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Computex 2020 is officially canceled

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In March, the Computex organizers delayed the trade show from June to late-September. At the time, the realities of COVID-19 were sinking in for many in the international community, while the trade show’s home of Taipei was dealing with a new flareup of the novel coronavirus. At the time, late-September also felt like a fairly safe bet for some return to normality.

Three months later, however, the timeline now feels overly optimistic. Today, the show’s organizers announced that Computex 2020 won’t be happening. Instead, the show has been “rescheduled” to June 2021. That’s a nicer way of saying that Computex will be missing a year, following in the footsteps of other large tech shows like Barcelona’s MWC, which was among the first to be felled by the virus.

A press release notes that Taiwan has largely been spared the virus. The country’s 443 confirmed cases and seven deaths are made all the more remarkable by its proximity to mainland China. Of course, a big part of containing the virus have involved travel lockdowns. Inviting some 43,000 people from around the world to attend an indoor event in your most populous city seems like a reasonably good recipe for spreading the highly contagious virus.

The show will happen June 1-5 2021, putting it back in line with previous years’ events. There also will be some online programming in the meantime. Other shows, meanwhile, have announced plans to go on as planned. Notably, IFA will once again be held in Berlin in September, albeit with a mandated cap on attendance. January’s CES, on the other hand, will go ahead as planned in Vegas.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/06/12/computex-2020-is-officially-canceled/

Fintech

Payhawk raises $20M to unify corporate cards, payments and expenses

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Fintech startup Payhawk has raised a $20 million funding round. QED Investors is leading the round with existing investor Earlybird Digital East also participating. Payhawk is building a unified system to manage all the money that is going in and out.

Essentially, companies switching to Payhawk can replace several services they already use and that didn’t interact well with each other. Payhawk lets you issue corporate cards for your employees, manage invoices and track payments from a single interface.

After signing up, customers get their own banking details with a dedicated IBAN. You can connect with your existing bank account, load funds to your Payhawk account and start using it in multiple ways.

Compared to other companies working on similar products, Payhawk gives each customer their own IBAN, which means they can receive third-party payments.

One of the key features of Payhawk is that customers can issue virtual and physical cards for employees with different rules. You can set up a team budget, configure an approval workflow for large transactions and let Payhawk handle receipt collection from those card transactions.

You can upload invoices to manage them through Payhawk. The startup tries to automatically extract data from those invoices for easier reconciliation. Payhawk also lets you reimburse employees. The service acts as a single source of truth for your company’s spending. Finally, you can connect Payhawk with your existing ERP system.

As a software-as-a-service solution, you pay a monthly subscription fee that will vary depending on optional features and the number of active cards. Clients include LuxAir, Lotto24, Viking Life, ATU, Gtmhub, MacPaw and By Miles. Overall, the startup has 200 clients.

The company has been growing nicely as revenue doubled in Q1 2021. It currently accepts clients in the European Union and the U.K. but it already plans to expand beyond those markets. Up next, Payhawk plans to launch credit cards, more currencies and tighter integration with corporate bank accounts.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/04/19/payhawk-raises-20-million-to-unify-corporate-cards-payments-and-expenses/

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Daily Crunch: Facebook announces new audio products

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Facebook reveals its Clubhouse competitor, Parler will return to Apple’s App Store and a helicopter flies on Mars. This is your Daily Crunch for April 19, 2021.

The big story: Facebook announces new audio products

Yes, these products include new Clubhouse-style Live Audio Rooms, as well as the ability for podcasters to share long-form audio, some new Spotify integration and a shorter format called Soundbites. Facebook is starting off by testing Live Audio Rooms in Facebook Groups.

“When we launched video rooms earlier last year, groups and communities were one of the bigger areas where that took off,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview with Platformer. “So, I think around audio, just given how much more accessible it is, that’ll be a pretty exciting area as well.”

The tech giants

Apple confirms it will allow Parler to return to App Store — Apple says that after Parler’s proposed updates, it should be approved for reinstatement to the App Store.

Consumer agency warns against Peloton Tread+ use, as company pushes back — The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is warning consumers to stop using the Tread+.

Xbox Cloud Gaming beta starts rolling out on iOS and PC this week — The service has been available in beta for Android users since last year, but it has been slow to expand to other platforms.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Clubhouse closes an undisclosed $4B valuation Series C round, as tech giants’ clones circle — We don’t know how much it raised, but it looks like Clubhouse has tripled the valuation it attained in January.

Alan raises $220M for its health insurance and healthcare super app — The company now covers 160,000 people.

General Motors leads $139M investment into lithium-metal battery developer, SES — GM is the latest big automaker to pick a horse in the race to develop better batteries for electric vehicles.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

The Klaviyo EC-1 — Klaviyo may not be a household name yet, but in many ways, this startup has become the standard by which email marketers are judged.

European VC soars in Q1 — The blockbuster first quarter was not just an American affair.

Outdoor startups see supercharged growth during COVID-19 era — Startups that provide services like camper vans, private campsites and trail-finding apps became relevant to millions of new users when COVID-19 shut down indoor recreation.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

NASA makes history by flying a helicopter on Mars for the first time — This is a major achievement, in no small part because the atmosphere is so thin on Mars that creating a rotor-powered craft like Ingenuity that can actually produce lift is a huge challenge.

An interview with Andrew Yang — The New York mayoral candidate talks Amazon, cryptocurrency and automation.

Geico admits fraudsters stole customers’ driver’s license numbers for months — The second-largest auto insurer in the U.S. has fixed a security bug that allowed fraudsters to steal customers’ driver’s license numbers from its website.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/04/19/daily-crunch-facebook-announces-new-audio-products/

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What to expect from Apple’s Spring Loaded event

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Surprise! It’s another Apple Event. Gone are the days of getting a few weeks’ notice before these events now that they’re entirely virtual (at least until 2022, most likely). Instead, the company just dropped the news last week.

Thankfully, there have been plenty of rumors leading up to tomorrow’s big event — and perhaps even a few hints in the invite itself. After skipping last year’s spring event, due to cresting COVID-19 numbers in the U.S., the company has grown much more comfortable dropping semi-regular livestreamed events. As ever, we’ll be covering the event as it unfolds, starting at 10AM PT/1PM ET. But here’s what we expect to see, along with the customary high-production-value sweeping-drone transitions.

The closest thing we have to a surefire bet is the arrival of new iPads, keeping in line with what looks to be a finger-drawn image on the invite. Specifically, the iPad Pro is leading the way. The high-end tablet has been rumored to be getting a refresh at some point this season, so no time like the present.

The biggest news is likely to be the addition of a mini-LED display for the 12.9-inch model (a refresh to the 11-inch is coming sometime down the road). Benefits include increased brightness, better battery life and less potential for image burn-in. The tech would arrive in the place of the OLED currently found on iPhone models.

The improved screen technology is said to add a bit of thickness to the design, which otherwise is largely unchanged. Supply constraints could ultimately put a damper on availability, so there’s a possibility that the product could be announced tomorrow, but delayed for a later date.

There’s likely to be a processor update, as well. Rumor has it that the A14X will utilize the same technology that forms the foundation of the M1 chip found on recent Macs. That could, in turn, bring a real big performance bump.

At the other end of the spectrum is the iPad mini. The 8.4-inch tablet would be getting its first major boost in two years. The updates are said to be less pronounced than on the Pro. The classic iPad design language will remain, though the device is said to be getting a performance boost courtesy of new chips. A new Apple Pencil is rumored to be on the way, as well, though details are scarce.

And could this be the event where Apple finally gives the world AirTags? All signs point to “definitely maybe.” After several delays, the company’s Tile competitor is said to finally be arriving. At the very least, the timing makes sense. After all, the company just opened up third-party “Find My” access, along with a bunch of compatible devices. That includes direct competitor, the Chipolo ONE Spot.

Also on the maybe pile is a new Apple TV featuring a Find My compatible remote. That seems like a slam dunk, as one of the most frequently lost products in history. With Apple on a two-year line-wide refresh, some new silicon Macs could be on the list. The most likely candidate? At the moment it seems to be a long-awaited refresh to the iMac line.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/04/19/what-to-expect-from-apples-spring-loaded-event/

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Artificial Intelligence

Flawed data is putting people with disabilities at risk

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Data isn’t abstract — it has a direct impact on people’s lives.

In 2019, an AI-powered delivery robot momentarily blocked a wheelchair user from safely accessing the curb when crossing a busy road. Speaking about the incident, the person noted, “It’s important that the development of technologies [doesn’t put] disabled people on the line as collateral.”

Alongside other minority groups, people with disabilities have long been harmed by flawed data and data tools. Disabilities are diverse, nuanced and dynamic; they don’t fit within the formulaic structure of AI, which is programmed to find patterns and form groups. Because AI treats any outlier data as “noise” and disregards it, too often people with disabilities are excluded from its conclusions.

Disabilities are diverse, nuanced and dynamic; they don’t fit within the formulaic structure of AI, which is programmed to find patterns and form groups.

Take for example the case of Elaine Herzberg, who was struck and killed by a self-driving Uber SUV in 2018. At the time of the collision, Herzberg was pushing a bicycle, which meant Uber’s system struggled to categorize her and flitted between labeling her as a “vehicle,” “bicycle,” and “other.” The tragedy raised many questions for people with disabilities; would a person in a wheelchair or a scooter be at risk of the same fatal misclassification?

We need a new way of collecting and processing data. “Data” ranges from personal information, user feedback, resumes, multimedia, user metrics and much more, and it’s constantly being used to optimize our software. However, it’s not done so with the understanding of the spectrum of nefarious ways that it can and is used in the wrong hands, or when principles are not applied to each touchpoint of building.

Our products are long overdue for a new, fairer data framework to ensure that data is managed with people with disabilities in mind. If it isn’t, people with disabilities will face more friction, and dangers, in a day-to-day life that is increasingly dependent on digital tools.

Misinformed data hampers the building of good tools

Products that lack accessibility might not stop people with disabilities from leaving their homes, but they can stop them from accessing pivot points of life like quality healthcare, education and on-demand deliveries.

Our tools are a product of their environment. They reflect their creators’ worldview and subjective lens. For too long, the same groups of people have been overseeing faulty data systems. It’s a closed loop, where underlying biases are perpetuated and groups that were already invisible remain unseen. But as data progresses, that loop becomes a snowball. We’re dealing with machine-learning models — if they’re taught long enough that “not being X” (read: white, able-bodied, cisgendered) means not being “normal,” they will evolve by building on that foundation.

Data is interlinked in ways that are invisible to us. It’s not enough to say that your algorithm won’t exclude people with registered disabilities. Biases are present in other sets of data. For example, in the United States it’s illegal to refuse someone a mortgage loan because they’re Black. But by basing the process heavily on credit scores — which have inherent biases detrimental to people of color — banks indirectly exclude that segment of society.

For people with disabilities, indirectly biased data could potentially be frequency of physical activity or number of hours commuted per week. Here’s a concrete example of how indirect bias translates to software: If a hiring algorithm studies candidates’ facial movements during a video interview, a person with a cognitive disability or mobility impairment will experience different barriers than a fully able-bodied applicant.

The problem also stems from people with disabilities not being viewed as part of businesses’ target market. When companies are in the early stage of brainstorming their ideal users, people’s disabilities often don’t figure, especially when they’re less noticeable — like mental health illness. That means the initial user data used to iterate products or services doesn’t come from these individuals. In fact, 56% of organizations still don’t routinely test their digital products among people with disabilities.

If tech companies proactively included individuals with disabilities on their teams, it’s far more likely that their target market would be more representative. In addition, all tech workers need to be aware of and factor in the visible and invisible exclusions in their data. It’s no simple task, and we need to collaborate on this. Ideally, we’ll have more frequent conversations, forums and knowledge-sharing on how to eliminate indirect bias from the data we use daily.

We need an ethical stress test for data

We test our products all the time — on usability, engagement and even logo preferences. We know which colors perform better to convert paying customers, and the words that resonate most with people, so why aren’t we setting a bar for data ethics?

Ultimately, the responsibility of creating ethical tech does not just lie at the top. Those laying the brickwork for a product day after day are also liable. It was the Volkswagen engineer (not the company CEO) who was sent to jail for developing a device that enabled cars to evade U.S. pollution rules.

Engineers, designers, product managers; we all have to acknowledge the data in front of us and think about why we collect it and how we collect it. That means dissecting the data we’re requesting and analyzing what our motivations are. Does it always make sense to ask about someone’s disabilities, sex or race? How does having this information benefit the end user?

At Stark, we’ve developed a five-point framework to run when designing and building any kind of software, service or tech. We have to address:

  1. What data we’re collecting.
  2. Why we’re collecting it.
  3. How it will be used (and how it can be misused).
  4. Simulate IFTTT: “If this, then that.” Explain possible scenarios in which the data can be used nefariously, and alternate solutions. For instance, how users can be impacted by an at-scale data breach? What happens if this private information becomes public to their family and friends?
  5. Ship or trash the idea.

If we can only explain our data using vague terminology and unclear expectations, or by stretching the truth, we shouldn’t be allowed to have that data. The framework forces us to break down data in the most simple manner. If we can’t, it’s because we’re not yet equipped to handle it responsibly.

Innovation has to include people with disabilities

Complex data technology is entering new sectors all the time, from vaccine development to robotaxis. Any bias against individuals with disabilities in these sectors stops them from accessing the most cutting-edge products and services. As we become more dependent on tech in every niche of our lives, there’s greater room for exclusion in how we carry out everyday activities.

This is all about forward thinking and baking inclusion into your product at the start. Money and/or experience aren’t limiting factors here — changing your thought process and development journey is free; it’s just a conscious pivot in a better direction. While the upfront cost may be a heavy lift, the profits you’d lose from not tapping into these markets, or because you end up retrofitting your product down the line, far outweigh that initial expense. This is especially true for enterprise-level companies that won’t be able to access academia or governmental contracts without being compliant.

So early-stage companies, integrate accessibility principles into your product development and gather user data to constantly reinforce those principles. Sharing data across your onboarding, sales and design teams will give you a more complete picture of where your users are experiencing difficulties. Later-stage companies should carry out a self-assessment to determine where those principles are lacking in their product, and harness historical data and new user feedback to generate a fix.

An overhaul of AI and data isn’t just about adapting businesses’ framework. We still need the people at the helm to be more diverse. The fields remain overwhelmingly male and white, and in tech, there are numerous firsthand accounts of exclusion and bias toward people with disabilities. Until the teams curating data tools are themselves more diverse, nations’ growth will continue to be stifled, and people with disabilities will be some of the hardest-hit casualties.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/04/19/flawed-data-is-putting-people-with-disabilities-at-risk/

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