gear.
Softbank’s Troubles Deepen With Warning of $16.7 Billion Writedown
(NY Times, April 13)
Japanese conglomerate, SoftBank, alerted investors that the value of their Vision Fund reported a loss of $16.7 billion (1.8 trillion yen) for the last fiscal year. The fund is known for being the largest pool of money ever raised to support private technology companies, such as Doordash and Uber. The bets made on unprofitable companies like WeWork, have been greatly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, causing the company’s first annual loss in 15 years. Softbank stated that they’ll sell $41 billion of assets and finance an $18 billion investment using their own shares to make up for the loss.