Facebook create over 500 jobs for London-based techies.

Facebook have created a London based engineering centre to build tech tools aimed at fighting the fight against harmful content.

The centre will create around 500 new tech opportunities for London based professionals. Facebook have indicated that approximately 100 of these jobs will be centred around Artificial Intelligence.  They have also revealed that a significant number of these new roles will have a focus on “community integrity”. This particular unit works to stop spam and abusive content and will look to restrict violent language and threats to personal safety.

Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s EMEA vice president, announced the launch at London Tech Week.  She claims the centre to be demonstrative of Facebook’s “determination to do everything we can to keep Facebook safe and secure”.  She goes on to say “many of these new roles will accelerate our artificial intelligence work in London as we continue developing technology to proactively detect and remove malicious content”.

Indeed, one of the focuses of the centre will be to build advanced software and AI systems that can detect and remove harmful behaviour such as malicious content and fake accounts.

This new project is timely and a positive step toward protecting users from online hate.  Facebook have been under considerable pressure of late to address the malicious subject matter on its sites, particularly with regard to vulnerable users of this and its sister platforms.  14-year-old school girl, Molly Russell was found to have died by suicide after finding material relating to self-harm in her account on the company’ sister site Instagram.

This particular announcement arrives at a time when global governments are putting more pressure on big tech firms to better police their platforms.  Indeed, social media firms will face significant financial penalties should they fail to protect children online under new legislation instigated by Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham.  Under these new codes, which look set to be enacted as early as this autumn, Facebook et al will be forced to ensure that only children aged 13 and over are on their sites and that the content they see is appropriate for their age.

Quite how they will ensure this across such a large space remains to be seen.  However, tragic cases such as Molly’s demonstrate there is a dramatic need to protect society’s most vulnerable.  It is our hope that Facebook’s new centre can help to address and of course, remedy this need.

Apple and Microsoft collaborate on new iCloud for Windows app.

Shaping the evolution of personal computing, the relationship between Apple and Microsoft has been an undulating rollercoaster of peaks and troughs.  Over the course of four decades, the two have enjoyed fierce competition. As such the two have spurred each other on to always innovate and disrupt the tech landscape.

It has been revealed this week that the two have come together to bury the commercial hatchet.  Apple and Microsoft have partnered to launch a new iCloud app for Windows 10.   

Although iCloud has always been available on Windows, this new app is available in the Microsoft store.  It will also include a sync feature that’s based on the same tech behind OneDrive’s Files ‘On-Demand’ feature.  This development means that you can now access iCloud files on a Windows 10 PC without them having to be fully synced to a PC, thus saving disk space.

Users will download a placeholder of the file itself.  When the file is fully accessed or a folder is marked for sync it will download the entire contents.  iCloud will also be integrated into File Explorer within Windows 10. There will be separate folders for iOS apps; Keynote, Numbers, and Pages for example.   Users will also be able to access their documents stored on iCloud Drive, their images from iCloud Photos along with their mail, contacts, calendar, reminders and Safari bookmarks.

This Windows app collaboration has been both welcome and a surprise to the tech community, especially as Apple has used Microsoft’s latest Windows APIs for cloud storage sync.  The fact that the two tech giants have teamed up on this project leaves us hopeful that it may incite further partnerships. Could we see Apple’s TV and Music services appear on Windows for example??

Who knows?  In the meantime though, the new iCloud app for Windows is available immediately in the Microsoft store.

UK Challenger Bank expands to the US.

UK challenger bank, Monzo has a unicorn valuation, a customer base of more than 2 million and now a swanky new LA address! Monzo has revealed that they are expanding to cover the US market.

In the early days, this move will see a U.S. Monzo app and connected Mastercard debit card made available via in-person sign ups at events to be held shortly.  The first wave of the rollout will initially consist of just a few thousand cards but will be supported by a waiting list in preparation for a wider launch.

CEO Tom Bloomfield believes the key to cracking North America lies in a fully localised version of Monzo.  Monzo will tailor their product around market research conducted on their US customer base. The fintech has acknowledged that there are fundamental differences between the way in which Brits and Americans save, spend and manage their finances; and that as a result, they will need to significantly adjust their offerings to fit their new audience.

Monzo says it will develop the U.S. version into a “fully-featured digital account” that customers can access via their smartphone. US users will also have the ability to extend into other Monzo products and third-party financial services. As in the UK, the plan for across the Atlantic is for Monzo to build and own as much of its technology stack as possible.  Blomfield believes that it is this strategy which will give Monzo the agility to serve its U.S. customers successfully.

Monzo might only just be launching its advance into the US, however, Bloomfield has had his sights set on the States for some time.  Over recent years, the challenger bank has attracted the interest of a host of US investors. General Catalyst, Thrive Capital, Goodwater Capital, Stripe, Michael Moritz and Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom have all shown financial interest in Monzo and its products.  Most recently, it has been suggested that Y Combinator is set to join the company’s backers.

It is no secret that British Fintech is the envy of the digital banking ecosystem.  As such Monzo is just the latest in a long line of London-based B2C fintechs expanding in a bid to conquer America.  Just earlier this week, money management app Emma announced that it too had launched in the U.S. via a partnership with Plaid.  Preceding both Monzo and Emma though were banking chatbot and app Cleo, who quietly tip-toed into the American market nine months ago.

Monzo seem to have the right idea and it is perhaps their unblinkered “one size does not fit all approach” that will see them conquer the US.  Good luck Monzo..! We hope you go on to replicate your UK success!

Uber announce the first non-US location of its flying taxi service.

Uber has selected the skies of Melbourne to be the first location outside of the US for its air taxi service.

The Australian city was named as the third official pilot city for Uber Air.  It joins Dallas and Los Angeles with test flights due to start in 2020 and commercial operations scheduled for 2023.

Susan Anderson, Uber’s manager for the region that includes Australia explains why Melbourne was chosen to be the ‘rest of the world’ pioneer;

“Australian governments have adopted a forward-looking approach to ridesharing and future transport technology” she says.   Alongside this, Melbourne was identified as having a “unique demographic and geospatial factors”. This, partnered with its “culture of innovation and technology”  makes it the “perfect third launch city”.

Uber used their Uber Elevate Summit as the platform from which to announce their plans.  Alongside this, they also revealed some significant new partnerships to their program; Pennsylvania-based Jaunt Air Mobility will produce the rotor- and fixed-wing light aircraft while Uber will collaborate with French engineering group Safran on their air taxi cabin design.

They anticipate that these partnerships will spur on the development of the urban transportation landscape.  In an on-stage interview sponsored by the Economic Club of Washington, Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said;

“We want to get the industry moving and designing these vehicles so that they can be available for urban transportation” .

Uber Air is designed to work in tandem with Uber’s already well established car ride sharing service.  It is destined to be a multi-modal option and one that will help speed passengers to their destinations.  The aerial option will feature on the Uber smartphone app. Indeed, when it’s fully established, the service will include ground and air transportation, pooling travellers into one aircraft.

Khosrowshahi believes that it is Uber’s large user base which will help stimulate the demand for aerial ridesharing;  the first step of which being a helicopter service from lower Manhattan to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. However, in the end, it is anticipated that the helicopters will be replaced “by a generation of electrically powered vertical takeoff and landing vehicles.”

So often, the masses are priced out of innovation.  It is refreshing to note then that Uber will price their aerial ride sharing in line with their UberX car service.   Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate, told the conference that fares for the electric aircraft will be “something like $6 per seat mile”.

Billed as being “quiet”, “green” and “safe”, these aerial taxis look to be the future of city transportation across the world.  A great idea in theory, but would you ride in one? We’d love to hear your views! Leave your thoughts below!

About the author: As a founder of Ignite Digital Talent, I lead our brilliant team to ensure we deliver time and time again for our clients. I also stay closely networked with industry influencers to ensure we are well placed to understand the issues and challenges our clients face.

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