The Singularity is Nigh

Spark Nabs $4.9 Million to Turn Your Kitchen Into ‘The Brave Little Toaster’

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Most early attempts at Internet of Things (IoT) devices, like smart cutting boards and rudimentary wearables, haven’t proven their worth enough to become as important to us as our phones and laptops. But as of this morning, IoT startup Spark has raised $4.9 million to bring us smart objects that might actually be useful.

Until now, Spark has focused on selling home kits that let you take everyday objects like lightbulbs and cutting boards and hook them up with sensors and wifi. The new cash will help Spark move on from selling one-off DIY kits to providing thousands of cores for companies that want to use Spark to power IoT products. Read More

Big Brother Is Watching

Hey Facebook, Good Job Alienating Everyone to Make a Point We Already Knew

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Facebook gave the world a new reason to think they’re a bunch of scary, omnipotent puppeteers last week when it was revealed that Facebook data scientists tinkered with users’ news feeds to study the emotional impact it would have.

It all started when the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the study by a team of data scientists working with Facebook, which went mostly unnoticed at first. Once it made its media debut — likely in this small article from NewScientist — it caught fire, and the headlines are calling the study creepy, manipulative and unethical. Read More

Goooood Morning Silicon Alley!

Best Tech Events This Week: NY Tech Meetup, DAYBREAKER, Big Data Connect and More

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This is a guest post from Gary Sharma (aka “The Guy with the Red Tie”), founder and CEO of GarysGuide and proud owner of a whole bunch of black suits, white shirts and, at last count, over 40 red ties. You can reach him at gary [at] garysguide.com.

Don’t miss! ==> July 02 4th of July Takeover Party (DL Rooftop), I’ll be co-hosting w/ AlleyNYC & special celeb guests, 10 FREE VIP Passes ($75 each)!

Also 2 amazing FREE events @ ORRICK … July 15 Founder’s Guide w/ Joy Marcus (Bloglovin), Amanda Hesser (Food52) and July 17 Internet of Things w/ Matt Turck (FirstMark Capital), Patrick Ugeux (Clear Channel).

July 14 Fred Wilson talk on Bitcoin for charity fundraising. All proceeds go to CSNYC Foundation for Computer Science (led by my friend Evan Korth), providing access to Comp Sci education to kids in public schools. Read More

Clean Tech

Techies Asked to Fix NYC’s Ancient Power Grid, Actual Rocket Scientists Needed

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In a dark conference hall lined with carafes dripping coffee unworthy of the name, a group of engineers, academics, brokers and analysts gathered around a dismal pile of spreadsheets. You wouldn’t think you were at Google’s New York headquarters, except that Google representatives were on standby to make sure no one ventured from the hall into the rest of the building.

Hefty stacks of NYC’s utility infrastructure data awaited them. This hackathon’s mission: to solve the problem of energy inefficiency in New York City. The event was a “Data Jam” — a fun and bouncy term for a big data hackathon — organized by energy data startup EnerKnol as a part of New York Energy Week. Read More

Old Dogs Learn New Tricks

David Sedaris Buys Fitbit, Becomes Crazed Roving Trash Collector

Mr. Sedaris (Photo via davidsedarisbooks.com)

Popular opinion holds that wearable tech’s biggest drawback is the potential for Big Data to catalog our personal health data and use it to sell us more crap we don’t need.

Few realize, though, that wearing a machine around your wrist that counts your every step can also cause another problem: a total obsession with walking. At least, that’s the case in Stepping Out,” a personal essay in the New Yorker by your cool European-seeming uncle David Sedaris. Read More

Q&A

‘Big Data’ Sounds Scarier Than It Really Is, Says Marketing CEO

David Steinberg, CEO of Zeta Interactive.

Big data: it’s a term that tends to make people nervous, conjuring images of NSA surveillance and massive privacy hacks.

But those who work in big data will argue otherwise. Earlier this month, we spoke with David A. Steinberg, CEO of Zeta Interactive, a big data marketing platform he founded in 2007 with former Apple CEO John Sculley. Zeta Interactive helps its clients — like T Mobile, US Airways and Time Inc. — harness the copious data they regularly collect from their customers, and send out more effective, targeted advertisements.  Read More

Planet Google

Google Wants To Bring Ads To a Thermostat Near You

Get ready to start seeing personalized ads here! (Facebook)

Not so breaking news: Google is taking over everything.

A letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that was disclosed yesterday revealed that Google may begin advertising and serving content on devices such as car dashboards, thermostats, refrigerators and of course Google Glass, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Google reportedly made the statement, originally filed in December, to explain why they don’t disclose revenue generated from mobile devices, despite the fact that other media giants like Facebook and Twitter do. Their explanation is that the definition of mobile will “continue to evolve” with the introduction of more “smart” devices. Read More

Fitness 2.0

Shocker: Cloud Company Reports People Love Putting Their Health Data in the Cloud

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Companies like Fitbit, who make fitness wearables and health trackers, purport to want to help businesses wire up their employees to improve productivity — and allegedly, employees love it, according to a convenient new report by The Human Cloud at Work project.

The project is a collaboration between Goldsmiths, University of London and cloud services company Rackspace. They worked with British businesses to hook their employees up to a combination of three wearables: an accelerometer wristband, a brain wave sensor, and a posture coaching device. Read More

Secondary Markets

Startup Takes Your Personal Data, Forces Brands To Compete To Sell You Stuff

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We know that Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, and other services leverage our data to benefit from marketers and advertisers. But a new startup called OwnOut wants to help you get in on the action by leveraging your own data to pit brands against each other in a fight for your loyalty.

“We help brands steal customers,” OwnOut Founder Mike Grassotti said yesterday — nine times actually — at a presentation for ERA Demo Day.

It works like this: customers give over their email account so OwnOut can go in and examine their purchasing habits. If that seems scary, consider: you’ve likely already given that data away to other online services — OwnOut just wants you to benefit directly. Read More