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    SimShine raises $8 million for home security cameras that use edge computing / TechCrunch – Tuesday, 10 September - 07:19

SimShine , a computer vision startup based in Shenzhen, has raised $8 million in pre-Series A funding for SimCam, its line of home security cameras that use edge computing to keep data on-device. The funding was led by Cheetah Mobile, with participation from Skychee, Skyview Fund and Oak Pacific Investment.

Earlier this year, SimShine raised $310,095 in a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter . It will use its pre-Series A round for product development and hiring.

SimShine’s team started off developing computer vision and edge computing software, spending five years working with enterprise clients before launching SimCam.

The company plans to release more smart home products that use edge computing with the ultimate goal of building a IoT platform to connect different devices, co-founder and chief marketing officer Joe Pham tells TechCrunch. SimCam currently integrates with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, with support for Apple Homekit in the works.

Pham says edge computing protects users’ privacy by keeping data, including face recognition data, on device, while also decreasing latency and false alarms, because calculations are performed continuously on the device (cameras connect to Wi-Fi so customers can watch surveillance video on their smartphones). It also means customers don’t have to sign up for the subscription plans that many cloud-based home security cameras require and reduces the price of each device since SimCam does not have to maintain cloud servers.

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    Jack Ma officially retires as Alibaba’s chairman / TechCrunch – Tuesday, 10 September - 04:43

Jack Ma stepped down as Alibaba’s chairman today, handing the role over to the company’s current CEO Daniel Zhang. The transition was announced a year ago .

Ma will continue serving on Alibaba’s board until its annual general shareholders’ meeting next year. He also remains a lifetime partner of Alibaba Partnership, a group drawn from the senior management ranks of Alibaba Group companies and affiliates that has the right to nominate (and in some situations, appoint) up to simple majority of its board.

Ma said in last year’s announcement that he plans for his departure from Alibaba Group to be very gradual: “The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba.”

Ma left Alibaba’s CEO position in 2013 and was succeeded first by Jonathan Lu. In 2015 Lu was replaced by Zhang, the company’s former COO. As its CEO and now its chairman, Zhang has taken Alibaba’s reins as it copes with a slowdown in China’s e-commerce market after a decade of explosive growth. The online retail landscape also now includes new players like Pinduoduo , which have gained an advantage by focusing on smaller cities, important growth markets for Internet companies.

One interesting fact about the day Ma chose for his retirement as chairman is that it is Teachers’ Day in China. Ma is a former English teacher who is still nicknamed “Teacher Ma” and has said that he plans to devote time to education philanthropy.

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    Apple, Foxconn caught breaking Chinese labor laws while making iPhones / ArsTechnica – Monday, 9 September - 19:00

An industrial building at night

Enlarge / A Foxconn facility. (credit: Ken Marshall / Flickr )

Apple and Foxconn violated a Chinese labor rule by using too many temporary staff at a major factory that makes iPhones. As reported by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, the two companies confirmed the allegation.

Chinese labor law allows facilities like Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant to operate with no more than 10% of the staff being temporary workers in August 2019, according to non-profit watchdog China Labor Watch , which released the initial report to which Apple and Foxconn responded.

According to that report, 50% of the workforce were temporary staff. However, many were students who have now returned to school, bringing the number down to 30%.

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    American tariffs are having a bigger impact on U.S.-based Amazon vendors than their competitors in China, according to SellerMotor / TechCrunch – Monday, 9 September - 06:54

The series of tariffs imposed by the United States on Chinese goods has impacted both U.S. and China-based Amazon vendors, but U.S. sellers are taking a bigger hit to their sales, according to data from cross-border e-commerce analytics company SellerMotor . The gap has widened since the round of tariffs on Chinese goods announced in the summer of 2018 by the Trump administration.

Founded in 2016, SellerMotor provides data and ad analytics about Amazon and an automation platform for sellers. For its research, the company analyzes data from 568 million SKUs, or almost all the active products and brands on Amazon’s U.S. site.

For this particular data set, SellerMotor analyzed 480,000 SKUs from Chinese sellers and 17.9 million from U.S. sellers.

In July 2018, a U.S. tariff on $34 billion in Chinese goods went into effect. That month, Chinese vendors’ sales grew 174% year-over-year, while U.S. sellers saw a 124% increase. As the tariff war between China and the U.S. intensified that summer, however, U.S. and China-based both sellers saw their growth stall, with U.S. sellers coping with a bigger impact, as shown in the graph below from SellerMotor. In September 2018, when the U.S. placed a 25% tariff on $50 billion in Chinese goods, plus a 10% tariff on $200 billion in Chinese goods, U.S. sellers saw their year-over-year sales growth slow down to 54%, compared Chinese sellers’ sales growth of 111%.

SellerMotor data

According to SellerMotor’s data, U.S.-based Amazon sellers have seen their year-over-year monthly sales decrease every month since November 2018. By March 2019, when a 25% tariff was placed on $250 billion in Chinese goods, Chinese vendors’ year-over-year sales grew by 61%, but U.S. sellers saw their sales decrease by 3%.

While many U.S.-based Amazon sellers also get their supplies from China, Chinese sellers have better control over their supply chain and closer relationships with their suppliers (in some cases, even equity partnerships), allowing them more flexibility, SellerMotor COO Sibao Chen tells TechCrunch. These deeper ties give vendors the leeway to negotiate things like smaller batches of products when necessary. As the tariff war forces smaller competitors out of the market, having more control over the supply chain lets these sellers quickly step into the gaps they leave behind. “Whoever is quick to grab these fragments will become even larger in size, because the market is there and that can help with growth momentum for the largest companies,” Chen says.

Chen adds that the way many Chinese e-commerce sellers organize their operations may also give them an edge over U.S. sellers. The company currently has about 60,000 clients in China and launched in the U.S. in June.

“I have been talking to a lot of U.S. and Chinese clients and the way that these Chinese clients are organized is that usually for each product group. So if there is an electronics company selling iPhone charging cables and also headsets, each of these product groups would probably have two to five people running the thing, like a mini-company, and they are organized, incentivized and almost completely independent within their group and given a lot of autonomy,” Chen says. “This is a very common form of organization within the Chinese retail and e-commerce industry and this is something we believe could have given them an edge in terms of the speed that they react to external impacts such as the tariffs.”

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    China is working on its own digital currency / ArsTechnica – Friday, 6 September - 14:38

An employee counts 100-yuan notes at a bank in Nantong in China

Enlarge / An employee counts 100-yuan notes at a bank in Nantong in China's eastern Jiangsu province on July 23, 2018. (credit: -/AFP/Getty Images)

China's central bank is working on a cryptocurrency that will be similar to Facebook's Libra, a government official said this week, according to Reuters .

China's central bank has had a group studying digital currencies since at least 2014, but their efforts seem to have come into focus in recent months. Last month, a Mu announced that an official Chinese digital currency was "almost ready."

Details about the technology remain scarce, but it seems that the new currency will—like Libra—be pegged to a conventional currency to maintain its value. While Libra will be linked to a basket of conventional currencies including the dollar and the euro, China's digital currency will be pegged to the yuan.

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    Alibaba acquires NetEase Kaola in deal worth $2 billion / TechCrunch – Friday, 6 September - 00:56

Alibaba Group said today it has acquired NetEase Kaola for $2 billion and will integrate it into Tmall, creating the largest cross-border e-commerce platform in China. The announcement follows weeks of media reports about a potential deal, which was said to have stalled in the middle of August after the companies reportedly disagreed on transaction details.

Tmall Import and Export general manager Alvin Liu has been named as Kaola’s new CEO, replacing Zhang Lei, but Kaola will continue to operate independently under its own brand.

Tmall Global and Kaola are China’s largest and second-largest cross-border e-commerce platforms, respectively, holding 31.7% and 24.5% of the market , and their union means they will create a business that will far outstrip in size rivals like JD Worldwide, VIP International and Amazon China.

Alibaba and Yunfeng, the investment firm launched by Alibaba founder Jack Ma, also agreed to invest $700 million into NetEase Cloud Music’s latest funding round. This will give Alibaba a minority stake in the streaming music service, with NetEase remaining its controlling shareholder.

In a press release, NetEase CEO William Ding said “We are pleased to have found a strategic fit for Kaola within Alibaba’s extensive ecosystem, where Kaola will continue to provide Chinese consumers with high-quality import products and services. At the same time, the completion of this strategic transaction will allow NetEase to focus on its growth strategy, investing in markets that allow us to best leverage our competitive advantages.”

Daniel Zhang, Alibaba Group’s CEO, said “Alibaba is confidence about the future of China’s import e-commerce market, which we believe remains in its infancy with great growth potential.”

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    Why Walmart’s Flipkart is betting heavily on Hindi / TechCrunch – Wednesday, 4 September - 18:01

Flipkart, the largest e-commerce platform in India, said Tuesday it has concluded the roll-out of a range of features to its shopping app in what is its biggest update in recent years.

Chief among these new features is access to Flipkart in Hindi language. Prior to the revamp of the app, Flipkart was available only in English, a language spoken by 10% of India’s 1.3 billion population.

Flipkart says it is hoping that the new features, which includes a video streaming service, would help it reach the next 200 million users in India.

The major bet on Hindi, a language spoken by more than 500 million people in India, illustrates a growing push from local and international companies operating in the country as they adapt their services and business models to go beyond the urban cities.

And that’s where much of the opportunity, which countless startups and companies have trumpeted to investors to successfully raise hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and venture capital in recent years, lies in the nation.

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    Porsche unveils the $150,900 Taycan Turbo electric sedan / TechCrunch – Wednesday, 4 September - 13:50

Porsche has poured more than $1 billion into the development of its first all-electric vehicle, a sleek four-door specimen that marks the beginning of a new chapter for the German automaker and its biggest bet in more than a generation.

On Wednesday, in three simultaneous events in Canada, China and Germany, Porsche finally introduced the world to the vehicle that has been more than four years in the making. TechCrunch was on hand for the reveal in Canada, a splashy event, held in a building erected just for the occasion on the edge of Niagara Falls. It was here that Porsche showed off not one, but two flavors of the Taycan.

Behold, the Porsche Taycan Turbo S and Porsche Taycan Turbo, two electric machines with the styling, power and performance one would expect from the German automaker. Oh, and range between 250 and 280 miles, depending on the variant.

Both of these Taycans fall into the more expensive, more powerful category of its upcoming portfolio with base prices of $185,000 and $150,900, respectively.

IMG 20190904 093311

All three Porsche Taycan events were staged near renewable energy installments — hydropower at Niagara Falls in Canada, solar in Neuhardenberg near Berlin and a wind farm on Pingtan Island, less than a mile from the Chinese city of Fuzhou — a physical symbol of Porsche’s move to electrification.

“The Taycan stands for the change necessary for Porsche to remain Porsche,” Detlev Von Platen, Porsche AG board member of sales and marketing said during the presentation.

And it’s not stopping at the Taycan. By 2025, half of all Porsche vehicles will be electrified, according to Von Platen.

Porsche Taycan reveal

Less powerful variants (and therefore less expensive) of these all-wheel drive vehicles will follow this year, and the first derivative to be added will be the Taycan Cross Turismo at the end of 2020.

The Taycan may represent a new direction for the automaker, but there’s still no mistaking this electric vehicle for a Porsche. The Taycan has a big and low stance with a body line that still looks and feels like a Porsche. Bigger than a 911 and smaller than a Panamera, the body of the Taycan is wide and flat with contoured wings and a sporty roof that slopes down to the sharply emphasized and classic Porsche rear.

Inside is the good stuff. Both the Porsche Taycan Turbo S and Porsche Taycan Turbo are outfitted with two electric motors, one on the front axle and one on the rear axle, a two-speed transmission installed on the rear axle, and an 800-volt architecture — the same technology that helped the company’s 919 Hybrid win the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times in a row.

The interior of the Taycan, which was revealed last month , includes a sleek all-digital dashboard clearly inspired by the 1963 Porsche 911.

Now to the power.  The flagship Turbo S version of the Taycan can generate up to 750 horsepower (560 kW) of power in combination with “launch control” and overboost features that translate into accelerating from zero to 60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds. The Taycan Turbo can produce up to 670 horsepower (500 kW), allowing it to go from a standstill to 60 mph in 3 seconds. Both vehicles have a top track speed of 161 mph.

The Taycan is ready for the race track,” Stefan Weckbach, vice president of the Taycan and Porsche Battery Electric Vehicle Product Line said during the event Wednesday.

And then there’s the 800 volt system, double the more commonly used 400 volt architecture found in other electric vehicles. The 800-volt system allows the Taycan to charge from 5% to 80% in 22.5 minutes with a maximum charging power of up to 270 kw. The vehicle’s 800-volt system will allow the Taycan to add 62 miles of charge in a snappy 5 minutes, Weckbach said.

The overall capacity of the 800V high voltage battery is 93.4 kWh. Porsche is throwing in three years of free charging at hundreds of Electrify America public stations that will blanket the U.S. in the coming months.

The EPA range estimate for North American market is pending for both vehicles. Under Europe’s WLTP estimates, the Turbo S can travel 256 miles on a single charge, while the Turbo has a range of 280 miles.