Apple Has Hundreds Working On An Electric Car Design, Says WSJ

apple-carplay Apple is indeed working on a car, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Mac maker kicked off a top-secret project tasked with developing an electric car with a minivan aesthetic, per the WSJ’s sources, after CEO Tim Cook approved the project nearly a year ago. It includes “hundreds” of staffers and is led by Ford Motor vet and Apple VP Steve Zadesky, and it includes… Read More

TechCrunch » Gadgets

At I/O, Google Will Be Tracking Things Like Noise Level And Air Quality With Hundreds Of Arduino-Based Sensors


If you’re attending Google I/O this week, you will be a part of an experiment from the Google Cloud Platform Developer Relations team. On its blog today, the team outlined its plan to gather a bunch of environmental information happening around you as you meander around the Moscone Center.

In the blog post, Michael Manoochehri, Developer Programs Engineer, outlines his team’s plan to place hundreds of Arduino-based environmental sensors around the conference space to track things like temperature, noise levels, humidity and air quality in real-time. This was spawned due to a fascination with wanting to know which areas of the conference were the most popular, so it will be interesting to see what the information the team gathers actually tells us.

At first glance, this seems a little bit creepy, but it’s no different than a venue adjusting the cooling system based on the temperature inside at any given moment. As with anything that Google does, this could have implications for tracking indoor events or businesses in the future, as Manoochehri shared:

Networked sensor technology is in the early stages of revolutionizing business logistics, city planning, and consumer products. We are looking forward to sharing the Data Sensing Lab with Google I/O attendees, because we want to show how using open hardware together with the Google Cloud Platform can make this technology accessible to anyone.

Notice the wrap-up of wanting to show people how open hardware combined with Google’s Cloud Platform benefits everyone. Ok, sure. What could data like this mean for businesses, though? Well, a clothing store would be able to track how many people came in and browsed, which areas of the store were hot-spots for interest and then figure out how their displays converted. It’s like real-world ad-tracking. It makes sense, but still seems a long way off.

What will be interesting is not each dataset that is collected, but what all of them tied together tell us about our surroundings:

Our motes will be able to detect fluctuations in noise level, and some will be attached to footstep counters, to understand collective movement around the conference floor.

Of course, none of this information is personally identifiable, but the thought of our collective steps, movements and other ambient output being turned into something usable by Google is intriguing to say the least…and yes, kind of creepy.

If this particular team can share all of the data it collects in an easy to digest way, then businesses will be clamoring to toss sensors all over their stores and drop the data on whatever cloud platform that will host it the cheapest. Google would like to be that platform.

During the event, the team will hold a workshop on what it calls the “Data Sensing Lab,” so if you’re interested on learning more about what the team is gathering as you walk around, this would be the place to go. You’ll also be able to see some of the real-time visualizations on screens set up throughout the conference floor.

We’ll be covering all of the action as we’re being covered by Google.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

With Hundreds Of Thousands Of Phones Collected, Device Recycler ecoATM Adds Tablets


According to Strategy Analytics, about 1.6 billion mobile phones were shipped in 2012, with 700 million of those being smartphones. That doesn’t even take tablets into account. Compass Intelligence estimates that 18 million new tablets were sold during the fourth quarter of 2012. Naturally, as waves upon waves of new smartphones and tablets hit stores, people need a way of disposing of their old, used devices.

Enter ecoATM, the Coinstar for your has-been mobile devices. For those unfamiliar, the San Diego-based startup is the maker of nifty ATM-like kiosks that fully automate the buy-back of used consumer electronics, giving you cash for your old iPod. We first caught wind of this innovative concept when it debuted at DEMO Spring 2011, promising to bring its self-serve recycling kiosks to a mall near you.

Since then, the startup has found plenty of eager adopters at retail outlets and has paid out “millions of dollars to hundreds of thousands of customers.” And, in the process, ecoATM Chairman and CEO Tom Tullie says it has saved landfills from hundreds of thousands of potentially toxic devices. To date, the startup has been able to “find a second life” for 60 percent of the devices it has collected, recycling the rest.

However, until now, ecoATM has only addressed a portion of the used device market, as its kiosks have been limited to accepting your cell phones, smartphones and MP3 players. But, today, with the tablet market in full bloom, the startup has expanded its support in kind, announcing that its kiosks will now be accepting used tablets of all stripes. Cash for clunky tablets. [Want to find the location of the nearest ecoATM, GPS yo self here.]

Now that a year has passed since ecoATM took home the Best Clean Tech Startup award at the Crunchies, we decided to check in with Ryan Kuder, the company’s marketing director, to hear more about the progress the startup has made over the last 12 months. Not surprisingly, Kuder tells us that 2012 was a year of dramatic growth for ecoATM and its kiosks, and the validation of winning a Crunchie “right at the beginning of that” definitely helped. (Wink.)

Since winning the award, ecoATM has gone from 50 kiosks to about 300 in 20 states. This year, he’s hoping to add another 600 or 700 kiosks, bringing the total to 1,000. And although ecoATM has focused on placing machines in malls, Kuder said, “Eventually, we’re going to run out of malls.” That’s why it’s also testing kiosks in supermarkets and other locations. (To fund that growth, ecoATM raised a $ 17 million round in the spring.)

But are people actually using the machines? Well, Kuder said people used ecoATM to recycle “hundreds of thousands of phones” last year, and with the company’s expansion plans, that number should go into the millions this year.

As the tablet announcement suggests, ecoATM is also expanding beyond phones into other categories of portable electronics, but Kuder said the company will be proceeding carefully: “You know, it’s important to do the things we do well.”

By the way, the Crunchies are tomorrow night at the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. You can buy tickets here.

TechCrunch » Gadgets