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While all tech sectors will be negatively impacted by coronavirus, IT services will be hit hardest, says GlobalData

The coronavirus (COVID-19) will by far have the most impact on the technology industry in 2020. It will put incredible strain on the world’s economy, which will be effectively halted for three months or more. It is effectively a stress test on companies’ ability to cope with extreme shocks. COVID-19 …

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Bruce Klafter of Flex on driving collective action across the company’s supply chain

Bruce Klafter is vice president of corporate social and environmental responsibility at Flex, an electronics manufacturing services company. Klafter joined Heather Clancy and Sarah Golden, Sidebar cohosts during GreenBiz 20, to discuss how the company is improving its supply chain through IoT and blockchain technology as well as working closely with its customers.

Flex was a founding member of the Responsible Business Alliance, which in part helps the company drive collective action across its supply chain. Klafter also mentioned that a lot of key customers reach out to them directly for assistance in reaching their supply chain ambitions. The company is also continuing to work towards its own goals, including working with customers to implement more circular practices earlier on with the design their products to make them easier to disassembly, reuse components and prolong their use of life.

“I think the opportunities are tremendous,” Klafter says. “And we’re seeing a lot more interest from customers today.”


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Do phones need to fold?

As Samsung (re)unveiled its clamshell folding phone last week, I kept seeing the same question pop up amongst my social circles: why?

I was wondering the same thing myself, to be honest. I’m not sure even Samsung knows; they’d win me over by the end, but only somewhat. The halfway-folded, laptop-style “Flex Mode” allows you to place the phone on a table for hands-free video calling. That’s pretty neat, I guess. But… is that it?

The best answer to “why?” I’ve come up with so far isn’t a very satisfying one: Because they can (maybe). And because they sort of need to do something.

Let’s time-travel back to the early 2000s. Phones were weird, varied and no manufacturers really knew what was going to work. We had basic flip phones and Nokia’s indestructible bricks, but we also had phones that swiveled, slid and included chunky physical keyboards that seemed absolutely crucial. The Sidekick! LG Chocolate! BlackBerry Pearl! Most were pretty bad by today’s standards, but it was at least easy to tell one model from the next.

(Photo by Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images)

Then came the iPhone in 2007; a rectangular glass slab defined less by physical buttons and switches and more by the software that powered it. The device itself, a silhouette. There was hesitation to this formula, initially; the first Android phones shipped with swiveling keyboards, trackballs and various sliding pads. As iPhone sales grew, everyone else’s buttons, sliders and keyboards were boiled away as designers emulated the iPhone’s form factor. The best answer, it seemed, was a simple one.

Twelve years later, everything has become the same. Phones have become… boring. When everyone is trying to build a better rectangle, the battle becomes one of hardware specs. Which one has the fastest CPU? The best camera?

Source: Gadgets – TechCrunch

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Climate action infiltrates CES clamor, but electronics industry must do more

This article first appeared in GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, VERGE Weekly, running Wednesdays. Subscribe here

Consumer products companies face a particular dilemma when crafting strategies related to combating climate change. It comes down to this: Is it possible for a company that bases its entire business model on driving ever-higher levels of consumption to become truly sustainable?

It’s the first week of January, and that means more than 4,500 exhibitors will strut their stuff at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas — an event projected to gather more than 170,000 attendees eager to gawk at or test out the latest stuff for kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms and any other place in the home that seems appropriate to automate.

Driving better efficiency has long been a “thing” on the show floor, but this year, more than any other year in the history of the 50-something conference, there will be a much louder focus on what the industry is doing to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The drumbeat began last month when the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which hosts CES, released its first report (PDF) tracking the carbon reduction efforts of its members that actually publish those figures — obviously, not everyone does; the data in its analysis draws from a relatively discrete universe of 45 companies. (That list includes the usual suspects, such as Apple, HP Inc., Panasonic and Samsung, along with some others you might not expect such as CVS Health and L’Oreal.)

How’d they do? According to the report, CTA members reduced GHG emissions by almost 9 percent in the United States (Scope 1 and Scope 2) to about 19 million metric tons between 2016 and 2017. Alas, their global carbon footprint rose by 2.7 percent to 792.5 million metric tons in that same timeframe — the industry itself grew 11.7 percent during the year in question, so I suppose things could have been a lot worse.

I’ve also noticed an increase in the number of cleantech companies that use CES as a venue to demonstrate their products. An example is Zero Mass Water, a startup I’ve written about in the past that uses solar panels to generate clean drinking water.

The company is creating arrays using its technology: one in Phoenix, for example, is creating 152,000 liters of water annually that can be consumed by local restaurants and grocery stores. Zero Mass installations also are up and running in Queensland, Australia, and two locations in Dubai. 

CTA began paying lip service to “climate change innovators” three years ago as part of an awards program associated with the ongoing CES startup showcase. Here are the six companies being recognized this year:

  • ST Engineering Innosparks — The Singapore-based organization is exhibiting the Airbitat Smart Cooler, a portable evaporative cooling system that delivers air at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The technology uses less energy than an air-conditioner of similar capacity and it also dispenses with refrigerants.
  • Sunleavs — An internet-of-things solution emerging from Aix-en-Provence, France, that uses a sensor and social network to enable consumers to share solar energy resources across shared facilities.
  • RideSVP — A ride-sharing service developed in Los Angeles that caters to individuals seeking to create carpools from city to city. It serves Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah. 
  • Green Systems Automotives — The French company is behind Flexfuel, a device for converting motorcycles, scooters and other two-wheeled modes of transportation so that they can run on ethanol.
  • Omniply Technologies — The Montreal-based startup has created a more efficient approach to manufacturing flexible electronics, including displays, that can be molded into more form factors. 
  • Edgehog — Another startup that hails from Montreal, this company makes solar panels that include ultra-transmissive glass for generating power for everything from sensors to rooftop arrays — the output is 15 percent higher, on average, than comparable systems.

While I appreciate the heightened attention to celebrating climate action, and I see a business application for each innovation described above, I’d love to see more scrutiny of the mainstream companies that crowd CES’ main floor — the ones collectively selling millions of devices annually.

After all, CTA represents more than 2,200 companies globally. The fact that only 45 of those organizations report their own footprint, let alone the impact of all the gadgets and gizmos they are selling, is a sad testament to the state of sustainability in consumer electronics.


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All the high-tech, powerful vehicles TechCrunch reviewed in 2019

TechCrunch occasionally reviews cars. Why? Vehicles are some of the most complex, technical consumer electronics available. It’s always been that way. Vehicles, especially those available for the consumer, are the culmination of bleeding-edge advancements in computing, manufacturing, and material sciences. And some can go fast — zoom zoom.

Over the past 12 months, we’ve looked at a handful of vehicles from ultra-luxury to the revival of classic muscle cars. It’s been a fun year full of road trips and burnouts.

In the last weeks of 2018, we drove Audi’s first mass-produced electric vehicle. The familiar e-tron SUV.

I spent a day in an Audi e-tron and drove it hundreds of miles over Abu Dhabi’s perfect tarmac, around winding mountain roads and through sand-covered desert passes. The e-tron performs precisely how a buyer expects a mid-size Audi SUV to perform. On the road, the e-tron is eager and quiet, while off the road, over rocks, and through deep sand, it’s sturdy and surefooted.

Read the review here.

A few months later, we got an Audi RS 5 Sportback for a week. It was returned with significantly thinner tires.

This five-door sedan is raw and unhinged, and there’s an unnatural brutality under the numerous electronic systems. Its twin-turbo 2.9L power plant roars while the Audi all-wheel drive system keeps the rubber on the tarmac. It’s insane, and like most vacations, it’s lovely to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live with the RS 5.

Read the review here.

At the end of Spring, a 2019 Bentley Continental GT blew us away.

The machine glides over the road, powered by a mechanical symphony performing under the hood. The W12 engine is a dying breed, and it’s a shame. It’s stunning in its performance. This is a 200 mph vehicle, but I didn’t hit those speeds. What surprised me the most is that I didn’t need to go fast. The new Continental GT is thrilling in a way that doesn’t require speed. It’s like a great set of speakers or exclusive liquor. Quality over quantity, and in this mechanical form, the quality is stunning.

Read the review here.

In late May, we drove Audi’s 2019 Q8 from Michigan to New York City and back. To the passengers, it was comfortable. For the driver (me), it was unpleasant.

Yet after spending a lot of time in the Q8, I found it backwards. Most crossovers provide the comfort of a sedan with the utility of an SUV. This one has the rough comfort of an SUV with the limited utility of a sedan. Worse yet, driving the Q8 around town can be a frustrating experience.

Read the review here.

2019 bmw i8 1

The BMW i8 is a long for this world, so we took it out for one last spin, several years after reviewing it just after it was released.

The BMW i8 is just a stepping stone in BMW’s history. An oddball. It’s a limited-edition vehicle to try out new technology. From what I can tell, BMW never positioned the i8 as a top seller or market leader. It was an engineer’s playground. I love it.

Read the review here.

2020 gt500 3

This fall, we went to Las Vegas to get the first taste of Ford’s latest GT500. It’s exhilarating and yet manageable.

During my short time with the 2020 GT500, I never felt overwhelmed with power when driving it on city streets. The 2020 GT500 is an exercise in controlled restraint. Somehow this 760 HP Ford can hit 60 mph in 3.3 seconds and still be easy to putz around town. It’s surprising and a testament to the advances made within Dearborn.

Read the review here.

McLaren Senna GTR doors

Supercars are often an exercise in excess, and yet the McLaren Senna GTR is something different. It’s a testament to how McLaren operates.

Sliding into the driver’s seat, I feel at home. The cockpit is purposeful. The track was cold with some damp spots, and the GTR is a stiff, lightweight race car with immense power on giant slick tires. Conventional wisdom would suggest the driver — me in this case — should slowly work up to speed in these otherwise treacherous conditions. However, the best way to get the car to work is to get the temperature in the tires by leaning on it a bit right away. Bell sent me out in full “Race” settings for both the engine and electronic traction and stability controls. Within a few corners — and before the end of the lap — I had a good feel for the tuning of the ABS, TC, and ESC, which were all intuitive and minimally invasive.

Read the review here.

Quick thoughts on other cars we drove this year.

2020 BMW M850i xDrive Coupe
A grand tourer for the modest millionaire. With all-wheel drive, a glorious engine, and heated armrests, the 850i is exciting and comfortable anywhere.

2019 Ford GT350
Forget the GT500. The GT350, with a standard gearbox and naturally aspirated 5.2L V8, is a pony car that gives the driver more control and more thrills than its more expensive, supercharged cousin.

2020 BMW M2 Competition Coupe
This small BMW coupe is perfectly balanced. It’s powerful, controllable, and, during our week with it, gave endless thrills (and donuts). This was my favorite car this year.

2019 Ford Raptor
Need a pickup that’s faster than a sports car? You probably don’t, but if so, we discovered the Raptor was capable and enjoyable if not a bit unwieldy in traffic thanks to its wide body.

Source: TechCrunch