Tag Archives: Amazon

Rainforest Guardian Skyscraper protects the amazon from fire

rainforest guardian skyscraper protects the amazon from fire

Proposed by chinese designers jie huang, jin wei, qiaowan tang, yiwei yu and zhe hao, the ‘rainforest guardian skyscraper’ towers over the amazonian landscape, protecting the region from the constant threat of fire and drought. the lotus-shaped design, which received an honorable mention as part of eVolo‘s 2014 skyscraper competition, primarily functions as a water tower, but is also a weather station, scientific research center and an educational laboratory.

rainforest guardian skyscraper designboom
sectional drawing indicating spatial arrangement

according to NASA, fires have destroyed 3% of the amazon rainforest over the last 12 years. these outbreaks are hard to predict and even more difficult to control. the ‘guardian’ serves as a device capable of preventing, monitoring and combating fire.

rainforest guardian skyscraper designboom
the design primarily functions a water tower, but is also a weather station and scientific research center

the proposal directly captures rainwater that is subsequently filtered and stored within ancillary reservoirs. aerial roots with a distinct sponge-structure absorb liquid without disturbing the region’s delicately balanced ecosystem. in the case of flames, firefighters fly to the scene and extinguish the inferno with the previously collected water. research labs enable scientists to monitor climate change and the stability of the environment. these spaces also act as exhibition galleries for tourists promoting environmental awareness.

rainforest guardian skyscraper designboom
the scheme directly captures rainwater that is subsequently filtered and stored within ancillary reservoirs

drawings

rainforest guardian skyscraper designboom

rainwater collection systemrainforest guardian skyscraper designboom

the ‘aerial root’rainforest guardian skyscraper designboom

the extinguishment processrainforest guardian skyscraper designboom

the water-cycle regulating processrainforest guardian skyscraper designboom

the ‘rainforest firefighters’

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Amazon’s Stunning New London HQ Has A Garden On The Roof

Amazon has signed a deal to move into a massive new 15-story headquarters in London.

This is what you really want: A giant corner office with floor-to-ceiling windows.

The site, Principal Place, is in the trendy Shoreditch area of London where a lot of tech startups have made their home (including Business Insider U.K.).

In fact, any office near a window seems as if it will be super cool.

The new tower will be completed in 2016 and house 5,000 employees.

Looks like a nice place to eat lunch.

Amazon will take up most of the 600,000 square feet. The interior is dominated by a light-filled atrium.

Let's face it, it's a lot nicer than Slough, where Amazon U.K. is currently based. Sorry, Slough!

The common areas have an open, airy feel. (And that giant shiny egg looks interesting!)

There will also be 20,000 square feet of retail space, including cafés and restaurants.

Why drones will likely be GoPro’s next big hit

GoPro, which has made a sizable business out of selling rugged digital cameras, is getting into the nascent consumer drone market late next year, according to The Wall Street Journal (paywall). It looks like a smart move.

GoPro’s video cameras, which are mountable just about anywhere, have surged in popularity in recent years. (GoPro’s sales for the first nine months of 2014 topped $760 million, up about 22% over the same time last year.) Some of the best GoPro footage has come from cameras mounted on drones, so it makes sense that the company, which is trying to build a media business, would be interested in the drone business, too.

The commercial drone market is in its early days, but has tons of potential. The broader unmanned aircraft industry is worth roughly $6 billion a year, although the vast majority of the current demand is from governments for large drones like these. But the market for smaller, hobbyist drones has been rapidly expanding.

The main commercial drone manufacturers, DJI, 3D Robotics, and Parrot, sold roughly $200 million in drones this year. And early players are growing fast—Parrot’s sales were up 130% year over year, according to its most recent earnings report.

Aerospace analysts at the Teal Group predict the drone market will expand to about $11 billion over the next decade, with 14% of sales—about $1.5 billion—coming from commercial drones.

Why might GoPro do well in this new field? While it currently does not make anything that flies, it enjoys an established reputation among a large community of users who share videos shot on its cameras, and it has a global distribution network. GoPro cameras already are widely available at stores like at Amazon and Best Buy, both of which also sell consumer drones.

A GoPro rep wouldn’t confirm or deny the WSJ report, but did mention that the company had joined the Small UAV Coalition, a trade group in Washington, D.C., “to study the policy implications and to protect the rights of our users.”

The rep adds, “GoPro users continue to astonish us with their innovative use of our cameras and accessories. We’ve seen jaw-dropping GoPro footage recorded from quad-copters by hobbyists, professional film makers, scientists and businesses.”

Amazon writes off $170m on unsold Fire Phones

An Amazon Fire Phone on show at an AT&T store in Brooklyn: many are still in their boxes, Amazon's writedown suggests.

Buyers not keen on eye-tracking cameras and poor reviews mean that online retailer is left with huge overhang of unsold phones

Amazon is writing off $170m on unsold inventory of its Fire Phone, the smartphone it launched in July but which has seen disappointing sales.

The announcement comes after Guardian estimates that the phones had sold only around 35,000 units more than a month after its launch in the US. Successful handsets typically sell more than a million units in their first month.

The Fire Phone incorporates a number of new technologies such as eye-tracking cameras but has seen poor reviews both from professionals and buyers: it has an average rating of 2.1 out of 5 stars from 3,100 reviewson the site, with buyers complaining they cannot get apps they had on previous Android phones and that they can’t use Google Maps, YouTube or Google Music because it runs a “forked” version of Google’s Android.

Amazon unveiled the Fire Phone in June, but observers noted that its off-contract price of around $600 was about the same as a top-end iPhone or Samsung device, but with fewer reasons to buy it. Like the priciest iPhone, it initially cost $200 with a contract from AT&T – the only US network that sold it – but the upfront cost was slashed at the start of September to just 99 cents.

The writedown is not mentioned in Amazon’s formal third-quarter earnings statement released on Thursday evening, in which it recorded a $544m operating loss on revenues of $20.6bn.

Instead, it was only mentioned on the subsequent earnings call with analysts, when chief financial officer Tom Szkutak noted that the “consolidated segment operating loss includes charges of approximately $170m, primarily related to the Fire phone inventory evaluation and supplier commitment cost.” Szkutak said that at the end of September “we had approximately $83m worth of [Fire Phone] inventory on hand”. He also said that $25m of the writedown was outside the US.

Skzutak didn’t say what value Amazon now attaches to each phone, though a $200 cut from its $600 upfront cost – as happened at AT&T – would imply an expected $400 revenue from each.

That suggests Amazon has about a minimum of 207,000 unsold phones, now worth a total of $83m, in its warehouses. If Amazon’s expected revenue from each phone is lower – such as $240, which would be a typical wholesale price for a $600 device – then it could have up to 346,000 unsold phones.

At a $200-per-phone writedown, the “international” writedown of $25m suggests 125,000 as-yet unsold phones held by carriers and Amazon outside the US.

The remaining $62m of the writedown would probably have gone to AT&T to fund the $200 price cut, suggesting that the carrier had 310,000 unsold Fire Phones.

Supplier, no buyer

The “supplier commitment cost” is money that Amazon had promised to pay the maker of the handset – which has not been publicly stated, although some believe that it could be Taiwan’s HTC, which was previously a contract handset manufacturer for Windows Mobile devices before branching into Android phones. Update: the manufacturer is not HTC, according to Amir Efrati, who has written on the topic for The Information.

But with so many Fire Phone handsets apparently unsold, it is unlikely that there will be further orders before Amazon clears its inventory. With the Christmas buying season approaching, that may be possible – but it will also be competing against better-known phones from a variety of manufacturers.

Inventory writedowns can be calamitous for both the vendor and the manufacturer, unless they can afford the lost revenues as prices are slashed and orders cut back. BlackBerry took a $485m inventory charge on unsold PlayBook tablets in December 2011, and a further $934m charge on unsold Z10 handsets in September 2013 – with the former propelling it downwards into losses, and the latter sealing the fate of its then chief executive Thorsten Heins.

Colombian Plane Crashes in Amazon Forest Killing All Ten On Board

Colombia plane crash

Ten people, including a child, have been killed after a small plane crashed in a Colombian jungle, according to officials.

The plane, with the registration number HK-4755 PA 34 Navajo, originating from Araracuara, was flying to Florencia when it crashed in the Amazon forest in the south-western region of the country.

“The airplane was found, broken apart and burned, 10 km (6 miles) from populated areas in the municipality of Puerto Santander, Amazonas department,” the Colombian civil aviation agency said.

The bodies of eight passengers and two crew members are said to have been retrieved. There were no survivors.

Among those killed were Roberto Franco, a political scientist who was involved in conservation efforts in the Amazon rainforest, and indigenous leader Daniel Matapi, according to mongabay.com.

The plane lost contact with the air traffic control shortly after takeoff from Araracuara airport at about 15:00 local time (20:00 GMT) on Saturday, 6 September.

“There was a lot of smoke from the left engine,” Silvio Rojas, who was scheduled to travel by the flight but did not, told local radio station RCN.

The cause of the crash is yet to be ascertained and authorities have initiated a probe.

“Specialised rescue personnel are currently on a search and rescue mission for the bodies of the occupants of the aircraft,” the aviation authority said in a statement earlier.

After Twitch, Is Ustream the Next Billion-Dollar Target?

Ustream logo

The $970 million in cash Amazon is paying to purchase Twitch isn’t just good news for the founders of the company that live-streams people playing videogames. Another player that’s quietly operated in the wings, Ustream, could now also benefit and find itself the next billion-dollar takeover target.

Ustream certainly has roots entrenched in Hollywood that makes it attractive to the industry’s largest entertainment conglomerates.

The San Francisco-based company has live-streamed red-carpet premieres and other events for “The Hunger Games,” “Twilight,” “Neighbors,” “Game of Thrones” and “Pretty Little Liars” for Lionsgate, Universal, HBO and ABC Family. Other clients include TMZ, Showtime, Discovery, and the UFC, which has tested pay-per-view events.

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Ustream’s technology also is embedded inside Sony’s PlayStation 4, enabling gamers to upload what they’re playing at the press of a button.

Ustream admits it’s recently had prospective buyers kick the tires of the privately owned company.

“We have seen a definite uptick in M&A inquiries in the past few months -– likely driven by theTwitch conversation, rising awareness surrounding streaming video, and our surging enterprise video business, which now accounts for approximately one-third of all live business video,” Ustream CEO Brad Hunstable told Variety. “We are going to wait before taking any ​offers. Live video was previously expected to triple in the next three years, and now we think that might be a conservative estimate.”

And that doesn’t come as much of a surprise to analysts.

“Over time, Ustream will be a highly desirable acquisition candidate, but the marketplace has to develop a full appreciation for what a volume distributor of live streaming video content can do,” said Steve Vonder Haar, a senior analyst of enterprise webcasting and streaming at Wainhouse Research told Variety.

He also notes that “live video delivered in a streaming environment is not a technically easy thing to do at scale. Ustream is focusing on creating a hosted solution that does just that.”

But what could make Ustream even more appealing to potential buyers is the fact it’s focused on more than just Hollywood. The company was responsible for streaming a third of all live business video last year and is used by Facebook, LinkedIn, Intuit, NASA and Salesforce.

Those kinds of clients, however, should raise questions whether Ustream is right for Warner Bros., Disney, Sony, DreamWorks Animation, even Legendary Entertainment and Relativity Media, which are increasing their investments in digital ventures.

What those companies are buying, however, are ventures like Maker Studios, AwesomenessTV, Nerdist and Geek & Sundry — companies with connections to talent making content watched by a young audience.

Ustream is more of a distributor, whose technology could attract the deep pockets of Google.

Amazon’s acquisition of Twitch signaled that there’s a lot of value in the live streaming of entertainment programming online — not a surprise given that live broadcasts are also significant ratings generators on broadcast television.

Yet while Twitch spent all of its resources turning itself into a popular brand with gamers, Ustream has focused on finding a far larger audience — usually more than 80 million viewers in a month, far more than the 50 million gamers that logged onto Twitch in July — namely clients looking to get the word out about a product or service whether it’s to their consumers at trade shows or employees through internal presentations.

But as it does mature, that will only increase the value of the companies that appear to be at the forefront.

In addition to Ustream, there’s Newtek Tricaster, Livestream, Monetize Media, Bit TV, Streamup, BlogTV and Kyte.

There also is Major League Gaming, which like Twitch, live streams videogame competitions and events.

Ustream has raised around $60 million to date from investors that include SoftBank and DCM, its primary investors.

Why Ustream hasn’t yet been acquired also doesn’t surprise observers.

“It’s early days in the streaming technology sector,” said Vonder Haar, noting how YouTube is only a decade old. “This is really going to fundamentally change traditional media and video enriched business communications. Change that important takes a long time to evolve.”

It’s Not TV: Why an Amazon Deal Could Keep HBO Relevant for the Post-Cable Era

A deal with Amazon Prime makes archival series like The Sopranos a bigger part of the all-you-can-eat streaming buffet.

HBO‘s new agreement to share Tony Soprano with Jeff Bezos’ streaming service could boil down to a mentality that “the enemy of Netflix is my friend.” But it also indicates a need to remain relevant in the age of binge-watch TV

This morning, Amazon and HBO announced what amounts to an alliance in the Great Streaming Wars of 2014: For the first time, an Amazon Prime subscription will give you access to HBO’s archive of series, up to approximately three years ago. That means The SopranosDeadwood, and many other TV monuments that were only available through HBO are now included with your free shipping and future access to Jeff Bezos’ drone armada. (Current series like Girls will become available over time.)

I’ll leave it to others to analyze the business implications of this move, which, from where I’m sitting, boil down at least partly to Prime’s quickly ramping-up ambitions, partly to “The enemy of Netflix is my friend.” (Both Amazon and HBO are in direct competition with the streaming giant.) But at least one of the big motivations for HBO could be cultural: making sure that its legacy, and its brand, are not lost in the emerging canon of binge-watched TV.

(Disclaimer: HBO is currently a sister company of TIME in Time Warner, though that will change when publisher Time Inc. spins off later in the year.)

One of HBO’s defining features–and a source of zillions of dollars–is that it’s a closed system. You want to watch its shows, you had to subscribe to it, and thus, had to subscribe to cable. (With a few exceptions: you could watch bowdlerized edits of Sex and the City on basic cable, or watch series on DVD–like a caveman.) This was true not just for new episodes but the on-demand back catalog available through HBO GO.

This paywall approach meant a more limited audience, but one that was paying, and paying top dollar. (Or at least its parents/friends were, in the case of folks borrowing HBO Go logins to watch True Detective.) If only a fraction of the total TV audience had access to HBO, fine–the network was making millions off that fraction.

But as streaming became mainstream, through the likes of Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix, this meant a sizable chunk of the TV audience for whom HBO just didn’t exist. There was now a vast library of TV available on demand–and really good TV, from decades ago, from the recent past, from the present. If you didn’t want to get a $200+ cable subscription, you missed HBO, which was too bad, but there was always, say, FX and AMC shows–the final season of Breaking Bad exploded in the ratings, and that was attributed largely to a vast audience who had caught up on Netflix.

For a certain generation of TV connoisseurs, HBO was the standard of quality. But for another–especially younger ones, with Internet but no cable–it didn’t exist at all. Last year, TV critic and media-studies academic Anne Helen Petersen wrote about how her students, though highly savvy TV-lovers, were almost totally unaware of The Sopranos. Why? It wasn’t on Netflix. And if you’re a college student with little money but easy access to broadband, Netflix is a lot more attractive.

That might not matter for HBO right now; it’s still printing money by all accounts. But long term, that could make a big difference to its brand perception–that halo effect in which pop-culture addicts have the sense that they can’t be truly current unless they’re up to speed on its shows. And to the extent that HBO cares about its larger, non-economic cultural place (and it does), it could make a huge difference to the canon of Great TV in future decades. If you don’t give streamers more means of access, there will be a great big HBO memory hole that will just be filled in by Mad MenThe Shield, and Orange Is the New Black.

The new Amazon deal doesn’t mean there’s no point in subscribing to HBO, since it’s your only (legal) option for new episodes of Game of Thrones et al. But it shows that the network is recognizing a change in how people consume and discover TV–archivally, online, and all at once, as selected from a vast menu of TV’s past. If HBO wants to keep its cachet, it also needs to be part of the buffet.

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