JD.com’s drones take flight to Japan in partnership with Rakuten

Chinese e-commerce company JD.com is taking its drone delivery system to Japan.

Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce giant, just announced a partnership with JD that will see its drones and unmanned vehicles become a part of Rakuten’s own unmanned delivery service efforts.

JD has been operating drones in its native China for a number of years, and it has wider expansion plans having recently gained a regional-level operating license. Its other human-less tech includes self-operating trucks, automated warehouses and unmanned stores, and it recently picked Indonesia for its first overseas drone pilot.

Rakuten has been offering drone delivery in Japan since 2016 and unmanned vehicle trials since 2018. It said that working with JD — which claims to have racked up 400,000 minutes of delivery flight time — will “accelerate the development and commercialization” of its human-free last mile delivery efforts.

social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #techcrunch [...]  read more

Clutter confirms SoftBank-led $200M investment for its on-demand storage service

There’s plenty of speculation right now around apparently disgruntled investors in SoftBank’s Vision Fund, but the drum continues to beat and the checks continue to be written. The latest deal for the $100 billion mega-fund is Clutter, an on-demand storage company that pulled in $200 million in new financing for growth.

Eagled-eyed viewers will recall that TechCrunch broke news of an impending SoftBank-led round of that size back in January, and now it is official.

The startup is one of a number of companies that provide storage options for consumers who don’t want to part with items but equally don’t have the capacity to keep it where they live. The service is based around an app that is used to summon Clutter staff to pack up, take away, store and (later) return possessions, but it can also be used for regular house moving, too. Competitors in the space include MakeSpaceOmniTroveLivible, and Closetbox.

Joining  [...]  read more

Companies including Nestle, Epic and reportedly Disney suspend YouTube ads over child exploitation concerns

Days after a YouTube creator accused the platform of enabling a “soft-core pedophilia ring,” several companies have suspended advertising on the platform, including Nestle, Epic, and reportedly Disney and McDonald’s.

Nestle told CNBC that all of its companies in the U.S. have paused advertising on YouTube, while a spokesperson for Epic, maker of the massively popular game Fortnite, said it has suspended all pre-roll advertising. Other companies that confirmed publicly they are pausing YouTube advertising include Purina, GNC, Fairlife, Canada Goose, and Vitacost. Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal report that Walt Disney Co. and McDonald’s, respectively, have pulled advertising, too.

Other advertisers, including Peloton and Grammarly, said they are calling on YouTube to resolve the issue.

The latest scandal over YouTube’s content moderation problems took off on Sunday when YouTube creator Matt Watson posted a video and [...]  read more

On-demand logistics startup Lalamove raises $300M for Asia growth and becomes a unicorn

Lalamove, a Hong Kong-based on-demand logistics startup, has closed a $300 million Series D round as it seeks expansion across Asia. In doing so, the company has officially entered the unicorn club.

Founded in 2013 by Stanford graduate Shing Chow, Lalamove provides logistics and delivery services in a similar style to ride-hailing apps like Uber but it is primarily focused on business and corporate customers. That gives it more favorable economics and a more loyal customer base than its consumer-focused peers, who face discount wars to woo fickle consumers.

This new round is split into two, Lalamove said, with Hillhouse Capital leading the ‘D1’ tranche and Sequoia China heading up the ‘D2’ portion. The company didn’t reveal the size of the two pieces of the round. Other investors that took part included new backers Eastern Bell Venture Capital and PV Capital and returning investors ShunWei Capital — the firm founded by Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun — Xiang He Capital and  [...]  read more

Security token offerings aren’t looking much better in 2019

An analysis of a year of liquidity and trading data

Galen Moore

Pressed to explain who is using them, and why, 99 percent of cryptocurrencies let out all their air, go flying around the room making a raspberry sound, hit the wall and fall behind the couch forever.

The party is over. A few, however, can present a credible use case. “Tokenized securities” could be one of them: a more open and efficient way to transact shares and notes as well as distribute cash flows.

Proponents of “security token offerings” (STOs) have been telling that story now for a little more than a year. This data report canvases the market, finds few are buying it, interviews market participants for perspective and reveals gaps in the use case at the ground level that explain its failure to thrive.

In October 2017, the market for “initial coin offerings,” or ICOs, reached a peak, with more than 100 capital raises closing through the sale of crypto tokens, according to market data provider Token Data[...]  read more

Twitter opens applications for its beta program, first tests to focus on fixing conversations

Twitter today is opening up applications for its new testing program, first announced at CES in January. The program potentially can cover any and every aspect of the Twitter experience, but the first set of tests will focus on how interactions between people, and specifically replies, appear on Twitter. They will include a new design for replies to make it easier to follow a conversation; rounded shapes on reply tweets; indents to follow responses; hiding engagement and sharing behind a tap to bring out the content of replies; and introducing colors to add more context.

We got an early look at the these features when we saw the beta app in January; read on for more on all the features below.

Improving the look and feel of how Twitter works is a tall order, to say the least. Many have pointed out, and the company now [...]  read more

Samsung’s Galaxy S10 has a built-in Instagram mode

After weeks of leaks, Samsung still managed to save some surprises for today’s event. One of the most interesting among them is a partnership with Instagram that brings Stories directly to the camera app.

It’s an interesting partnership and mutually beneficial for both parties. For some, it could signal a kind of return to pre-loaded bloatware, but at least in the case of Instagram, the app is virtually ubiquitous for most users at this point anyway.

The mode got a brief demo on stage today — it’s pretty much what you’d expect out of the thing, bringing filters directly to the camera software and letting you upload straight to service without leaving Samsung’s default camera software.

Smartphone makers have had increasing difficult distinguishing their camera offerings in recent years. The last several generations of products like the Galaxy line, iPhone and Pixel have increasingly relied on AI/ML/software updates to set themselves apart, so these kinds [...]  read more

Daily Crunch: Google tries to explain that secret microphone

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Google says Nest’s secret microphone was ‘never intended to be a secret’

When Google announced earlier this month that its Nest Secure smart home hub would double-up as a Google Assistant, the news sparked anger, since Google hadn’t told anyone that the security hub had a microphone inside to begin with.

Now Google is trying to explain itself, claiming there’s absolutely, positively nothing to worry about: “The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech spec. That was an error on our part.”

2. SoundCloud adds a music distribution service to its premium subscriptions

With SoundCloud Premier distribution, artists can upload their tracks to all major music services — including Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Tencent, YouTube Music [...]  read more

New conflict evidence surfaces in JEDI cloud contract procurement process

For months, the drama has been steady in the Pentagon’s decade long, $10 billion JEDI cloud contract procurement process. This week the plot thickened when the DOD reported that it has found new evidence of a possible conflict of interest, and has reopened its internal investigation into the matter.

“DOD can confirm that new information not previously provided to DOD has emerged related to potential conflicts of interest. As a result of this new information, DOD is continuing to investigate these potential conflicts,” Elissa Smith, Department of Defense spokesperson told TechCrunch.

It’s not clear what this new information is about, but the Wall Street Journal reported this week that senior federal judge Eric Bruggink of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ordered that the lawsuit filed by Oracle in December would be put on hold to allow the DOD to investigate further.

From the start of the DOD RFP process, there have been complaints that the process itself was designed to favor Amazon, [...]  read more

UK’s extended 5km airport drone ‘no-fly’ zones in force next month

The UK’s Department for Transport has said today that an expansion of drone ‘no-fly’ zones to 5km around airport runways will come into force on March 13.

Anyone caught and convicted of flying a drone inside the restricted zones could face a fine and years in prison.

Last month the government said it would tighten restrictions on drones flights around airports, after the existing 1km limit was criticized for being inadequate — saying it believes expanded no-fly zones will help protect airports from drone misuse.

The 1km drone exclusion zone around airports, and a 400ft drone flight height restriction rule, only came into force last July. But ministers came in for sharp criticism following the Gatwick Airport drone fiasco when a spate of drone sightings near the UK’s second busiest airport caused a temporary shutdown of the runway and travel disruption for thousands of people right before Christmas.

Heathrow, the UK’s busiest airport, also briefly [...]  read more