GOOGL Sep 2020 1700.000 call

OPR - OPR Delayed price. Currency in USD
2.0000
0.0000 (0.00%)
At close: 3:00PM EDT
Stock chart is not supported by your current browser
Previous close2.0000
Open2.0000
Bid0.1000
Ask2.0000
Strike1,700.00
Expiry date2020-09-18
Day's range2.0000 - 2.0000
Contract rangeN/A
Volume10
Open interest117
  • Apple Acquires AI Startup to Better Understand Natural Language
    Bloomberg

    Apple Acquires AI Startup to Better Understand Natural Language

    (Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. acquired Voysis, an artificial intelligence startup that developed a platform for digital voice assistants to better understand people’s natural language.Dublin, Ireland-based Voysis focused on improving digital assistants inside online shopping apps, so the software could respond more accurately to voice commands from users. A now-removed company webpage said the technology could narrow product search results by processing shopping phrases such as “I need a new LED TV” and “My budget is $1,000.” Voysis provided this AI to other companies to incorporate it into their own apps and voice assistants.Read more about the startup here: Synthesizing Realistic Human Speech Just Got a Lot EasierAn Apple spokesman said the company “buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”Voysis’s system taps into Wavenets, an AI-based method for creating more human-like computer speech that was first developed by Google’s DeepMind in 2016. Voysis co-founder Peter Cahill said in 2018 that his company managed to shrink its system to the point where, once the AI is trained, the software uses as little as 25 megabytes of memory -- about the same size as four Apple Music songs. That made it much easier to run on smartphones without an internet connection.Apple could use the acquired know-how improve Siri’s understanding of natural language or to offer the Voysis platform to thousands of developers that already integrate with the Apple digital assistant. Apple has been the top buyer of AI startups in recent years and has a portfolio that already includes former startups including Turi, Xnor.ai, and Laserlike.Read more: Big Tech Swallows Most of the Hot AI StartupsVoysis was founded in 2012 and sold its services to several companies. It also had offices in Edinburgh and Boston and got $8 million in venture funding from Polaris Partners in 2017.The acquisition is the second Apple deal disclosed this week. The Cupertino, California-based tech giant also bought Dark Sky, a popular weather app for iPhones and iPads.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • ETFs to Gain on Cloud Computing Growth Amid Coronavirus Crisis
    Zacks

    ETFs to Gain on Cloud Computing Growth Amid Coronavirus Crisis

    Cloud computing comes to the rescue as countries practice social distancing, making people work remotely to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

  • Sky News

    Coronavirus: Google data shows how people's movements have changed since outbreak

    Visits to shops, museums and cafes in the UK have fallen by 85% since the coronavirus outbreak, according to data shared by Google. The technology firm's anonymised data of people's locations provides an insight into how the public are moving around during the pandemic. The information comes from products such as Google Maps, the company said.

  • Bloomberg

    Google Joins With U.K. Researchers to Track Coronavirus Cases

    (Bloomberg) -- Google is working with researchers in Europe to track the spread of the coronavirus using troves of location data gathered from smartphones.The search engine giant is collaborating with academics from the University of Southampton in the U.K., who in turn are working with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, according to several people involved in the project.The location data, which Google collects from location-enabled apps such as Google Maps, has been shared with the researchers in an aggregated and anonymized format. It can’t be used to track an individual person; rather, it shows broad patterns of movement across entire countries over periods of time, according to the people.The data is helping researchers analyze the relationship between travel patterns and transmission rates of the virus within different countries, according to the people, while also providing insight into the effectiveness of lock downs in European countries.“We are looking at inner-city movement across the EU and what it means for controlling Covid-19,” said Nick Ruktanonchai, an infectious disease epidemiologist and lecturer at the University of Southampton. “With the location data, we are testing different scenarios and simulating what might happen if countries don’t end their lock downs in a coordinated way. It’s about buying time. We want to make sure a big second epidemic doesn’t happen months down the line.”Ruktanonchai’s description was confirmed by three others familiar with the project, who requested anonymity.A spokesman for Google pointed to a blog post the company published on Friday, which stated that it was “collaborating with select epidemiologists working on Covid-19 with updates to an existing aggregate, anonymized dataset that can be used to better understand and forecast the pandemic.”The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control didn’t respond to a request for comment.The researchers are also working with telecommunications giant Vodafone Group Plc, Ruktanonchai said, and have combined data from Vodafone’s mobile phone networks with the Google location data in an effort to create more accurate models of movement patterns in Europe.A spokesman for Vodafone Group confirmed that the company was working with Southampton researchers on a project to monitor how the coronavirus might develop in different scenarios.In recent weeks, more than a dozen countries -- including the U.S., U.K., Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, South Korea, Iran and Taiwan -- have turned to mobile phone location data as a method of monitoring people’s movements during the coronavirus pandemic.Two of the U.K.’s largest telecommunications companies – British Telecom and Telefonica UK Ltd – have said that they have provided anonymized location data to the government to support policy planning during the coronavirus crisis. In Austria and Italy, authorities are using location data provided by Telekom Austria and Vodafone to keep tabs on whether people are following restrictions on movement.The data has proved useful in determining whether lock down measures have been successful. However, privacy experts have raised concerns about its use. On Thursday, a coalition of more than 100 human-rights groups issued a joint statement that called on governments not to “disregard rights such as privacy and freedom of expression in the name of tackling a public health crisis.”The work being done in the U.K. not only offers an insight into current movement patterns but also enables the researchers to try and predict future scenarios. “We’re looking at what happens if all countries coordinate lock downs” or end their lock downs at different times, said Andy Tatem, director of the University of Southampton’s WorldPop project, which is leading the research.If countries in Europe don’t coordinate, Tatem said, it could lead to a resurgence of the virus.Teams at Alphabet Inc.’s Google have been working for weeks to find ways to use the company’s large stores of data to assist governments and organizations to manage their response to the coronavirus outbreak, according to two people familiar with those efforts.On Friday, Google announced that it would begin publishing “mobility reports” that show movement trends in 131 countries during the coronavirus pandemic. Google said the reports would document trends across different categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces and residential.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Amazon, Microsoft, Alphabet and Alibaba
    Zacks

    The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Amazon, Microsoft, Alphabet and Alibaba

    The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Amazon, Microsoft, Alphabet and Alibaba

  • Facebook (FB) Launches Messenger for Windows and Mac Desktop
    Zacks

    Facebook (FB) Launches Messenger for Windows and Mac Desktop

    Facebook (FB) releases Messenger App For Windows and MacOS as usage of desktop browser increases 100% amid coronavirus-induced lockdown.

  • Tech Players Fight Fake News as Coronavirus Fears Escalate
    Zacks

    Tech Players Fight Fake News as Coronavirus Fears Escalate

    The move is aimed at countering manipulated content and getting a grip over misinformation being circulated related to the pandemic.

  • Alphabet A Stock Falls 3%
    Investing.com

    Alphabet A Stock Falls 3%

    Investing.com - Alphabet A (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Stock fell by 3.01% to trade at $1,084.23 by 13:40 (17:40 GMT) on Friday on the NASDAQ exchange.

  • Europe's north-south lockdown divide revealed by Google data
    Reuters

    Europe's north-south lockdown divide revealed by Google data

    Italy and Spain, the two European countries hardest hit by the new coronavirus, have enforced the most drastic lockdowns to curb the pandemic but one country, Sweden, stands out for allowing life to go on much as before, Google data show. An analysis https://www.google.com/covid19/mobility of smartphone location data by the U.S. search engine giant showed that visits to shops, parks or railway stations fell steeply in most European countries between Feb. 16 and March 29 as governments sought to slow the explosive spread of the COVID-19 disease. In Italy and Spain, which have imposed near-total lockdowns on public life, retail and recreational trips were down by 94%.

  • Google data shines light on whether coronavirus lockdowns worldwide are working
    Reuters

    Google data shines light on whether coronavirus lockdowns worldwide are working

    Alphabet Inc's Google has published charts showing how the coronavirus has brought hard-hit Italy to a standstill, led to runs on grocery stores around the world and prompted a stark drop in going-out between Mardi Gras and St. Patrick's Day. The analysis of location data from billions of Google users' phones is the largest public dataset available to help health authorities assess if people are abiding with shelter-in-place and similar orders issued across the world to rein in the virus. The company released reports for 131 countries with charts that compare traffic from Feb. 16 to March 29 to retail and recreational venues, train and bus stations, grocery stores and workplaces with a five-week period earlier this year.

  • They Rented Their Cars Out Online. Then Things Fell Apart
    Bloomberg

    They Rented Their Cars Out Online. Then Things Fell Apart

    (Bloomberg) -- Los Angeles resident Matt Hauer has been renting out his Toyota Corolla to strangers since last May using the popular car-sharing app Getaround Inc. Occasionally his renters got parking tickets or left messes, but he was always satisfied with how Getaround addressed the issues. Then last month, his front bumper partly fell off and began dragging—which he said his mechanic assessed as the result of a renter’s fender-bender. But this time, Hauer’s attempts to get Getaround pay the $1,200 bill degenerated into a string of unanswered emails and long stretches of waiting on hold. His last interaction with the company was a phone call last week. “They told me they’d call me back in 10 minutes,” he said. “I have yet to hear back.”The economic crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic is hitting startups hard. More than 7,000 employees at young tech companies have lost their jobs since March 11, according to the website Layoffs.fyi, which compiles public reporting. The so-called sharing economy in particular has been hobbled by the reaction to the pandemic. On March 20, Bloomberg reported that Getaround was actively looking to sell itself and could seek bankruptcy protection if it couldn’t secure a deal. It cut jobs in late March.“Like most startups, we are often in discussions with potential investors and strategic partners, some of whom may also be potential acquirers,” a Getaround representative said in a statement. “With the amount of uncertainty related to Covid-19—we are continuing to model scenarios for the business as we often do throughout the year. We are not actively seeking bankruptcy protection.”Getaround’s main competitor, Turo Inc., said this week it had also reduced its staff by 30%. A Turo spokesman said it was in a “great cash position to weather this storm.”In interviews with Bloomberg, six car owners said they’ve had increasing trouble in recent months getting Getaround to pay for costs related to rentals. In two cases, car owners said Getaround had agreed to pay repair shops directly, but that mechanics wouldn’t release their cars for days because the money didn’t come through even after Getaround assured them it had been taken care of. In another incident, a user said the company has yet to send her the money renters paid to drive her car.Getaround, most recently valued by investors at well over $1 billion, had been having trouble before the pandemic. Starting late last year, there were noticeable changes in the startup’s responsiveness and willingness to pay for rental-related costs, the car owners said. Like Hauer, they said the shift was particularly stark given Getaround’s reasonable track record before then. In January, the company announced a round of job cuts, which it attributed to being “pressure tested due to rapid growth.” “We acknowledge that there is still work to be done to achieve our goals and we are working directly with a small group of owners who have experienced delays in the recent past in having their claims resolved,” a Getaround spokeswoman said in an email. She said the company had brought on new employees and managers to its claims team. Getaround said it rarely pays mechanics directly for repairs, which may have led to delays in those cases where it did so, and that it is unaware of any cases of car owners not receiving rental income. But frustrated car owners began to worry that the issues they’ve been experiencing reflected deeper problems at the company. One Los Angeles resident who began renting out two cars on Getaround in early 2019 said she had been so worn down by the difficulties in recouping costs for parking tickets and cleaning costs related to renters smoking that she had just paid for some of them.This person, who asked not to be named because she works in entertainment and doesn’t want a dispute with a car-sharing company showing up when people search for her on Google, said she’s now concerned about paying her leases without the $900 in monthly car-sharing income she had been making. “Honestly I feel so bad for whoever the founder of the company is,” she said. "At the same time, if they do go out of business, I can’t afford to lose that money.” Andie Kantor, a librarian who lives in Hawthorne, California, is just the type of car-owner you might expect to see in a Getaround ad. A single mother, Kantor saw the platform as an appealing way to make extra income. She purchased a Prius last year specifically to rent on Getaround, using the money to cover both its monthly costs and those of her primary vehicle. “My finances are tied up with this car,” she said. In February, a Getaround renter got into an accident that left the Prius seriously damaged. It took Kantor more than a week to get Getaround to arrange for a tow truck to take the car to a service shop, she said. Then, when she went to pick it up, the mechanic refused to release it, saying that Getaround hadn’t yet paid him, and still owed him money for a previous job. It took another 10 days of haggling, Kantor said, to get the company to pay. In total, she lost a month of rental income and now can’t rent out the car at all because of the pandemic. Hauer, the man whose bumper became detatched, has temporarily removed his car from the platform because he doesn’t think it’s safe to drive. Both he and Kantor said they’re considering selling their vehicles. “It all depends on the virus and how this works out,” Kantor said. “I don’t even know how to sell it at this point, because no one’s open.” For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Google Shares Data on How Virus Has Changed Movement in Cities

    (Bloomberg) -- Google is releasing new data about how the coronavirus pandemic has cut down on foot traffic to transit centers, retail stores and public parks in more than 130 countries.The “mobility reports” will be posted publicly online. They come in response to requests from public health officials who want more data on how people are moving around cities to better combat the spread of Covid-19, the Alphabet Inc. unit said in a blog post. Each report will show how traffic to certain categories of places, such as parks and transportation hubs, has declined in the last month. The information won’t show individual places or people.Google arguably has the most accurate and granular data about people’s location of any organization, public or private. More than a billion people worldwide use the company’s Maps app to navigate places they live and travel to, giving Google real-time insight into how people move around their environments. With Covid-19 infecting more than a million people and killing tens of thousands, governments are looking for location information to help them curb the disease and enforce lockdown orders.At the same time, privacy advocates argue the crisis will give authorities unprecedented access to personal information that could be used to surveil and oppress populations long after the virus is stopped. Google said the mobility reports don’t impinge on privacy because they only use data from people who have agreed to share their location with the company, and the information can’t be tied to individual accounts.“Knowing the general pattern of how a community moves can play a critical role in responding to the novel coronavirus and preventing future pandemics,” said Sara Cody, health officer and director for Santa Clara County’s public health department. “This information can help us understand how seriously people are taking the shelter at home order and what additional steps might be needed to slow the spread.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Humu, a Startup Run by Former Google HR Boss, Cuts Jobs

    (Bloomberg) -- Humu Inc., a software firm run by Google’s former human resources chief, is the latest Silicon Valley startup to cut jobs due to the impact of the coronavirus.The startup made the reductions this week and is planning to lower its hiring goal for the year by 40%. Laszlo Bock, Humu’s co-founder and chief executive officer, confirmed the moves but declined to say how many people were involved. The company had about 80 workers recently.“Reductions are always tough, but against the backdrop of the greatest economic slowdown in a century, everyone is being forced to make painful decisions,” he wrote in an email. “We’ve focused on being as empathetic as possible, though of course there’s no way to make this a positive experience for people.”Startups have been hit particularly hard during the crisis. An estimated 8,000 employees were let go at roughly 100 U.S. startups since March 11, when the the coronavirus was declared a pandemic. That figure comes from Layoffs.fyi, a tracker that measures publicly announced job cuts. The actual total is likely far higher.Young firms that burn through cash quickly or haven’t raised outside funds recently are especially vulnerable. Humu, which sells data-analytics software for companies to improve workplace cultures, said last year that it had raised $40 million from two financing rounds.Some tech employees have reported traumatic downsizing experiences, such as having job cuts announced on group video calls. Bock said Humu founders delivered the news personally. “I and the other leaders in the company are 100% focused on helping people land in a good spot, opening our networks and relationships to every one of our people, and calling in every favor we can,” he said.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Journalism has 'never been more important than it is right now': Facebook COO
    Yahoo Finance

    Journalism has 'never been more important than it is right now': Facebook COO

    Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg discusses Facebook's effort to boost local news as the industry struggles to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Zacks Market Edge Highlights: Facebook, Alphabet, Apple, Amazon and Netflix
    Zacks

    Zacks Market Edge Highlights: Facebook, Alphabet, Apple, Amazon and Netflix

    Zacks Market Edge Highlights: Facebook, Alphabet, Apple, Amazon and Netflix

  • Google Will Start Allowing Political Ads That Mention Covid-19
    Bloomberg

    Google Will Start Allowing Political Ads That Mention Covid-19

    (Bloomberg) -- Google will allow political ads that mention the coronavirus, reversing a policy that’s been in place since January, after some U.S. politicians complained it was stifling their campaigns during an election year.The company initially blocked all ads related to the virus under its policy of not letting marketers capitalize on major unexpected events like epidemics and natural disasters. As the virus spread, Google started allowing health authorities to buy ads for public service announcements. Soon, political advertisers will be able to jump in, too, according to a memo sent to advertisers by Google’s head of industry, elections, Mark Beatty. More information will be provided “in the next few days,” he added.In the U.S., politicians have criticized President Donald Trump’s response to the crisis, and some political groups complained that Google’s ad ban prevented them from telling potential voters about this. The virus has also added more fuel to the debate over whether the U.S. should adopt a single-payer health-care system, one of the central issues in the Democratic presidential primary. Google and its YouTube video service have become a big part of election strategies for many politicians. Axios previously reported on the memo.“COVID-19 is becoming an important part of everyday conversation, including a relevant topic in political discourse,” a Google spokesperson said. “We’re planning to allow more advertisers to run ads related to COVID-19.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Google Cloud launches a managed Memcached service
    TechCrunch

    Google Cloud launches a managed Memcached service

    Google today announced the beta of Memorystore for Memcached, a new service that provides a fully managed in-memory datastore that is compatible with the open-source Memcached protocol. It will join Redis in the Memorystore family, which first launched in 2018. As Gopal Ashok, Google's product manager for Memorystore, notes in today's announcement, Redis remains a popular choice for use cases like session stores, gaming leaderboards, stream analytics, threat detection and API rate limiting, while Memcached is typically used as a caching layer for databases.

  • 5 Cloud Stocks Likely to Rally as Coronavirus Drives Remote Working
    Zacks

    5 Cloud Stocks Likely to Rally as Coronavirus Drives Remote Working

    These five cloud computing stocks may rally as the work-from-home trend continues on virus-driven health scare

  • Google to allow some coronavirus ads, starting with hospitals, then political ads
    Reuters

    Google to allow some coronavirus ads, starting with hospitals, then political ads

    The new policy was laid out in a memo to advertising clients seen on Thursday by Reuters, which said the company from this week was allowing ads from government entities, hospitals, medical providers and non-governmental organizations that want to get relevant information out to the public. It said the plan for ads from political organizations would be announced in coming days.

  • Bloomberg

    Cash and Credit Cards Are Dirty. Apple Pay Is Looking Better.

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Cash is dirty. Credit cards may be even dirtier. That’s a problem in this new germophobic world created by the coronavirus. There will likely be new winners and losers as consumers shift to products and services that help them keep their social distance even after this outbreak subsides. Is it finally time to embrace the digital wallet?Take Apple Inc.’s Apple Pay, a service that stores your credit-card information and lets you pay for purchases via your iPhone. The tech giant launched the product six years ago, but it didn’t bring about the revolution it hoped it would, where mobile payments lead the move toward a cashless society as it had in China. Here in the U.S., there just wasn’t a compelling enough reason for many consumers to change their entrenched routines. Now, though, Apple Pay’s ability to let customers shop inside physical stores and pay for things without having to make physical contact with a counter or card-reader may be the catalyst it needs to finally disrupt the payments industry.My own habits are noticeably changing on this front. Though I had my card information inside Apple Pay for years, I rarely ever used it. Old habits die hard, and I simply didn’t mind pulling out my credit card and paying for things the usual way. Nowadays? Not so much. Due to virus fears, I would rather not tap on a payment terminal’s numeric key pads or use my finger to sign for purchases when there is a much cleaner alternative. As a result, Apple Pay has now become the main way I pay for things whenever I venture outside.The way Apple Pay works is, you type in your credit card information into the Apple Wallet app. Once entered, you can pay for items at most physical store retailers by double-clicking the power button, authenticating using Face ID or Touch ID and then hovering your iPhone a few inches above the payment terminal. Google Pay and Samsung Pay work similarly on their respective smartphones. This type of proximity-based mobile payment enables consumers to pay for items without touching or handing over anything.  Traditional paper bills and physical card payment alternatives are filthy in comparison. An academic study cited by Mastercard found the average cash note has 26,000 bacterial colonies. And according to LendEDU, a personal finance products comparison website, credit cards contain even more germs than cash or New York City subway poles. It makes sense as cards are often put on tables, inside restaurant bill folders and are rarely cleaned, while cash is constantly circulated by hand.Yes, the credit-card companies are rolling out their own version of contactless or “tap-to-pay” payments. Visa and Mastercard both said in their most recent reported quarters that about one-third of global transactions are now contactless. But the usage rate of the new cards is much lower in the U.S. as many Americans have yet to receive them. Further, it still requires touching the physical card and tapping the terminal (or at least getting the card within a couple of inches). This year, Apple Pay will command 47% of the U.S. proximity-based mobile payment market, with Google capturing 19% and Samsung Pay 17%, according to an eMarketer forecast.Admittedly, the U.S. market is still small, and expectations were relatively muted heading into this year before the pandemic struck. Only about 33 million Americans were expected to use Apple Pay’s proximity-based payment feature in 2020, or 14.5% of smartphone users, according to an eMarketer forecast made in September. But things are a lot different now.If Apple Pay and its brethren do take off, there will be deeper ramifications across the industry. Credit-card companies will do fine because their card networks are still being utilized by the smartphone maker’s service. But it could be a negative for PayPal Holdings Inc., the payments company that dominates the adjacent market of digital checkout buttons for online retailers.PayPal’s e-commerce checkout button enables its users to pay for online orders on retailer websites without having to re-type address or payment information, reducing friction to complete orders. It is a critical cash cow for the company and accounts for nearly 90% of its earnings, according to MoffettNathanson.But Apple Pay also offers a competing digital checkout feature. And if Apple Pay became increasingly used inside physical stores, it seems likely customers will be inclined to use the service for e-commerce transactions as well, eating into PayPal’s business.With new consumer habits being formed in a coronavirus world, Apple’s gain may be PayPal’s pain.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tae Kim is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. He previously covered technology for Barron's, following an earlier career as an equity analyst.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Coronavirus a ‘wake-up call’ on equal pay and domestic violence, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg says
    Yahoo Finance

    Coronavirus a ‘wake-up call’ on equal pay and domestic violence, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg says

    In a newly released interview, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg says the crisis is a “wake-up call” for the U.S. to address longstanding problems, like the gender pay disparity and domestic violence, that put women at especially heightened economic risk.

  • 4 Cloud Stocks to Win Big in the Wake of Coronavirus
    Zacks

    4 Cloud Stocks to Win Big in the Wake of Coronavirus

    Because of the shift in consumer and enterprise behavior in response to the pandemic, cloud stocks look more valuable.

  • Google to shut down its India-focused Q&A app Neighbourly
    TechCrunch

    Google to shut down its India-focused Q&A app Neighbourly

    Google is shutting down Neighbourly, a Q&A social app that it launched in Mumbai two years ago, the company has informed users. A spokesperson confirmed the move to TechCrunch. The app, developed by company’s Next Billion Initiative, aimed to give local communities an outlet to seek answers to practical questions about life, routine and more.

  • Bloomberg

    Demand for Health Gadgets Surges in Lockdown, Likely to Last

    (Bloomberg) -- Fitness-tracking gadgets are selling out, home exercise classes have never been more popular and industrial robot designers are pivoting to making sanitation bots. The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a seismic wave of health awareness and anxiety, which is energizing a new category of virus-fighting tech.The fear of infection has accelerated the adoption of apps and wearables as a means to feel better protected. “Having accurate and immediate feedback about our body temperature, blood pressure and other health signals helps to restore people’s sense of control,” said Andy Yap, a social psychologist at the INSEAD business school.Users, insurers and health-care providers are all seeing the benefit of health gadgets, in a shift expected to persist long after the outbreak subsides. That’s galvanizing the development of new devices by startups and gadget outfits in Asia, where the novel coronavirus first struck and consumers are known to be early adopters.The Withings Thermo is a contactless thermometer that uses 16 sensors to take more than 4,000 measurements in 2 seconds -- which it then syncs to a mobile app. It costs $99.95, but nobody can buy one until mid-April because all inventory was depleted two weeks ago, according to the company. Use of the Thermo has been significantly higher than usual for this time of year, the company added.Until the start of this year, CrucialTec Co. used to give away its thumb-sized thermometer dongle as a gift to clients, finding no market for the health gadget. That all changed when “orders came pouring in after the virus outbreak,” said President Jay Yim, and the South Korean company’s now ramping up production with the goal of making “more than 500,000 within the first half of this year.”Local governments in China, retailers in Japan and U.S. wholesalers are all putting in orders for the $65 Temon thermometer, and Yim expects one or two Chinese smartphone makers to come out with prototype devices with the technology built in this fall. Sister company CrucialTrak, which sells the module, has seen orders for its touch-less biometric ID solutions -- facial, vein and iris scanning -- rise fivefold after the initial outbreak, according to Senior Vice President Seung Y. Park. It plans to go public in 2022.Youibot Robotics Technologies Co. took 18 days to design and build a human-height robot that can sanitize rooms using two ultraviolet lights as well as measure the body temperature of passersby. The Shenzhen-based startup, which partnered with Michelin on robot tire inspectors in 2017, is looking to sell more than 200 of these “anti-epidemic” robots in the first half of this year, said Cody Zhang, founder and chief executive officer, virtually doubling the company’s entire sales output from last year.“A robot that fights virus pandemics is something new, but we are prepared because it was our goal to bring robotic equipment to emerging sectors,” said Zhang, who was born in 1992. The company already had the basic building blocks on hand and sourced ultraviolet tubes from Philips along with other off-the-shelf components like cameras and temperature sensors. Zhang expects the sanitizing robots to deliver close to a third of Youibot’s 70 million yuan ($9 million) sales target this year.Another small Chinese startup, the Hangzhou-based MegaHealth Information Technology Co., saw a fivefold increase in its sales the past two months compared to the last quarter of 2019 -- largely thanks to its medical ring that can monitor heart rate and blood oxygen levels. “We initially developed the product for patients who have breathing problems, but the coronavirus outbreak extended its use,” said CEO Hu Jun, whose gadget is in use in around 100 Chinese hospitals now. It will be in the U.S. and Europe in the second half of the year, he added, and once production catches up with demand, MegaHealth will sell it direct to consumers as well.Fitness app and gadget provider Chengdu Music Information Technology Co., trading under the name Codoon, has seen the number of its users exercising at home almost triple. Responding to user and government demand, the company’s also added a thermometer function to its fitness watches. “We have a new app, an AI temperature-measuring system, following the government’s encouragement,” said founder and CEO Shen Bo. Codoon is investing more in software, Shen added, because he sees gadgets with personalized programming as the key to sustaining user interest.Bhrugu Pange, managing director at global consultants AArete, expects that the surge in usage now -- as people grapple with the uncertainty around infection and treatment -- will lead to a domino effect producing lasting change. Users, insurers and health-care providers will all “start taking fitness-tracking devices and apps more seriously as a tool for preventive and proactive maintenance of patient health. This in turn will lead to more serious collaboration between device makers and healthcare institutions.”Read more: Quarantined Doctors Turn to Video So They Can See PatientsBeyond hardware, health experts and startups are looking into mobilizing health data to help consumers. John Torous, a researcher at the Harvard-associated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is integrating Apple Watch and Google Fit device data into a common platform, allowing patients to consult with doctors online and share their measurable health indicators.“After (and during) periods of high stress and anxiety like we are in now, often demand and need for mental health services expands. With telehealth we can meet this demand and ensure everyone has access to care,” said Torous. He’s among the strongest advocates of a widespread move toward remote medicine, hastened by the rapid spread of Covid-19.Read more: Doctor Anywhere Secures Funding to Ride Telemedicine SurgeWorking toward a similar goal, Huami Corp., which makes Xiaomi’s popular fitness-tracking bands, looked back on the sleep data it had from 115,000 users in Wuhan -- epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak -- and the neighboring Anhui province from July 2017 to Feb. 2020. The company saw a detectable deviation in reported sleeping heart rate, which peaked on Jan. 21, weeks earlier than in previous years. Similar spikes showed up in other Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou as the virus started spreading to them. Huami is now developing an early-warning signal to flag these anomalies as they occur and accelerate the reaction to the next major epidemic.Ultimately, the current wave of new consumer gadgets and the data they churn out have the potential to produce big technological breakthroughs.“Historically, new tech emerged after major incidents such as the Spanish flu outbreak and the two World Wars,” said Suh Yonggu, dean of the business school at Sookmyung Women’s University. He expects the novel coronavirus to have long-lasting impact. “Even after the Covid-19 pandemic subsides, I believe offline health-care will be shifted to online training and home health-care, fueled by changes in people’s value for family and house.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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