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AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner draws regulatory scrutiny

AT&T is set to acquire Time Warner for $85.4 billion, giving it control over the latter's massive content if the deal is approved by regulators. Time Warner owns HBO, CNN and TBS. The deal will give AT&T multiple sources of revenues including potentially subscription revenues and advertising fees. They could also earn from the data based on the content that customers consume. The deal has sparked criticism from regulators with US lawmakers calling for an antitrust hearing on the issue, reports The Washington Post. Some antitrust experts think the FCC should be involved in the deal as it can put the company's competitors at an unfair disadvantage in different ways, including favoring its content over competitors in its platforms, offering unlimited streaming of Time Warner content or overcharging competitors to gain access to its content. The acquisition could also encourage other buyouts, adding more consolidation to the industry. Other carriers Verizon and Comcast are also buying content as they can drive network revenues.

Key Takeaway: 

AT&T’s acquisition deal with Time Warner, producer of entertainment content such as HBO, CNN and TBS, for $85.4 billion received much regulatory scrutiny for antitrust concerns that the company can have massive control over the content that Time Warner creates, its revenues and distribution, which can be used to throttle competitors to favor its content and services.

Market Disruptions: 
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Publication Date: 
October 24, 2016

Intel’s venture capital firm to invest $38 million in startups

Intel Capital is investing $38 million in a dozen startups focused on autonomous machines, data and connectivity, sports and health, and virtual reality. One of the robotics firms, Chronocam, is creating computer vision sensors and systems that are like the biological human eye. Embodied is making socially assistive robots while Perrone Robotics is developing a software platform for autonomous vehicles and robots. Among the four startups focused on data and connectivity, two are China-based: Eazytec which provides IoT technologies for monitoring the water and air in China and Grand Chip Microelectronics which offers connectivity solutions for WLAN, Wi-Fi, cellular and IoT. The two others are Paxata, which is working on a business information platform that turns raw data into meaningful information for enterprise and IT users and StealthMine, which is securing data encryption for enterprise applications. Sports and health firms Cubeworks, Kinduct and L4Connect are developing tiny millimeter-sized wireless sensors, a data and analytics platform, and dashboards respectively. Virtual reality startup Dysonics is working on solutions that will enable people to capture 360-degree sounds for live VR experiences. Lastly, InContext Solutions is helping manufacturers and retailers simulate their products and services in virtual reality.

Key Takeaway: 

Intel Capital, Intel’s venture capital firm, is investing $38 million in 12 startups focused on robotics, IoT connectivity and data analytics, sports, health and wellness, as well as virtual reality, with technologies that are ground-breaking and could be useful for various customer markets such as the enterprise, health and wellness organizations.

Publication: 
Publication Date: 
October 24, 2016

Rise in EV adoption will drive new opportunities for utilities

A new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance states that the electrification of transportation will present opportunities for utilities faced with stagnant load growth as well as increasing pressure to innovate with new business models that incorporate distributed and clean energy as a resource. It is estimated that electric vehicle adoption will have greater impact on utilities by 2030 as they will make up 3% of global energy demand. However, electric cars are not expected to be competitive to internal combustion engine vehicles until the mid-2020s. Utilities can provide specific rate plans designed for EV charging to cater to this new market, as well as new vehicle leases that take account negotiated electricity rates. They can also participate in the build-out of public and semi-public charging infrastructure. Autonomous cars and car sharing models can speed the integration of electric vehicles as demand response assets. Much opportunity is also in used batteries which is expected to hit the market in large quantities by mid-2020s. They will be used for grid storage, enabling more clean energy to be integrated to the grid, as well as introduce lower peak demand prices for public charging.

Key Takeaway: 

Rise in electric vehicle adoption driven by declining battery prices as well as autonomous and ride sharing models, will present opportunities for utilities to increase their bottomline as loads are expected to grow and enable them to venture into new business models such as new rate plans and vehicle lease structures.

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Publication Date: 
October 19, 2016

Microsoft’s neural network at par with humans in recognizing speech

Microsoft's artificial intelligence program has reached the accuracy level of a professional human transcriber in recognizing speech, achieving the same error rate of 5.9%, an improvement from its record of 6.3% just a month ago. The overall score is a measurement of how the AI and the human transcriptionists did on three indicators - how many times both wrongly substituted sounds, omitted a word, or inserted the wrong word. According to Microsoft's chief speech scientist Xuedong Huang, achieving parity with a human is a historic achievement. The company used 2,000 hours of data to train its neural network. Improved automated speech recognition systems can enhance current speech-to-text services as well as Cortana, adding features that could allow the deaf to understand spoken words.

Key Takeaway: 

Microsoft’s neural network performed as accurately as a professional human transcriptionist at recognizing speech with an error rate of 5.9%; the improvement can introduce better speech-to-text systems and artificial intelligence assistants that can aid the deaf to hear.

Publication: 
Publication Date: 
October 19, 2016

Tesla Model S, X and Model 3 will have self-driving hardware

Tesla Motors announced it will start adding $8,000 worth of full autonomous driving hardware to the Model S, X and Model 3 sedans in production. The new vehicles will have eight surround cameras with 360 degree visibility up to 250 meters of range and 12 updated ultrasonic sensors that can detect objects at almost twice the distance of the existing system. Its computing system will be 40 times more powerful than the initial one it introduced. However, the hardware still has to wait for advances in the company's AutoPilot software before the cars can fully drive themselves without human intervention. The system will also have to gather data from millions of miles of real-world driving before it can be commercialized.

Key Takeaway: 

Tesla will begin installing the hardware that can enable full self-driving capability in its Model S, X and Model 3 sedans but software required to run them is still being developed.

Market Disruptions: 
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Publication Date: 
October 19, 2016

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