Battlefield

Cloudflare’s Warp is a VPN that might actually make your mobile connection better

Posted by | Battlefield, Cloud, cloudflare, Developer, Mobile, privacy, Security, TC, vpn, vpns | No Comments

Since its launch on our stage way back in 2010, Cloudflare has focused on making the internet faster and more modern — but the mobile internet has until recently been beyond its reach. Today the company introduced a new service called Warp described as “the VPN for people who don’t know what VPN stands for.”

In case you’re one of those people, and there’s no shame in it, a VPN is a virtual private network: something that acts as an intermediary between you and the wider internet, allowing you to customize how you connect in many helpful ways, such as changing your apparent location or avoiding IP-based tracking.

The trouble with these services is that many of them just aren’t very good. Trusting a company you’ve never heard of with all your internet traffic just isn’t generally a good idea, and even the biggest and most proven VPN providers are far from household names. What’s more, they can introduce latency and performance issues, which on the mobile web are already trouble enough. In the best case they may take configuration and tweaking that casual users aren’t up to.

Warp, according to a blog post by CEO Matthew Prince, will provide many of the benefits of a VPN with none of the drawbacks, speeding up your connection while adding privacy and security.

“We’ve been tinkering with this idea for three or four years,” Prince told me. Originally there was the idea of making a browser, “but that’s insane,” he said; Apple and Google would crush it. Besides, everything is going app-based and mobile — the real opportunity, they perceived, lay in the layer between those things and the broader internet: “So, a VPN, and it made all the sense in the world for us.”

But they didn’t want to simply compete with a bunch of small providers appealing to a variety of niche power users.

“To be honest, for the vast majority of existing VPN users, this is probably not the right solution for them,” admitted Prince. “If you want to change your country to access Netflix while you’re traveling, there are lots of people that offer that service, but that’s not the market we’re getting into. We wanted something with mass appeal instead of trying to cannibalize what’s out there.”

In order to become a drawback-free default for millions of users, Cloudflare didn’t so much build something from the ground up as adapt nascent work by developers on the cutting edge of networking. It rewrote the already efficient open-source VPN layer created by Wireguard to be even more so, and added a UDP-based protocol created by Neumob, a company it bought in late 2017. Add to this the large network of Cloudflare servers all around the world and it’s a recipe for a quick, secure service that could very well be both better and faster than your existing connection.

You may remember that at this time last year, Cloudflare debuted its DNS service, 1.1.1.1, both for desktops and mobile (via the 1.1.1.1 app). It’s leveraging this presence to offer Warp as an optional and free upgrade.

So what is it? When your mobile wants to make a connection for a Google search or to get an update for an app or whatever, there’s a whole process of reaching out on the internet, finding the right IP to talk to, establishing a secure connection and so on. Cloudflare’s Warp VPN (like other VPNs) takes over this process, encrypting where it otherwise might not be, but also accelerating it by passing the requests over its own network using that Neumob protocol.

The technical aspects will no doubt be exposed and inspected in time, but Cloudflare claims that using Warp should improve your connection and make it more secure, while preventing your DNS lookup data (which says exactly which sites you request to connect to) from being collected and sold. Prince said his post lacked direct comparisons to existing VPNs because they don’t think those are relevant for the millions of non-VPN-using people they’re targeting with Warp.

“Will people do comparisons? Yes. Will I retweet those when they make us look good? Yes,” Prince said. “But we don’t expect to take a lot of users from them. We want the market to expand — we want to be the biggest VPN in the world without taking a single user from any other provider.”

Part of that is the lack of some of existing VPNs’ most attractive features, such as blocking ads at the IP level. Prince said he and the others at the company were uncomfortable with the idea of picking and choosing content, not least because many of their customers are ad-supported sites. “There’s just something creepy about when the internet’s underlying pipes start making editorial decisions,” Prince said. “When we start messing with the contents of a page, even if people want us to, it sets a dangerous precedent.”

Warp can be offered for free because the company is planning a more high-end service that it’ll sell for a monthly fee. Later, an enterprise version could be sold to replace the clunky ones currently out there (which many of our readers likely have already had the pleasure of using). Prince says he envisions a day when a kid can walk into the living room at home and say, “Mom, the internet is being slow, can I use your corporate VPN?” Unlikely, but even CEOs of major infrastructure companies have dreams. Be kind.

Until then, like the rest of Cloudflare’s connectivity suite, Warp will be free and come with few if any caveats.

Well, except one — it’s not available yet. They wanted to make the announcement on April 1 because it’s exactly a year since they announced 1.1.1.1 (get it? 4/1?), but they missed the date. (“I wanted to just turn this on for everyone, but our tech operations team was like, ‘No. You’re not allowed to do that. The network would fall over.’ “) So what you can do now is get the 1.1.1.1 app and request a spot in line. Since they just announced it, the wait probably won’t be that long… oh.

Okay.

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Robin’s robotic mowers now have a patented doggie door just for them

Posted by | artificial intelligence, Battlefield, Gadgets, hardware, robin, robotic mower, robotics, Startups | No Comments

Back in 2016 we had Robin up onstage demonstrating the possibility of a robotic mower as a service rather than just something you buy. They’re still going strong, and just introduced and patented what seems in retrospect a pretty obvious idea: an automatic door for the mower to go through fences between front and back yards.

It’s pretty common, after all, to have a back yard isolated from the front lawn by a wood or chain link fence so dogs and kids can roam freely with only light supervision. And if you’re lucky enough to have a robot mower, it can be a pain to carry it from one side to the other. Isn’t the whole point of the thing that you don’t have to pick it up or interact with it in any way?

The solution Justin Crandall and his team at Robin came up with is simple and straightforward: an automatic mower-size door that opens only to let it through.

“In Texas over 90 percent of homes have a fenced in backyard, and even in places like Charlotte and Cleveland it’s roughly 25-30 percent, so technology like this is critical to adoption,” Crandall told me. “We generally dock the robots in the backyard for security. When it’s time to mow the front yard, the robots drive to the door we place in the fence. As it approaches the door, the robot drives over a sensor we place in the ground. That sensor unlocks the door to allow the mower access.”

Simple, right? It uses a magnetometer rather than wireless or IR sensor, since those introduced possibilities of false positives. And it costs around $100-$150, easily less than a second robot or base, and probably pays for itself in goodwill around the third or fourth time you realize you didn’t have to carry your robot around.

It’s patented, but rivals (like iRobot, which recently introduced its own mower) could certainly build one if it was sufficiently different.

Robin has expanded to several states and a handful of franchises (its plan from the start) and maintains that its all-inclusive robot-as-a-service method is better than going out and buying one for yourself. Got a big yard and no teenage kids who can mow it for you? See if Robin’s available in your area.

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Loro’s mounted wheelchair assistant puts high tech to work for people with disabilities

Posted by | accessibility, artificial intelligence, Battlefield, disrupt berlin 2018, events, Gadgets, hardware, Health, loro co, Startup Battlefield, Startup Battlefield Disrupt Berlin 2018, Startups, TC, TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin 2018 | No Comments

A person with physical disabilities can’t interact with the world the same way as the able, but there’s no reason we can’t use tech to close that gap. Loro is a device that mounts to a wheelchair and offers its occupant the ability to see and interact with the people and things around them in powerful ways.

Loro’s camera and app work together to let the user see farther, read or translate writing, identify people, gesture with a laser pointer and more. They demonstrated their tech onstage today during Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin.

Invented by a team of mostly students who gathered at Harvard’s Innovation Lab, Loro began as a simple camera for disabled people to more easily view their surroundings.

“We started this project for our friend Steve,” said Loro co-founder and creative director, Johae Song. A designer like her and others in their friend group, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, a degenerative neural disease that paralyzes the muscles of the afflicted. “So we decided to come up with ideas of how to help people with mobility challenges.”

“We started with just the idea of a camera attached to the wheelchair, to give people a panoramic view so they can navigate easily,” explained co-founder David Hojah. “We developed from that idea after talking with mentors and experts; we did a lot of iterations, and came up with the idea to be smarter, and now it’s this platform that can do all these things.”

It’s not simple to design responsibly for a population like ALS sufferers and others with motor problems. The problems they may have in everyday life aren’t necessarily what one would think, nor are the solutions always obvious. So the Loro team determined to consult many sources and expend a great deal of time in simple observation.

“Very basic observation — just sit and watch,” Hojah said. “From that you can get ideas of what people need without even asking them specific questions.”

Others would voice specific concerns without suggesting solutions, such as a flashlight the user can direct through the camera interface.

“People didn’t say, ‘I want a flashlight,’ they said ‘I can’t get around in the dark.’ So we brainstormed and came up with the flashlight,” he said. An obvious solution in some ways, but only through observation and understanding can it be implemented well.

The focus is always on communication and independence, Song said, and users are the ones who determine what gets included.

“We brainstorm together and then go out and user test. We realize some features work, others don’t. We try to just let them play with it and see what features people use the most.”

There are assistive devices for motor-impaired people out there already, Song and Hojah acknowledged, but they’re generally expensive, unwieldy and poorly designed. Hojah’s background is in medical device design, so he knows of what he speaks.

Consequently, Loro has been designed to be as accessible as possible, with a tablet interface that can be navigated using gaze tracking (via a Tobii camera setup) or other inputs like joysticks and sip-and-puff tubes.

The camera can be directed to, for example, look behind the wheelchair so the user can safely back up. Or it can zoom in on a menu that’s difficult to see from the user’s perspective and read the items off. The laser pointer allows a user with no ability to point or gesture to signal in ways we take for granted, such as choosing a pastry from a case. Text to speech is built right in, so users don’t have to use a separate app to speak out loud.

The camera also tracks faces and can recognize them from a personal (though for now, cloud-hosted) database for people who need help tracking those with whom they interact. The best of us can lose a name or fail to place a face — honestly, I wouldn’t mind having a Loro on my shoulder during some of our events.


Right now the team is focused on finalizing the hardware; the app and capabilities are mostly finalized but the enclosure and so on need to be made production-ready. The company itself is very early-stage — they just incorporated a few months ago and worked with $100,000 in pre-seed funding to create the prototype. Next up is doing a seed round to get ready to manufacture.

“The whole team, we’re really passionate about empowering these people to be really independent, not just waiting for help from others,” Hojah said. Their driving force, he made clear, is compassion.

 

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Photomath raises $6 million for its math-solving app

Posted by | Apps, Battlefield, Europe, Fundings & Exits, Mobile, PhotoMath, Startups, TC | No Comments

Photomath just raised a $6 million funding round from Goodwater Capital, with Learn Capital also participating. Photomath has created a hugely successful mobile app for iOS and Android with 100 million downloads so far.

Photomath first launched at TechCrunch Disrupt London back in 2014. The company was working on text recognition technology. Photomath was just a demo app to promote that technology.

But the startup accidentally created a consumer success. The app instantly attracted millions of downloads from many desperate students willing to learn math with their phones.

Years later it is still one of the most downloaded apps in the App Store and Play Store. And the reason it’s been so successful is that it’s a simple concept.

After downloading the app, you just have to point your phone at a math problem. It can be in a book, or it can recognize your own handwriting. The app then gives you a step-by-step explanation to solve the problem.

Combining these two things is what makes Photomath useful. WolframAlpha can solve equations, and Evernote can recognize your handwriting. But nobody thought about combining these things.

Typing an equation can be hard, so it makes a ton of sense to bridge the gap between the physical world and smartphones. Before everybody started talking about augmented reality, Photomath was already taking advantage of the system-on-a-chip in your phone.

Photomath is also capable of generating graphs and supports advanced problems, such as limits, integrations, complex numbers, etc. The app solves around 1.2 billion math problems per month.

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N26 is launching its bank in the UK

Posted by | Banking, Battlefield, Europe, Finance, Mobile, N26, Revolut, Startups | No Comments

Nearly a year after German fintech startup N26 announced that it would launch its service in the U.K., the company is launching in the U.K. N26 is already quite popular in the Eurozone, with more than 1.5 million customers. In this new market, it will face tough competition from existing players, such as Revolut, Monzo, Starling and many others.

N26 is going to roll out its product in multiple phases. Some lucky few will be able to open an account right away. The startup will then go through its waiting list — 50,000 people already left their email addresses to express interest. After that, anybody will be able to download the app and sign up.

This might sound like a convoluted process, but N26 expects a full public launch in just a few weeks. So it should be quite quick if everything goes as planned.

So what can you expect exactly? British customers will get all the basic N26 stuff with one killer feature — U.K. account numbers and sort codes. This way, customers will be able to receive payments and share banking information with their utility providers just like they would with a regular Barclays or Lloyds account.

When you open an N26 account, you get a true bank account and a MasterCard. Basic accounts are free, and N26 has a proper banking license — your deposits up to €100,000 are guaranteed by the European deposit guarantee scheme. You can then send and receive money and pay with your card. Sending money to other N26 users is instantaneous (they call it MoneyBeam).

N26 recently launched Spaces, a new feature that lets you create sub accounts and put some money aside. It’s still limited, but the company plans to add more features.

Your MasterCard works like any other challenger bank. Every time you use it, you receive a push notification. You can set payment and withdrawal limits, lock your card if you lose it and reset your PIN code. N26 will also bring Black and Metal plans to the U.K.

How does it compare to Revolut?

Let’s be honest, the elephant in the room is Revolut . The company has hundreds of thousands (if not over a million) customers in the U.K. N26 lets you do many of the things you can already do with your Revolut account.

So let me point out a few differences. As I noted, N26 has a banking license and U.K. banking information. N26 cards work in Apple Pay and Google Pay.

When it comes to international payments, N26 lets you pay with your card anywhere in the world without any additional fee. The company uses MasterCard’s conversion rates. Revolut first converts the money with its forex feature and then lets you spend your money.

There are an infinite number of forum posts about the exchange rates you’ll get. Sometimes Revolut is cheaper, sometimes N26 is cheaper. It mostly depends on the day of the week (Revolut conversion rates are more expensive on the weekend) and the currency. Unless you plan to spend tens of thousands of GBP during your vacation, you won’t see a huge difference on your bank statement.

Revolut also has many more features than N26. You can insure your phone, buy bitcoins, buy travel insurance, create virtual cards and more. It’s clear that N26 and Revolut have two different styles.

Revolut has a bigger user base than N26. But it’s always been a bit hard to compare them, as N26 wasn’t available in the U.K. Of course, they will both say there are tens of millions of people relying on old banks — multiple challenger banks can grow at the same time if they capture market share from those aging players. Still, the battle between N26 and Revolut is on.

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Vtrus launches drones to inspect and protect your warehouses and factories

Posted by | artificial intelligence, Battlefield, Disrupt, disrupt sf 2018, Gadgets, hardware, robotics, Startups, TC | No Comments

Knowing what’s going on in your warehouses and facilities is of course critical to many industries, but regular inspections take time, money, and personnel. Why not use drones? Vtrus uses computer vision to let a compact drone not just safely navigate indoor environments but create detailed 3D maps of them for inspectors and workers to consult, autonomously and in real time.

Vtrus showed off its hardware platform — currently a prototype — and its proprietary SLAM (simultaneous location and mapping) software at TechCrunch Disrupt SF as a Startup Battlefield Wildcard company.

There are already some drone-based services for the likes of security and exterior imaging, but Vtrus CTO Jonathan Lenoff told me that those are only practical because they operate with a large margin for error. If you’re searching for open doors or intruders beyond the fence, it doesn’t matter if you’re at 25 feet up or 26. But inside a warehouse or production line every inch counts and imaging has to be carried out at a much finer scale.

As a result, dangerous and tedious inspections, such as checking the wiring on lighting or looking for rust under an elevated walkway, have to be done by people. Vtrus wouldn’t put those people out of work, but it might take them out of danger.

The drone, called the ABI Zero for now, is equipped with a suite of sensors, from ordinary RGB cameras to 360 ones and a structured-light depth sensor. As soon as it takes off, it begins mapping its environment in great detail: it takes in 300,000 depth points 30 times per second, combining that with its other cameras to produce a detailed map of its surroundings.

It uses this information to get around, of course, but the data is also streamed over wi-fi in real time to the base station and Vtrus’s own cloud service, through which operators and inspectors can access it.

The SLAM technique they use was developed in-house; CEO Renato Moreno built and sold a company (to Facebook/Oculus) using some of the principles, but improvements to imaging and processing power have made it possible to do it faster and in greater detail than before. Not to mention on a drone that’s flying around an indoor space full of people and valuable inventory.

On a full charge, ABI can fly for about 10 minutes. That doesn’t sound very impressive, but the important thing isn’t staying aloft for a long time — few drones can do that to begin with — but how quickly it can get back up there. That’s where the special docking and charging mechanism comes in.

The Vtrus drone lives on and returns to a little box, which when a tapped-out craft touches down, sets off a patented high-speed charging process. It’s contact-based, not wireless, and happens automatically. The drone can then get back in the air perhaps half an hour or so later, meaning the craft can actually be in the air for as much as six hours a day total.

Probably anyone who has had to inspect or maintain any kind of building or space bigger than a studio apartment can see the value in getting frequent, high-precision updates on everything in that space, from storage shelving to heavy machinery. You’d put in an ABI for every X square feet depending on what you need it to do; they can access each other’s data and combine it as well.

This frequency and the detail which which the drone can inspect and navigate means maintenance can become proactive rather than reactive — you see rust on a pipe or a hot spot on a machine during the drone’s hourly pass rather than days later when the part fails. And if you don’t have an expert on site, the full 3D map and even manual drone control can be handed over to your HVAC guy or union rep.

You can see lots more examples of ABI in action at the Vtrus website. Way too many to embed here.

Lenoff, Moreno, and third co-founder Carlos Sanchez, who brings the industrial expertise to the mix, explained that their secret sauce is really the software — the drone itself is pretty much off the shelf stuff right now, tweaked to their requirements. (The base is an original creation, of course.)

But the software is all custom built to handle not just high-resolution 3D mapping in real time but the means to stream and record it as well. They’ve hired experts to build those systems as well — the 6-person team already sounds like a powerhouse.

The whole operation is self-funded right now, and the team is seeking investment. But that doesn’t mean they’re idle: they’re working with major companies already and operating a “pilotless” program (get it?). The team has been traveling the country visiting facilities, showing how the system works, and collecting feedback and requests. It’s hard to imagine they won’t have big clients soon.

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Unbound makes pleasure fashionable

Posted by | Battlefield, disrupt sf 2018, fda, Gadgets, sex toys, Startup Battlefield Disrupt SF 2018, TC, vibrator | No Comments

Unbound founders Polly Rodriguez and Sarah Jayne Kinney have long and varied careers. Rodriguez worked for U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill on Capitol Hill before heading to Deloitte Consulting and dating startup Grouper. Kinney was a graduate of University of Cincinnati worked at Puma and then at Esquire and O, Oprah’s magazine. She worked shooting products for fashion houses in New York.

The duo met in 2014.

Now they make fashion-forward vibrators. Their latest, the Palma, is the most fashion-forward yet and it just launched at TechCrunch Disrupt.

“Unbound is closing the very real orgasm gap by putting knowledge and product in the hands of women all over the world,” said Rodriguez. “Unbound is the first brand taking sexual wellness mainstream through elevated design and accessible pricing.”

The new device masquerades as a ring, offers multiple speeds, and is completely waterproof. It’s made of surgical grade steel and comes in silver or gold. Further, the team plans to add accelerometer features to the device. It will ship in 2019.

The team has raised $3.3 million in seed funding to date and are on track to hit $4 million in revenue in 2018.

They’ve been working on improving the state of the art when it comes to vibrators. They are, it seems, tired of the status quo.

“It’s important to note that vibrators are used in one of the most absorbent parts of the body and not regulated by the FDA. The lack of regulation results in manufacturers using carcinogens in their materials like parabens and phthalates. Unbound only uses medical grade silicone,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez’s message is simple: she wants to destroy the negative stereotypes around sex and health. And she has good reason.

“Each of us is motivated to change the stigmas associated with sexual health for different reasons. For me, it was going through menopause at 21 as a result of radiation treatment for cancer and ending up at a seedy shop on the side of the highway trying to buy lube and a vibrator. My doctors didn’t tell me I was going through menopause, only that I wouldn’t have children. As I got older, I realized that had I been a man, that conversation would have gone very differently… because we view male sexuality has a health need and female sexuality as a vice,” she said. “To put it in perspective, think about the fact that Bob Dole, a former presidential candidate was the spokesperson for Viagra. Can you imagine Hillary Clinton being the spokesperson for a vibrator brand? That’s the difference in how we view male vs. female (cis, femme, non-gender identifying) sexuality.”

“Our dream at Unbound is for female sexual health to be viewed through the same lens as male sexuality — as a part of our overall health that deserves a conversation, platform, and shopping experience that doesn’t feel like a flaming pile of garbage,” she said.

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PoLTE lets you track devices using LTE signal

Posted by | Battlefield, Developer, Disrupt, disrupt sf, disrupt sf 2018, Enterprise, Gadgets, PoLTE, Startups | No Comments

Meet PoLTE, a Dallas-based startup that wants to make location-tracking more efficient. Thanks to PoLTE’s software solution, logistics and shipment companies can much more easily track packages and goods. The startup is participating in TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield at Disrupt SF.

If you want to use a connected device to track a package, you currently need a couple of things — a way to determine the location of the package, and a way to transmit this information over the air. The most straightforward way of doing it is by using a GPS chipset combined with a cellular chipset.

Systems-on-chip have made this easier as they usually integrate multiple modules. You can get a GPS signal and wireless capabilities in the same chip. While GPS is insanely accurate, it also requires a ton of battery just to position a device on a map. That’s why devices often triangulate your position using Wi-Fi combined with a database of Wi-Fi networks and their positions.

And yet, using GPS or Wi-Fi as well as an LTE modem doesn’t work if you want to track a container over multiple weeks or months. At some point, your device will run out of battery. Or you’ll have to spend a small fortune to buy a ton of trackers with big batteries.

PoLTE has developed a software solution that lets you turn data from the cell modem into location information. It works with existing modems and only requires a software update. The company has been working with Riot Micro for instance.

Behind the scene PoLTE’s magic happens on their servers. IoT devices don’t need to do any of the computing. They just need to send a tiny sample of LTE signals and PoLTE can figure out the location from their servers. Customers can then get this data using an API.

It only takes 300 bytes of data to get location information with precision of less than a few meters. You don’t need a powerful CPU, Wi-Fi, GPS or Bluetooth.

“We offer 80 percent cost reduction on IoT devices together with longer battery life,” CEO Ed Chao told me.

On the business side, PoLTE is using a software-as-a-service model. You can get started for free if you don’t need a lot of API calls. You then start paying depending on the size of your fleet of devices and the number of location requests.

It doesn’t really matter if the company finds a good business opportunity. PoLTE is a low-level technology company at heart. Its solution is interesting by itself and could help bigger companies that are looking for an efficient location-tracking solution.


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Stealthy wants to become the WeChat of blockchain apps

Posted by | Apps, Battlefield, blockchain, disrupt sf 2018, messaging, Mobile, Social, Startups, Stealthy | No Comments

Meet Stealthy a new messaging app that leverages Blockstack’s decentralized application platform to build a messaging app. The company is participating in TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield at Disrupt SF and launching its app on iOS and Android today.

On the surface, Stealthy works like many messaging apps out there. But it gets interesting once you start digging to understand the protocol behind it. Stealthy is a decentralized platform with privacy in mind. It could become the glue that makes various decentralized applications stick together.

“We started Stealthy because Blockstack had a global hackathon in December of last year,” co-founder Prabhaav Bhardwaj told me. “We won that hackathon in February.” After that, the #deletefacebook movement combined with the overall decentralization trend motivated Bhardwaj and Alex Carreira to ship the app.

Blockstack manages your identity. You get an ID and a 12-word passphrase to recover your account. Blockstack creates a blockchain record for each new user. You use your Blockstack ID to connect to Stealthy.

Stealthy users then choose how they want to store their messages. You can connect your account with Dropbox, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, etc.

Every time you message someone, the message is first encrypted on your device and sent to your recipient’s cloud provider. Your recipient can then open the Stealthy app and decrypt the message from their storage system.

All of this is seamless for the end user. It works like an iMessage conversation, which means that Microsoft or Amazon can’t open and read your messages without your private key. You remain in control of your data. Stealthy plans to open source their protocol and mobile product so that anybody can audit their code.

Some features require a certain level of centralization. For instance, Stealthy relies on Firebase for push notifications. If you’re uncomfortable with that, you can disable that feature.

The company also wants to become your central hub for all sorts of decentralized apps (or dapps for short). For instance, you can launch Graphite Docs or Blockusign from Stealty. Those dapps are built on top of Blockstack as well, but Stealthy plans to integrate with other dapps that don’t work on Blockstack.

“We have dapp integrations in place right now and we want to make it easier to add dapp integrations. If somebody wants to come in and start selling messaging stickers, you could do that. If you want to come in and implement a payment system to pay bloggers, you could do that,” Bhardwaj said. “Eventually, what we want to be is to make it as easy as submitting an app in the App Store.”

When you build a digital product, chances are you’ll end up adding a messaging feature at some point. You can chat in Google Docs, Airbnb, Venmo, YouTube… And the same is likely to be true with dapps. Stealthy believes that many developers could benefit from a solid communication infrastructure — this way, other companies can focus on their core products and let Stealthy handle the communication layer.

Stealthy is an ambitious company. In many ways, the startup is trying to build a decentralized WeChat with the encryption features of Signal. It’s a messaging app, but it’s also a platform for many other use cases.

A handful of messaging apps have become so powerful that they’ve become a weakness. Governments can block them or leverage them to create a social ranking. Authorities can get a warrant to ask tech companies to hand them data. And of course, the top tech companies have become too powerful. More decentralization is always a good thing.


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N26 launches a revised metal card

Posted by | Apps, Banking, Battlefield, Europe, Mobile, N26, Startups | No Comments

Fintech startup N26 is updating its N26 Metal product and launching it tomorrow. You might remember that the company first announced its premium card at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin in December 2017. Shortly after the conference, the card was available in early access for existing N26 Black customers.

But the company had to go back to the drawing board and update the card design. N26 Metal customers had some complaints about the design of the card in particular.

While the original metal card was primarily made of a sheet of tungsten, the metallic part was still surrounded by plastic. Customers complained about scratches and the overall feel of the card.

It didn’t really feel like a metal card. It was more or less a heavy plastic card with a metal core. You could easily get scratches and the MasterCard logo was just a sticker.

@N26 such a shame my Metal card has a big scratch… it doesn’t even look like a scratch but something deeper under the plastic 🙁 pic.twitter.com/7qFTNEkqlH

— W Bonnaud-Dowell (@bonnaud_dowell) March 5, 2018

Even more surprising, some customers had some issues going through airport security because tungsten was an uncommon material.

Travelled 2 times since I have the @n26 metal card and get an extra security check each time because of this. 😒

— Alex. Delivet (@alexd) May 14, 2018

At an event in Berlin, the company announced a revised version of N26 Metal. The front of the card is going to be made out of actual metal. The MasterCard logo will be engraved. And the name of the customer is moving to the back of the card.

You can join the waiting list now and customers will start getting the new metal card tomorrow. Everybody will be able to sign up next Tuesday.

But N26 Metal isn’t just a fancy card. For around €15 per month, you get all the advantages of N26 Black as well as partner offerings.

These offerings include the basic $45 per month WeWork subscription so that you can access a WeWork office for free for one day per month and pay for extra days. You also get 10 percent off hotel bookings on Hotels.com, promo codes for Drivy, Babbel and other services. The company says that there will be new offerings in the coming months.

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