IBM landed a big win in the race to sell blockchain to Wall Street

President and CEO of IBM Ginni Rometty takes part in a strategic and policy CEO discussion with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Eisenhower Execution Office Building in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2017.

IBM has been selected to build a new blockchain-based international trading system for a consortium of global banks, a major win for the tech giant in the race to sell blockchain to Wall Street.

Deutsche Bank, HSBC, KBC, Natixis, Rabobank, Société Générale and UniCredit announced in January that they were banding together to build a “Digital Trade Chain (DTC),” a blockchain-based trade finance platform. 

International trade is currently a convoluted process where most involved can’t see the whole process, instead only dealing with one other party in a complex supply chain. 

DTC will use the same technology that underpins digital currency bitcoin to connects all parties involved in international trade — buyers, sellers, transporters, banks financing the deals, and so on. The hope is that this leads to more financing for people lower down the chain as banks can be confident seeing the end buyer is good for the money.

IBM announced on Tuesday that it has been selected by the consortium to build DTC, following what it calls “a global competitive bidding process.”

Marie Wieck, IBM Blockchain’s general manager, says in a release: “In working with hundreds of clients around the world on a diverse range of blockchain projects, trade finance has emerged as one of the strongest use cases for the technology.”

The contract is a significant win for IBM as it means the tech company’s blockchain platform — dubbed Hyperledger Fabric — will be used to build the system. That likely means lucrative servicing contracts for IBM and may make banking execs more likely to commission more Hyperledger-based products and services once they’re familiar with the system.

Rudi Peeters, CIO at KBC, says in a release announcing the deal: “Their blockchain and banking industry expertise will help us create a new platform for small and medium businesses in Europe that can enable them for faster, easier and cheaper trade transactions.”

IBM’s Hyperledger Fabric is one of three main blockchain-based systems vying to become the next-generation “operating system” for financial services. R3, a startup set up by Wall Street veteran David Rutter, has developed blockchain-inspired platform Corda.

Finance executives are also exploring the possibility of using open source blockchain Ethereum as a platform for products. JPMorgan, UBS, and Credit Suisse were all founding members of the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance (EEA), a group looking to develop best practice standards for building on Ethereum.

Blockchain, also known as distributed ledger technology, is a form of shared database that is policed using complex cryptography to ensure that it can only be edited when the majority of participants on the network have approved. The technology was first developed to underpin digital currency bitcoin as it removes the need for a central bank or authority to police the currency.

Banks around the world have been talking about the potential of blockchain to transform finance for several years. The inbuilt security and trust checks allow banks to potentially cut out middlemen in processes like settlement and clearing, deal directly with each other rather than working through third parties. This would cuts costs. Santander estimated in a 2015 report that the technology could collectively save banks as much as $20 billion per year.

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A popular fan theory that Spider-Man actually first appeared in ‘Iron Man 2’ has been confirmed

tom holland spider man homecoming spiderman

The INSIDER Summary:

  • Tom Holland plays Spider-Man in Marvel’s movies, including the upcoming “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
  • He confirmed a popular fan theory that his character first shows up in 2010’s “Iron Man 2.”
  • It’s a scene where a kid almost fights a big robot — before Iron Man swoops in to save him.

Tom Holland — who’s playing Peter Parker AKA Spider-Man in Marvel’s movies — confirmed a theory that fans have been wondering about for nearly a decade.

As it turns out, Peter Parker was teased back in 2010’s “Iron Man 2,” way back when the partnership with Sony, which own the rights to use Spider-Man in movies, and Disney, which owns Marvel, was a mere glint in Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter’s eye.

In “Iron Man 2,” a young boy faces down a robot that’s causing chaos in a crowd. Before the robot gets to blow him up, Tony Stark swoops in and takes down the robot.

“Nice work, kid,” he says, before flying away.

That kid’s name, according to fan theorists? Peter Parker.

The age of the boy makes sense, given the release of “Iron Man 2” in 2010 and Peter Parker’s character being about 15 years old in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

Holland told The Huffington Post that he asked Kevin Feige, the head of Marvel Studios, about the theory, and Feige confirmed it.

“I can confirm that as of today. I literally had a conversation with Kevin Feige only 20 minutes ago. Maybe I’ve just done a big, old spoiler, but it’s out there now,” Holland told HuffPo. “It’s cool. I like the idea that Peter Parker has been in the universe since the beginning.”

Later in the Marvel movies, Peter Parker and Tony Stark turn out to be buds. Stark recruits Parker as a sort of “Avengers” intern in “Captain America: Civil War.” And Stark is a prominent character in the forthcoming “Spider-Man: Homecoming” movie, if the trailers are anything to go by. You can see the movie on July 7.

SEE ALSO: The only 23 movies you should watch this summer

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Trump wants companies to hire American, but CIOs don’t seem to be paying attention

U.S. President Donald Trump reacts to a reporter's question during a joint news conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, U.S. June 9, 2017.

Donald Trump has made a habit of blasting companies that build factories and hire workers overseas instead of in America.

But when it comes to information technology jobs and resources, the heated rhetoric doesn’t seem to be having much of an effect.

A recent survey of Chief Information Officers by AlphaWise/Morgan Stanley found that most CIOs have not changed their user of offshore services, and some even plan to increase it.

The survey asked 100 CIOs in the US and Europe how the “current political environment” has impacted the degree to which they allocate resources inhouse versus offshore.

The survey did not specifically define “political environment,” a term that could include anything from hyper partisanship to debates about taxes. But it comes at a time of growing nationalism in worldwide politics. Campaigns for both the UK “Brexit” and the Trump presidency centered around the retention of domestic jobs, with Trump even using his personal Twitter to call out companies that plan to outsource jobs. 

The survey included 75 respondents from the US and 25 from Europe.

According to the survey, conducted in June, 67% of the respondents said the political climate will not lead to any change. None of the respondents indicated that they will decrease outsourcing.

In fact, 20% said they will increase their use of offshore services up to 10% as a consequence of the political environment; 13% said they will increased their use by more than 10%.  

Morgan Stanley CIO Survey Q2 2017Silicon Valley has been a particularly vocal opponent of anti-free trade sentiment in the US, arguing that restrictions on trade will raise the cost of labor, which will impact consumers directly and make US tech companies less competitive in the global playing field. 

In April, President Trump signed the “Buy American, Hire American” executive order, which aimed to make changes to H-1B visas, the high skill labor visa favored by tech companies. 

The White House said that the visa program undercuts American workers and drives down wages, while those in favor argue that it makes up for staffing shortages in the tech industry, according to AP

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Apple just bought a company that made eye-tracking ‘smart’ glasses (AAPL)

SensoMotoric Instruments

Apple has purchased a small German company that specializes in eye-tracking, MacRumors reported on Monday.

The company, SensoMotoric Instruments, previously made a specialized pair of glasses that used eye tracking for a variety of applications, including athletics.

The company used the domain name They claimed their eye-tracking technology had over 100,000 users. 

Eye tracking is a core technology that many working on virtual and augmented reality believe will be essential to truly immersive eyewear.

Headsets with eye-tracking can use the technology as a component in a user interface, so that where you’re clicking in a virtual world lines up with where you’re actually looking in the real world. Eye-tracking can also be used to reduce the amount of processing power needed to render a virtual world, or make virtual characters seem more real. 

Last year, Google bought Eyefluence, another company specializing in eye-tracking. AR startup Magic Leap, which has raised $1.39 billion, uses eye tracking in its prototype headset. 

SensoMotoric InstrumentsApple has never confirmed that it is working on a headset, but it released a set of augmented-reality software tools for the iPhone, ARKit, last month. Apple CEO Tim Cook has also been effusive in his praise for the technology in public speeches. 

“I do think that a significant portion of the population of developed countries, and eventually all countries, will have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day,” Cook said last year

Apple has bought a ton of companies with applications in AR or VR, including: 

  • Metaio, which made AR software
  • Primesense, which made a 3D sensor which could be great for AR
  • Faceshift, a facial mapping company
  • FlyBy Media, which made tech that can track the 3D motion of an object. 

Apple confirmed the purchase to Axios. The price Apple paid for the reportedly 60-person company is unknown.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook got a big laugh during his surprise appearance at Cisco’s conference (AAPL)

Tim Cook, Chuck Robbins

LAS VEGAS – Cisco’s massive customer conference kicked off this week in Las Vegas, and CEO Chuck Robbins had a surprise special guest for his opening keynote: Apple CEO Tim Cook.

The two CEOs gave an update on their two-year old partnership to make Apple devices work better on networks built with Cisco’s gear.

Robbins began the discussion by asking Cook what he hoped to gain from the Apple/Cisco partnership.

“We thought, looking at the enterprise, people were spending tons of money. But when you looked at the user experience, it wasn’t very good. So we thought we could bring Apple’s legendary ease-of-use and simplicity to the enterprise and really change the way people work,” Cook said, with all the modesty you’d expect from Steve Jobs’ successor.

Cook then gave, as an example, a nod to one of his favorite new features in Apple’s upcoming iPhone and iPad operating system, iOS 11: ARKit.

ARKit will allows developers to build so-called “augmented reality” apps, which lets you see digital images or digital data floating on top of the real world.

“This is one of the things I’m so excited about from a consumer and enterprise [point of view],” Cook said.

His best moment came when explaining all the ways Apple and Cisco were making Apple devices, especially via iOS 11, safer from hackers. “The hacking community aren’t hackers anymore, they are sophisticated enterprises,” he said.

Tim CookIn response, Cisco and Apple have done things like blocking “these phishing emails that all of us are getting everyday.”

Cook was referring to emails that come from hackers but look like they are from your boss, or others that you know. 

And then, Cook not-so-subtly slammed Android, to the delight of the crowd. He was explaining that hacking incidents have led to a new cyber security insurance markets.

One day, when he was visiting Cisco’s campus talking to Robbins about new ways to work together, they had a thought, Cook explained (emphasis ours):

“If your company is using Cisco and Apple, then the combination of these should make that insurance cost significantly less for you than it would if you were using some other personal network side and the other operating system in the mobile area,” Cook said.

The audience laughed, immediately getting recognizing the slam on Android, which has a reputation for being less secure than iOS. Cook offered a small grin and told the audience, “Just sayin!'”

But he insisted he wasn’t joking. “This is something we’re going to spend some energy on,” he promised.

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You can download the beta version of iOS 11 for iPhones now (AAPL)

Tim Cook

Want to check out all the new goodies that Apple has built into the latest version of iOS, the software that runs on iPhones and iPads?

Now you can — you simply have to sign up with Apple to download the beta version.

You can sign up for the public iOS 11 beta here. 

iOS 11 runs on all iPhones with a fingerprint sensor, going back to the iPhone 5S. However, if you have an iPhone 5, 5C, or iPhone 4S, you won’t be able to install iOS 11. 

Before you install the beta, though, you have to understand that this is pre-release software. There are going to be bugs and other little errors, and there’s always a chance you could lose your data or your phone won’t work properly, so you’ll want to back up first. That said, you might want to wait until the official final version of iOS 11, which will be released this fall. 

But if you’re willing to take the risk, there are a lot of great new goodies for your Apple phone or tablet in this release — and you will help Apple squash the bugs for everyone else. 

Here are some highlights:

  • Siri gets a lot of improvements, including a new voice.
  • The Control Center has been completely redesigned and now users can customize it.
  • The App Store has been redesigned to become much more visual and curated. 
  • The Camera app can now read QR codes and got a bunch of new filters. 
  • Apple Music now has profile pages. 
  • Apple Maps now covers indoor malls and airports.
  • There’s a new setting that will help you clear storage space on your device.
  • You can now share a Wi-Fi password with your contacts. 

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Hertz and Avis are jumping after news of big tech partnerships (CAR, HTZ, AAPL, GOOGL)

Shares of Avis and Hertz are on a tear.

Hertz is leasing six Lexus SUVs to Apple as the Cupertino company continues to work on its self-driving cars, according to a story from CNBC citing anonymous sources.

News of the partnership sent shares of Hertz up 13.5%, or about 2.25% per car the company is leasing.

Hertz’s rival, Avis, is also up on news of a self-driving car partnership. Waymo, the self-driving car subsidiary of Alphabet, is partnering with Avis to manage its self-driving car fleet. The fleet will contain about 600 Chrysler Pacifica minivans, according to Reuters. Avis will also be supplying fleet maintenance for Waymo.

The news, which is seemingly 100-times larger in scale than the Apple-Hertz partnership, only sent shares up 12.58%. That’s about .021% per car.

Neither car company has performed well this year. Hertz is down 52.31%, even after the bump from its Apple partnership. Avis isn’t fairing much better, as the company is down 26.87% this year.

Click here to watch shares of Avis and Hertz move in real time …

Hertz stock price

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Apple is crushing the Swiss watch industry — and one brand is particularly vulnerable (AAPL, FOSL)

swatch wristwatch

Smartwatches are taking over our wrists, and it’s likely to get worse for traditional Swiss watchmakers, according to UBS. 

The Apple Watch is bigger than every Swiss watch brand except Rolex, analysts at the bank said in a note on Monday. And Swatch is most vulnerable in this environment, according to Helen Brand and her colleagues. 

Swiss watchmakers recognize the demand for wearables, but are reluctant to dive in because they would need to rely on the tech companies that make the microprocessors that replace the mechanical parts, UBS said.

Also, the high-end companies could hurt their status when they sell wearables cheaper than they would traditional timepieces. That puts Swatch at the most risk because it leans more heavily towards entry-level products than its peers, Brand said.

“Market share may be further eroded for the Swiss industry as smartwatches improve in functionality,” Brand said. “The wider wearables market is now likely 30-40 million in volumes in total with Swiss watches industry volumes at 28m.” 

Swatch’s biggest threat is from China. 

“This has been a region where we have seen strong momentum, notably for Tissot and Longines driven by the emerging Chinese middle class,” Brand said. “If this consumer prefers the Apple Watch over these brands it could be a threat to Swatch’s medium-term growth prospect.” 

Bloomberg reported that Swatch was working on a smartwatch to launch around the end of 2018. 

US watchmaker Fossil has already entered the smartwatch market, but its foray has not prevented a sales decline. Kosta Kartsotis, Fossil’s CEO, cited “a watch category undergoing significant change” when the company reported weaker-than-expected earnings in the first quarter. 

This chart shows that traditional watchmakers’ sales peaked right as the first-generation Apple Watch launched in Q2 2015. 

Screen Shot 2017 06 26 at 1.26.28 PM

More wearables are shipping than Swiss watches. 

Screen Shot 2017 06 26 at 1.53.33 PM

A redeeming factor for Swiss watchmakers is that their products are essentially jewelry, meaning they are timeless and can hold emotional value when gifted. A smartwatch, however, would become obsolete after a few years if the battery goes flat or its maker stops providing operating-system updates.

Also, there remains the perception that the Apple Watch is a smartphone on your wrist, which it arguably isn’t. UBS’ survey of nearly 8,000 smartphone users in May found that the biggest reason why people didn’t want an Apple Watch was that they thought it wasn’t needed. 

Screen Shot 2017 06 26 at 2.02.01 PM


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Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 sounds a lot like the Galaxy S8, but with two key differences

galaxy note 8 concept

Samsung is preparing to announce its Galaxy Note 8, according to a recent report from VentureBeat by Evan Blass, who is known for his accurate rumor-mongering from his Twitter account, @evleaks.

Blass reportedly spoke with an individual who was briefed on Samsung’s plans for the Galaxy Note 8.

Galaxy Note fans are surely keen to find any details about Samsung’s upcoming Note 8 smartphone, as the last usable Note phone is the Galaxy Note 5, which was released two years ago back in 2015.

Indeed, Samsung’s latest Galaxy Note offering, the Galaxy Note 7, suffered an early death when several reports of the phone catching fire prompted the device’s total cancellation.

From the rumors, it looks like Galaxy Note fans can look to the Galaxy S8 for an early look at the Note 8. Still, apart from the Note line’s stylus, there are two key differences we’ll be watching out for.

Here’s what we know so far:

So far, the rumors claim that Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 will have a 6.3-inch display, which is barely bigger than the Galaxy S8+.

Samsung’s Galaxy S8+ has a 6.2-inch display, which is just 0.1 inches smaller than the rumored 6.3-inch screen size of the Note 8 from Blass’ report. That’s somewhat unusual, as Samsung’s Note phones are traditionally significantly larger than Samsung’s Galaxy S phones.

The Galaxy Note 8 is also said to come with a taller screen, just like the Galaxy S8 and S8+.

The Galaxy S8 phone screens have a unusual 18.5:9 aspect ratio, which makes them taller than the more conventional 16:9 screens on most smartphones. According to Blass, the Note 8 will have the same 18.5:9 aspect ratio as the Galaxy S8 phones.

The Galaxy Note 8 will apparently – and unsurprisingly – don Samsung’s AMOLED displays.

Samsung has been using the excellent AMOLED technology for its smartphone displays ever since the first Galaxy S phone, which was released back in 2010. Considering that AMOLED displays are still the best displays you can find on a smartphone, it will come as no surprise if Samsung continues to use AMOLED displays in its upcoming Note 8.

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Augmented reality is already changing the way big companies do business (MSFT, GOOG, GOOGL, AAPL)

justin trudeau hololens

People think of the iPhone and the smartphones it inspired as “revolutionary” devices.

But we’re on the cusp of something that could represent an even bigger transformation in computing: augmented reality.

Augmented reality, or AR, overlays digital images on top of views of the the real world. And it’s something that many in the tech industry, including the head honchos at Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, and Google, all expect will be the next big thing. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that he thinks AR could replace anything in your life with a screen, including your TV. Even sooner than that, many tech experts think AR could one day replace your smartphone. After all, why carry a separate phone if your e-mails, texts, calls, and spreadsheets are projected straight into your field of view?

AR may sound like science fiction, but it’s already starting to make its way into the real world. And one of the first places you can see it is in the workplace, whether that’s the front-office or the factory floor.

First steps

A lot of the early momentum for AR in the workplace is coming from Microsoft and its HoloLens augmented-reality goggles. Microsoft generally isn’t selling HoloLens to consumers yet, but it’s offering a prototype to developers and business customers that starts at $3,000. 

HoloLens is seeing some promising potential business uses. Architecture firm Gensler used HoloLens to redesign its Los Angeles headquarters, as Microsoft detailed in a recent blog post. HoloLens projected a three-dimensional image of the new building into architects’ eyes, allowing them to update and tweak the model in real-time.

microsoft hololens thyssenkrupp elevator

Thyssenkrupp, a German conglomerate that makes elevators and escalators, has equipped many of its elevator repair specialists with HoloLens. While performing repairs, the workers can use Skype to communicate with expert technicians back at the office. Thanks to the HoloLens’ camera, those technicians can view a video stream showing what the repair specialists are seeing, allowing the technicians to offer advice and assistance, such as looking up the appropriate section in an operators’ manual or ordering just the right parts. 

Meanwhile, companies like GE are experimenting with using augmented reality at power plants and other industrial facilities. For its part, GE is creating “digital twins,” or exact digital replicas, of its industrial machines. Those digital twins incorporate all the data from their real counterparts, allowing technicians to examine them virtually, off-site. The twins can also help highlight malfunctions when technicians visit the real machines in person. 

The bigger picture

Microsoft was early, but it isn’t the only one building augmented reality hardware. Google is working on a revamped version of its groundbreaking Google Glass aimed at businesses. Google-backed Magic Leap is racing to build an AR headset, although it’s unclear what business uses it will have. Reports have long swirled that Apple is developing its own smart glasses. And Epson — yes, the printer company — has for several years now offered a line of AR headsets developed for industrial uses.

Still, it will likely be years before AR is widely adopted in the workplace. There are still lots of technical hurdles to overcome. With HoloLens, for example, Microsoft managed to pack the considerable computing power necessary for AR into a standalone headset that doesn’t need to be tethered to a phone or a computer to function. But among the tradeoffs of its approach is the fact that the AR viewing areas in HoloLens are only a few inches wide. You can only see them if you have the headset adjusted just right; the experience is still pretty far off from the immersive holograms promised by “Star Trek.”

Conversely, Magic Leap promises its upcoming headset will offer a wider viewing angle and a more immersive experience. But that’s likely to come with some frustrating costs. According to leaked photos of a prototype of Magic Leap’s headset obtained by Business Insider earlier this year, the device will be powered by — and need to be connected to — an unwieldy external device that looks something like a fanny pack. A big priority for the AR industry going forward will be to find a balance between those two extremes.

Apple ARKit

Still, the technology’s already making significant strides. Apple recently unveiled ARkit, a set of tools that will let developers make AR apps for the iPhone and iPad that tap into those devices’ cameras and sensors. Just as Apple’s App Store spurred the widespread development of smartphone apps, ARkit could help spark a similar proliferation of augmented-reality apps for productivity, gaming and more.

Enterprises will likely benefit from that fervor as well. As we can already see by the early examples of enterprise-class AR, there’s a real need for businesses to interact with computers in a way that goes beyond what you can do with a smartphone or PC. 

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