Google Hangouts Makes Another Push Into Corporate Video Conferencing

Google’s push to shake up corporate meetings is getting an upgrade.

The search giant debuted a new video conferencing system with a camera, speakers, and associated gear that are intended to make it easier for companies to conduct and broadcast corporate business meetings.

The new video conferencing gear, which works with Google’s Hangouts Meet video conferencing software, is an upgraded version of equipment that Google introduced in 2014. But the latest includes extras like a touchscreen tablet that syncs with Google Calendar so people can more easily access scheduled meetings.

Google’s goog new video conferencing gear, which costs $2,000 plus $250 annually, comes amid a similar push by several big companies. Microsoft msft has Skype for Business, Facebook fb has Workplace software, and Cisco csco has a lineup of business software and hardware.

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Although people can use Google’s Hangouts Meet for online video meetings without the help of extra gear, Johnston believes that limitations in current laptop cameras make for an inferior experience. For example, the camera included in Google’s latest camera package has a wider-angle lens that can show more people in a conference room than a typical laptop camera.

Google hopes that business customers will buy the new gear to replace older phones or conferencing units sold by companies like Polycom. Scott Johnston, a Google product management director, says that the new Google equipment is better because it is compatible with various Google apps like the Google Drive for storing a video archive of past meetings.

Although Google designed the conferencing gear, several hardware companies built some of the equipment in the bundle. Asus manufactured the Chromebox computer that powers the system, Huddly built the camera, and display technology company Mimo built the touchscreen.

Google produced the speaker, which incorporates technology from Lime Audio, the Swedish startup that Google bought in January for an undisclosed amount. That technology helps remove echoes and ambient noise, Johnston said.

Uses must be G Suite subscribers to use the conferencing gear, which is available only through Google. It will not be available in retail stores.

“We need to get there,” Johnston said, voicing hope that brick and mortar stores may one day sell the equipment.

The gear is part of Google’s G Suite collection of workplace software and hardware that’s part of the company’s larger Cloud business unit. It’s pitched as a companion to the company’s Jamboard digital whiteboard, which costs $5,000 and can also be used to conduct online meetings and take digital notes.

The Rylo Camera Makes Everything You Shoot Look Amazing

Alex Karpenko hands me a camera and tells me to run. We’re standing on a pier in San Francisco, and the device in Karpenko’s hand is an unreleased prototype of a new, software-driven video camera called Rylo. Karpenko wants me to see what he and co-founder Chris Cunningham show recruits and investors when they ask why they should get involved. Karpenko says I don’t have to worry about where to point the camera, or try to hold it still. Just go. So I grab the camera—a small, oblong 360-degree shooter with a lens on either side—and start running. Cunningham runs too, a few steps ahead of me.

After an embarrassingly tiring 30 yards or so, we stop. I hand Karpenko the camera, which he quickly plugs into his iPhone. He opens the Rylo app, imports the video, and shows it to me. The footage looks fantastic. It’s stable despite my heavy foot-pounding, level even with my total lack of attention, and trained perfectly on Cunningham’s back. Watching me watch the video, Cunningham smiles. “You asked what convinces people to work with us? That’s it. It’s always the video.”

For the last two years, Cunningham and Karpenko have been quietly working on a new kind of camera. The former Instagram employees—Cunningham built software, Karpenko created the Hyperlapse app—saw that every time they made it easier for people to make great stuff, people made more stuff. But while filters, lenses, and basic editing tools can spruce up most photos, video presents a bigger challenge. Even before you get to the content, Karpenko says, you have to get three hard things right: Your video needs to be stable, it needs to be level, and it needs to be looking at the right thing. Rylo’s job is to solve all of those things with software.

rylo

When you shoot with the $500 Rylo, you can control almost everything about it after the fact. The two cameras each capture a 195-degree field of view, which Rylo stitches together into a single sphere. But you’re not really meant to use the sphere. Instead, you can pull out the exact frame you want, and share that as a normal video. Or you can pick two spots in the sphere, and have the shot pan from one to the other. You can split the shot, and see your subject and photographer simultaneously. (You can also capture stills, which Rylo horizon-levels automatically.) All you do at first is press record; the artistic decisions come later. And whatever you choose comes out stable, level, and clear.

At first, the Rylo team hoped to make all that possible with only software. “We looked for cameras that existed, to see if we could build on top of those,” Cunningham says. They quickly realized they needed more control over the optics of the camera in order to correct for things like lens distortion. Cunningham scoured Alibaba, buying camera parts for a prototype 360-degree rig while Karpenko hacked away at the algorithm. Even early on, with a camera held together by hot glue, the software worked impressively well.

That’s because Rylo’s camera optics aren’t really the point. They’re never really the point, anymore, as we enter the era of computational photography. Google’s Pixel 2 gets depth-perception out of a single camera because it trained an algorithm to recognize the human head; Apple took similar steps to enable the Portrait Lighting feature in the new iPhone cameras. The megapixel race is over, replaced by an arms race in computer vision and machine learning.

Rylo’s also focused on a less futuristic but maybe more important problem: sharing. (These are ex-Instagrammers, after all.) Rather than making users wait interminably for videos to transfer wirelessly, or force them to manage SD cards and lug around a laptop, Rylo does everything over a short cable, which connects to an iPhone now with Android support coming soon. You can edit, render, and share a video in the course of about ten seconds, all on your phone’s screen.

Just before I leave Rylo’s office, which used to be a test kitchen for a fancy San Francisco eatery, Karpenko shows me the best demo yet. It starts as an unremarkable video of the Golden Gate Bridge, shot from a hand held out the sunroof. It’s stable, sure, and level, yes, but it’s just a video of a car going to a bridge. But then Karpenko taps on the side of the bridge, and tells the video to track there as the car drives. A few seconds later, he tells it to pan up, so the shot points vertically right as the car passes underneath the bridge. Once the car is through, he has it look back at the center. Suddenly I’m watching something professional, like an outtake of the Full House credits or an establishing shot for San Francisco in a movie. It’s one camera, one take, and a million different possibilities.

Why Bitcoin Is Flying Even Higher And Faster

If you’re going to invest in Bitcoin then you need to wrap your head around the fact that there’s an entire market of cryptocurrencies. In other words, there’s competition. As a result, this opens up opportunities for speculation and trading. There might be a short term play (or two) worth considering.

First, take a look at Coinbase to see how Bitcoin has moved in the last month:

Pretty easy to see that it’s up over 42%.

Now, take a look at Ethereum:

Up about 5%. That’s pretty weak compared to Bitcoin.

Typically, the top cryptocurrencies have moved in tandem, although they are are not perfectly correlated. To provide further clarity and provide you with some real numbers, take a look at this correlation matrix:

Source: sifrdata

You can see that Ethereum (and LiteCoin) are 0.66 correlated with Bitcoin.

  • 0.5 to 1: Strong positive relationship
  • 0.3 to 0.5: Moderate positive relationship
  • 0.1 to 0.3: Weak positive relationship

The 0.66 correlation tells us that there is a strong albeit not 1:1 correlation between Bitcoin and Ethereum. In fact, they are all kind of “hot” and moving upward in price.

So, we know that over the last 90 days Bitcoin [BTC] and Ethereum [ETH] have moved together but we also know from the price charts that Bitcoin moved “big time” compared to ETH; eight times as much in the last 30 days.

The Bitcoin Cash History Lesson

The best explanation for the BTC movement versus ETH is that Bitcoin is getting close to forking again. Let’s start with, “What’s a fork?”

A “fork” is a change to the software of the digital currency that creates two separate versions of the blockchain with a shared history. Forks can be temporary, lasting for a few minutes, or can be a permanent split in the network creating two separate versions of the blockchain. When this happens, two different digital currencies are also created.

While many people think about Bitcoin as an investment or a currency, it’s important to remember that it’s also a technology. Yes, Bitcoin is software and it’s a network.

Now, for some quick history, back on August 1, a hard fork of the Bitcoin blockchain created Bitcoin Cash [BCH].

As a result of this, money was practically created out of thin air. “Bitcoin” [BTC] itself barely moved from that fork and then just kept moving up again. See for yourself:

The Bitcoin fork creating Bitcoin Cash didn’t hurt a bit. Plus, this new Bitcoin cash went from a value of $0.00 (because it didn’t exist) to this:

Bitcoin Cash is worth about $470 right now and until the fork it didn’t even exist. In other words, since Bitcoin didn’t lose value and Bitcoin Cash was created out of thin air. Basically, you’re looking at free money.

Yes, the fork created free money for most people holding Bitcoin. Therefore, it’s pretty obvious why everyone is so interested in holding regular Bitcoin again right now.

With a new fork coming in late November, Bitcoin investors are hoping for another Bitcoin Cash to happen, where holders get the new token just for holding on to BTC.

To add some color to this, here’s exactly what Coinbase has to say:

The Bitcoin Segwit2x fork is projected to take place on November 16th and will temporarily result in two bitcoin blockchains. Following the fork, Coinbase will continue referring to the current bitcoin blockchain as Bitcoin (BTC) and the forked blockchain as Bitcoin2x (B2X).

Any customer with a BTC balance on Coinbase at the time of the fork will be credited with an equal amount of the B2X asset on the Bitcoin2x blockchain. No action is required — we will automatically credit your account. So, if you have 5 BTC stored on Coinbase before the fork; you will have 5 BTC and 5 B2X following the event. (Emphasis Coinbase)

Again, you don’t need to understand the technology perfectly here. What matters is that with history and experience from the Bitcoin Cash fork, investors are clearly loading up on Bitcoin.

It’s hard to ignore what this is doing to the entire cryptocurrency market right now. Ethereum and Litecoin, for example, are barely moving up compared to Bitcoin. Given the normally high correlation of BTC to ETH, and BTC to LTC, this is quite clear to my eyes.

Two Quick Trades to Consider

Obviously, because of the flow to Bitcoin in anticipation of the fork, there are some opportunities. What trades work here?

First, you might wish to invest in some Bitcoin in anticipation of the fork. There’s no guarantee that this will work out like Bitcoin Cash. But, it’s definitely an opportunity if you can tolerate the risk.

Per the notes above, Coinbase is one place to invest to keep it simple. Clearly, they are responding to demand and they are keeping their community updated on the Bitcoin Segwit2x fork, and what that means for a new currency.

So, that’s the first trade. It’s pretty simple and it’s something of a gamble based on previous fork history. It’s absolutely not meant to be sophisticated but it could pay a nice little dividend, of sorts.

The second trade comes very shortly after the Bitcoin Segwit2x fork. Once that for happens in November, a relatively simple guess is that investors will turn their eyes to the alternatives.

To keep things very clear, I’m talking about how fiat money (U.S. dollars for example) and Bitcoin will move into Ethereum and LiteCoin, as well as many other cryptocurrencies. The money that’s been pouring into Bitcoin will likely slow down a bit, but others like Ethereum and Litecoin will pick up steam.

I generally don’t like trying to guess or use a crystal ball, but I feel like this is the right story. Bitcoin is getting extra benefits from the fork and Ethereum, Litecoin and the others are being suppressed a bit. Bitcoin is the big winner right now. However, once the fork happens, the pressure will then move sideways into other cryptos. Ethereum and Litecoin, for example, will start pushing up even faster. I wouldn’t be surprised if ETH and LTC grow 2-3x faster than BTC after the fork. Of course, all of this assumes that there’s no general cryptocurrency catastrophe (e.g., regulation). Stay safe out there.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: Long BTC, ETH, LTC

Wall Street Breakfast: Bitcoin Sets New All-Time High

Just a week after pushing past $6,000, bitcoin broke through the $6,300 mark for the first time late Sunday, taking gains this year to well over 500%. Investors appear to be shrugging off some of the negative news associated with last week’s “hard fork,” which resulted in the creation of a new cryptocurrency called bitcoin gold. It’s also been an eventful year for cryptocurrencies in general, with bitcoin garnering the most attention from analysts and regulators across the world.

Economy

With pressure building, Puerto Rico has moved to cancel Whitefish Energy’s $300M contract to rebuild the territory’s electrical grid. Roughly 70% of the island remains without power, more than a month after Hurricane Maria struck on Sept. 20. Private companies like Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) have stepped in amid a tumult in responding to the natural disaster, helping to restore power to a children’s hospital in San Juan.

The decision is not final, but at this point President Trump has settled on Fed Governor Jerome Powell as next Fed Chairman, WSJ reports. If confirmed, he would take up the reins at the central bank in February. In an Instagram post on Friday, the president said he had “somebody very specific in mind” for the job and would announce his choice sometime this week.

Following a week of stability during China’s 19th Communist Party Congress, local stocks stumbled in early Monday trade. The Shanghai Composite fell as much as 1.7%, the most this year on an intraday basis, before clawing back losses to close down 0.8%. It comes as sovereign bonds extended a monthly rout amid mounting deleveraging concerns in the nation’s financial sector.

Catalonia’s ousted leader, Carles Puigdemont, has called for peaceful opposition to Spain’s decision to take direct control of the region, declaring that he will keep “working to build a free country.” However, many government workers returned to their jobs today, in the first signs of whether separatists will adhere to his call. Euro +0.3% to $1.1639.

The U.K.’s Brexit department has lost its third minister in four months after Joyce Anelay resigned from the government citing health reasons. The department, headed by David Davis, had already seen the departure of two junior ministers and its permanent secretary since June’s general election, raising questions about its readiness for upcoming Brexit negotiations.

Iraqi Kurdish President Massoud Barzani is stepping down, a month after an independence referendum he orchestrated angered Baghdad. An overwhelming majority of voters approved secession, triggering fighting with Iraqi government troops who seized Kurdish-held oil fields accounting for about 40% of their revenue. The move also reversed years of political gains by the Kurds, dashing their dreams of statehood.

Stocks

“Our pivot to Asia is driving higher returns and lending growth,” HSBC CEO Stuart Gulliver declared after reporting earnings. Pretax profit at Europe’s largest bank totaled $4.6B during Q3, up from $843M in the same period a year ago. That will lay a foundation for HSBC’s new leadership after a tough period of post-crisis restructuring.

The Comptroller of the Currency wants to loosen the leash on Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), making it easier for the bank to vet incoming executives and clear severance payments, Reuters reports. The restrictions were heaped on the institution following its phony accounts scandal, but the bureau has advocated easing up sanctions since Keith Noreika took control of the OCC in May.

Confirming rumors from Friday, Akzo Nobel (OTCQX:AKZOY) said it was in “constructive talks” to buy Axalta (NYSE:AXTA), in a merger that would create a multibillion-dollar coating and paints giant. The possible deal under consideration would involve the Dutch company first proceeding with its existing plans to spin off its specialty chemicals business. AXTA +2.6% premarket.

Signing an agreement with CVC Capital, Owens Corning (NYSE:OC) will scoop up Paroc Group, a European mineral wool maker, for an enterprise value of about €900M. The transaction, which is expected to be immediately accretive to 2018 EPS, is likely to yield a run rate of operational synergies of €15M by the end of 2019.

Nintendo has raised its sales forecast for its latest console, the Switch, following another quarter of strong performance. The company now expects to ship 14M units in its financial year ending March 2018, up from its previous prediction of 10M. Nintendo (OTCPK:NTDOY) also upped its annual profit outlook to ¥85B ($748M), well above an earlier estimate of ¥45B.

Shouqi Limousine & Chauffeur, a car-hailing operator, and Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) are partnering to develop driverless vehicles, including software, hardware and mapping technology, Xinhua reports. Baidu also recently signed an agreement with BAIC Group to mass produce Level 4 autonomous vehicles by 2021 and is targeting mass production of autonomous buses with King Long by 2018.

Tesla shares fell almost 2% on Friday amid worries about Model 3 production. The stock has also experienced a swift decline since hitting a high of $385 last month, falling 17%, near bear market territory. Falling knife or buying opportunity? The last time Tesla (TSLA) was in a bear market the stock fell 32% over the course of seven months (April 2016 – Nov. 2016), but in the following period (Nov. 2016 -Sept. 2017) shares rallied 122%.

Overturning a decision to quit the country, Chevron (NYSE:CVX) is staying in Bangladesh and will invest $400M at Bibiyana, the country’s largest gas field. In April, the U.S. oil company said it would sell to China’s Himalaya Energy its wholly owned subsidiaries that operate three gas fields, which together account for 58% of Bangladesh’s gas production.

The head of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE:ICE) has not given up on the IPO of Saudi Aramco (Private:ARMCO), even as the kingdom’s bourse operator said it aspired to be the exclusive venue for the listing. The $100B IPO is aimed at helping raise the nation’s profile in the eyes of overseas investors, a key part of its Vision 2030 plan to diversify the economy away from oil.

The dismemberment of Jeff Immelt’s legacy continues. Citing sources familiar with the matter, the WSJ reported that General Electric (NYSE:GE) executives did not notify the board about the practice of trailing the former CEO with a spare jet anytime he traveled. Management for years also withheld from directors an internal complaint it received about the empty plane.

Kobe Steel has withdrawn its full-year profit guidance and said it wouldn’t pay an interim dividend, preparing for a potential blow to earnings from its data falsification scandal. It comes as Kobe (OTCPK:KBSTY) reported net profit of ¥39.3B ($346M) for the first six months of the financial year ending in March, beating its forecast of ¥25B, as the company’s steel business recovered.

Helping strengthen its oncology business, Novartis (NYSE:NVS) has announced a $3.9B deal to buy Advanced Accelerator Applications (NASDAQ:AAAP). AAA makes radio pharmaceutical products which contain radioisotopes and are used clinically for both diagnosis and therapy of tumors. It was spun off from Europe’s physics research center CERN 15 years ago and listed on Nasdaq. AAAP +2.9% premarket.

The U.S. distributor of Corona is chasing a new type of buzz, according to the WSJ. Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ) has agreed to take a 9.9% stake in Canopy Growth (OTCPK:TWMJF), the world’s largest publicly traded cannabis company, with a market value of 2.2B Canadian dollars on the Toronto Stock Exchange. It also plans to work with the firm to develop and market cannabis-infused beverages.

Retirement Strategy: One For Income, One For Growth, Both For My Retirement Portfolio

If you can find a stock that can provide a great dividend right now and probably increase its dividend for years to come, you might want the stock in your retirement portfolio, right? Obviously I am right, and that is a silly question.

On the flip side we have our growth investors always looking for capital appreciation either in the near term or the long term. If those folks can find one that is ringing a big fat bell that its share price will rise, growth investors will pay attention, I think. I could be wrong, of course, but I don’t think so.

Now let’s wave a magic wand and find 2 stocks that are literally screaming for all types of investors to look at them and perhaps build a retirement portfolio around them, right this minute. Folks I believe we have a match made in “portfolio heaven”: AT&T (T), and Bank of America (BAC).

The Following Facts Cannot Be Disputed

I realize that there are plenty of issues to point to with both of these stocks that have been written about ad nauseam, such as the T debt load and relatively high payout ratio, and the widely held disdain for BAC and its history with Countrywide, the mortgage and housing crisis, as well as the beating its share price took that crippled many investors’ portfolios. However, there are some irrefutable facts that should grab everyone’s attention

AT&T

  • The current dividend yield is 5.82%
  • T is a dividend aristocrat.
  • For every 100k invested right now in this stock, the income produced would be about $5,820 annually. There is NO other dividend aristocrat that can match this one.
  • The share price has dropped to 52-week lows.

I will defer to those folks who refuse to see T for what it is – a pure income investment for now – and agree that the company has debt issues that should not be ignored. What always seems to be lacking by the “negative nabobs” is how this company will be transformed when the merger of Time Warner (TWX) is completed by the end of the year. Here is a peek:

Time Warner beat expectations with Q3 earnings with broad gains, where HBO saw its highest quarterly growth in 13 years and Turner Broadcasting added subscriber strength.

Revenues grew 6% overall, and adjusted operating income was up 13% to $2.3B with support from all divisions.

HBO revenues grew nearly 13%, helped no doubt by the record seventh season of hit series Game of Thrones, which due to a delay fit entirely in Q3 this year.

Revenue by segment: Turner, $2.77B (up 6.1%); Home Box Office, $1.6B (up 12.6%); Warner Bros., $3.46B (up 1.7%).For the first nine months, cash from continuing operations hit $4B (up 12%) and free cash flow came to $3.6B (up 8%).

It reaffirmed its full-year outlook, expecting adjusted operating income to rise in the high single digits (exclusive of any merger effects or costs tied to the AT&T acquisition).

For Q4, it’s expecting steady subscription growth from Turner, with ad revenues increasing low single digits and operating income to “increase significantly.” HBO is expected to increase subscription growth but also see higher programming cost growth, with a net increase for operating income. Warner Bros. operating income is expected to decline due to the release mix (including last year’s release of Suicide Squad).

All of the above will be part of T’s balance sheet soon, and if you do not believe this will make AT&T a stronger, and more profitable company, then T is not for you and you are not for T. I happen to be a huge bull on T and have added even more shares personally just the other day.

Here is a chart to ponder:

Chart
T data by YCharts

To encapsulate: Dividend yield is up, forward PE ratio is down, the share price basically made new 52-week lows. These are facts. NOT opinions. Formulate your own, but mine is that T is a bargain, will continue paying and increasing its dividend, and will become a bigger and better company when the Time Warner deal finally closes.

Bank of America

  • BAC has become leaner in the last 6 years and is making a lot of money, both on the top and bottom lines.
  • Interest rates are on their way UP, even if it is a very slow trip, and that means greater profits and revenues on every type of loan for BAC.
  • The current administration has been loosening the reigns of banking regulations and is PUSHING for even greater relaxation (think Dodd-Frank) of all the rules.
  • The share price now has momentum and has been upgraded by various analysts to a “buy or strong buy”.

I will not make any social commentary on the long term affects that the economy might face if banking regulations are rolled back. Suffice it to say that all of us are living in the present, and jumping on an opportunity for right now is what matters for immediate needs and goals. Not the past, and not the guesses about the future. Right now, BAC should be considered for any type of portfolio, plus you get about a 1.75% dividend yield while you own it, which is about 3 times the bank’s regular savings interest rate.

Here is a chart to consider:

Chart
BAC data by YCharts

The share price has not completely rebounded, but it does have lots of momentum lately, and the price to book value is well off of the pre-crisis average of 1.60 (currently 1.16). Perhaps I am being overly optimistic to say that the stock has about a 40% upside over the long term (24-36 months), or about $40/share? OK, so I will be a bit more reasonable and put an optimistic share price of 20% over the next 2 years to about $33/share based on price to book value currently.

At the same time, the current dividend of .48/share annually is likely to be increased significantly in the near term, if for nothing else than to keep Warren Buffett continuing to hold his shares!

I have been “banging the table” on BAC since it was at about $22-$23/share and wrote this article about it at $24/share. I have just added even more several days ago to my personal account. Yes, I believe BAC will give me GROWTH.

The Bottom Line

For retired folks, and the younger investors just starting out, T and BAC seem to make sense to me right now for the “holy” grail of BOTH income and growth. I can almost visualize them as “bookends” for a retirement portfolio.

You might want to assess the risks of each, as well as your own risk tolerance. to see if these stocks could help YOU reach some financial goals.

Read, Decide, Invest (or not), it’s up to you!

Not To Bore You, But…

Knowledge is power and many folks shy away from the investing world because that very world makes it more confusing each and every day in an effort to sell you something: stock picks, technical strategies, books, videos, subscriptions with “secret ideas,” gadgets, and even snake oil.

My promise to you is that my work here will remain free to all of my followers, with the hope of giving to you some of the things that took years for me to learn myself. That being said, let me reach out to you with my usual ending:

**One final note: The only favor I ask is that you click the “Follow” button so I can grow my Seeking Alpha friendships. That is my personal blessing in doing this and how I can offer my experiences to as many regular folks as possible, who might not otherwise receive it.

Disclaimer: The opinions and the strategies of the author are not intended to ever be a recommendation to buy or sell a security. The strategy the author uses has worked for him and it is for you to decide if it could benefit your financial future. Please remember to do your own research and know your risk tolerance. The long positions held are based upon what the model portfolio holds and I personally could have held all of the stocks noted at one time or another.

Disclosure: I am/we are long BAC, T.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Exclusive: How a Fake Product Announcement Created A Viral Marketing Campaign For Protecting The Environment

Earlier this year, a startup company called Treepex announced that it was taking pre-orders for an ingenious product that cleaned the air that one breathes. The company claimed that its flagship offering – shown for months on the website www.treepex.com, but moved at the moment that this article was published to try.treepex.com – was the “first ever device that transforms polluted air into fresh oxygen.”

Millions of people watched Treepex’s product-introduction video, and thousands publicly raised questions about the offering, discussing on various social platforms whether or not the device was real, and whether it would really improve one’s health if used in heavily polluted cities. The firm’s founders did many media interviews as well.

Today, however, in an exclusive interview with me, Treepex founder, Bacho Khachidze, who is based in the country of Georgia, finally revealed the truth about both the Treepex company and its flagship offering:

The Treepex device does not exist. In fact, it is Treepex’s mission to make sure that the device never needs to exist.

As explained in the video below, Treepex is really in the business of planting trees around the world. Trees, of course, utilize photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide (and water) into oxygen (and sugar) – performing a task vital to keeping the Earth habitable by humans and the many other animals that rely on oxygen for their survival. Pollution and logging, however, have undermined the natural balance – bringing consequences such as accelerated climate change, increased respiratory ailments, and other ecological, biological, and sociological problems.

Treepex’s “product announcement” was designed to raise awareness about the negative impact of pollution on human health, as well as of the positive impact that trees have in cleaning the air for us. It made millions of people ponder whether they would be healthier if they breathed better air. But, at least of today, there is simply no substitute for nature’s method of restoring oxygen to our air via the billions of trees and other plants on our planet; as a society, we must better appreciate their importance in our ecosystem, and the understand that it is our responsibility to maintain and deliver a healthy Earth to generations to come. In that regard, we must also remember that nature does not care about politics, budgets, or unscientific theories.

Treepex’s “product announcement video” appears to have ignited many discussions about trees and their role in our lives, and conversations on related environmental topics are sure to continue for years to come. In the meantime, Treepex offers people the ability to plant trees in several locations around the globe – as such, it truly “transforms polluted air into fresh oxygen” the way nature intended.

Tech

Sentiment Speaks: It's Time To Challenge What You Think You 'Know' About The Stock Market

Recent price action

The S&P500 dropped from the resistance region I had cited, and provided us with the minimum 30 point drop I was looking for (we dropped 34 points from the prior all-time high). As we caught the lows last week in real time, the market is trying to push up towards our next higher target in the 2611SPX region.

Anecdotal and other sentiment indications

I know I am not the traditional author you come across here on Seeking Alpha. Most others will provide you with traditional notions of the stock market based upon rationalities. So, many authors will suggest that we “cannot separate public policy and geopolitics from the markets,” they will focus on “market valuations,” they will claim that “fundamentals do not support this rally,” and will provide you with many, many other reasons as to why they have continually believed that this rally would never happen.

Yet, they have been left on the sidelines, scratching their heads for the last year and a half, as the US equity markets have rallied over 45% since February 2016.

I mean, think about all the reasons they have put before you over the last year and a half regarding the imminent risks facing the stock market, which they have lead you to believe will stop the market in its tracks. I have listed them before, and I think it is worthwhile listing them again:

Brexit – NOPE

Frexit – NOPE

Grexit – NOPE

Italian referendum – NOPE

Rise in interest rates – NOPE

Cessation of QE – NOPE

Terrorist attacks – NOPE

Crimea – NOPE

Trump – NOPE

Market not trading on fundamentals – NOPE

Low volatility – NOPE

Record high margin debt – NOPE

Hindenburg omens – NOPE

Syrian missile attack – NOPE

North Korea – NOPE

Record hurricane damage in Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico – NOPE

Spanish referendum – NOPE

Las Vegas attack – NOPE

And, each month, the list continues to grow.

Yet, the same authors you have read for years just continue to repeat their mantras that we “cannot separate public policy and geopolitics from the markets,” they continue to focus on “market valuations,” and they continue to claim that “fundamentals do not support this rally.”

Einstein was purported to suggest that insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. But, you see, in the stock market, there is a bit of a difference. Just as trees do not grow to the sky, the stock market will not rally indefinitely. So, we will eventually see a bear market. Then, the broken clock syndrome will prove these authors to be “right,” rather than simply insane, and we will hear it from them incessantly about how they tried to warn us. Yes, warn us indeed.

Now, that does not mean we should expect analysts to be right all the time. Clearly, I was expecting the set ups we have seen in the metals market to spark a big rally in 2017, but when we broke upper support back in September, it caused me to turn quite cautious until 2018. But, the difference is that I use an objective methodology that listens to what the market is saying rather than trying to force a predetermined linear perspective on the market.

And, that is the issue with most of the bearish presentations you have read for the last year and half about the stock market, while they claim they are simply “opening your eyes to the inherent risks in the stock market.” Let me ask you a question: Is there anyone reading this article that believes the stock market does not have risk at all times? I will not belabor this point, but, needless to say, these bearish presentations couched as “risk awareness” is not based upon objective perspectives on the stock market.

My friends, look at the events I have listed above yet again. None of them (nor ALL of them cumulatively) have been able to put a dent in this market advance over the last year and a half. So, rather than view the market from a perspective of insanity, maybe one should come to the conclusion that public policy, geopolitics, market valuations, or fundamentals are really not what drive the stock market. Clearly, we have seen that none of this has mattered one iota. So, maybe we need to consider that there is a stronger force at work which overrides any of the traditional perspectives you were lead to believe drives the market?

Bernard Baruch, an exceptionally successful American financier and stock market speculator who lived from 1870– 1965, identified the following long ago:

All economic movements, by their very nature, are motivated by crowd psychology. Without due recognition of crowd-thinking … our theories of economics leave much to be desired. … It has always seemed to me that the periodic madness which afflicts mankind must reflect some deeply rooted trait in human nature — a trait akin to the force that motivates the migration of birds or the rush of lemmings to the sea … It is a force wholly impalpable … yet, knowledge of it is necessary to right judgments on passing events.

Price pattern sentiment indications and upcoming expectations

The upcoming week is rather simple, and centered around the 2572SPX region. As long we hold over the 2572SPX early in the coming week, we are on our way to the 2611SPX region.

However, if we break down below 2572SPX early in the coming week, it opens the market up to another decline which will revisit the 2520-2550SPX support region before we finally rally to the 2611SPX region.

The Market Pinball Wizard

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Housekeeping Matters

For those looking for accurate insight into various markets, including VIX/VXX, FOREX, Dow Jones, etc., I also HIGHLY suggest you read Michael Golembesky’s work on Seeking Alpha.

Lastly, it seems that Seeking Alpha has changed the way they tag articles. So, while my articles used to be sent out as an email to those that follow the metals complex, they are now only being sent out to those that have chosen to “follow” me. So, if you would like notification as to when my articles are published, please hit the button at the top to “follow” me. Thank you.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Tech

Facebook Friends With Your Co-Workers? Survey Shows Your Boss Probably Disapproves

You and your colleagues pitch in together on difficult projects, lunch together, and have drinks together after work. You probably think it’s the most natural thing in the world to friend them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter or Instagram. Your boss, though, probably thinks you shouldn’t.

That’s the surprising result of a survey of 1,006 employees and 307 senior managers conducted by staffing company OfficeTeam. Survey respondents were asked how appropriate it was to connect with co-workers on various social media platforms. It turns out that bosses and their employees have very different answers to this question.

When it comes to Facebook, 77 percent of employees thought it was either “very appropriate” or “somewhat appropriate” to be Facebook friends with your work colleagues, but only 49 percent of senior managers agreed. That disagreement carries over to other social media platforms. Sixty-one percent of employees thought it was fine to follow a co-worker on Twitter, but only 34 percent of bosses agreed. With Instagram, 56 percent of employees, but only 30 percent of bosses thought following a co-worker was appropriate. Interestingly, the one social platform bosses and employees seem to almost agree about is Snapchat, with 34 percent of employees thinking it was fine to connect with colleagues, and 26 percent of bosses thinking so too.

What should you do if you want to connect with a colleague on social media–if you get a connection request from a colleague? Here are a few options:

1. Use LinkedIn.

LinkedIn was not included in the OfficeTeam survey, but because it’s a professional networking tool, few bosses will object to you connecting with coworkers there. And LinkedIn has many of the same features as Facebook–you can even send instant messages to your contacts.

2. Keep your social media connections secret.

Most social networks give users the option to limit who can see what they post and who their other connections are. You can use this option to keep your social media interactions limited to the people you choose. If that doesn’t include your boss, he or she may never know that you and your co-workers are connected.

3. Talk to your boss.

He or she may not agree with the surveyed bosses who said connecting on social media was inappropriate, in which case there’s no problem. And if your boss does object, he or she may have some good reasons you hadn’t thought of to keep your professional life separate from your social media one. The only way to find out is to ask.

4. Consider the future.

It may be perfectly fine to connect with your co-workers on social media when you’re colleagues. But what happens if you get promoted to a leadership position? You may regret giving your former co-workers access to all the thoughts you share on Facebook or Twitter. So if a colleague sends you a social media request, or you want to make one yourself, take a moment to think it through. Will you be sorry one day–when you’re the boss yourself?

Tech

Solve These Tough Data Problems and Watch Job Offers Roll In

Late in 2015, Gilberto Titericz, an electrical engineer at Brazil’s state oil company Petrobras, told his boss he planned to resign, after seven years maintaining sensors and other hardware in oil plants. By devoting hundreds of hours of leisure time to the obscure world of competitive data analysis, Titericz had recently become the world’s top-ranked data scientist, by one reckoning. Silicon Valley was calling. “Only when I wanted to quit did they realize they had the number-one data scientist,” he says.

Petrobras held on to its champ for a time by moving Titericz into a position that used his data skills. But since topping the rankings that October he’d received a stream of emails from recruiters around the globe, including representatives of Tesla and Google. This past February, another well-known tech company hired him, and moved his family to the Bay Area this summer. Titericz described his unlikely journey recently over colorful plates of Nigerian food at the headquarters of his new employer, Airbnb.

Titericz earned, and holds, his number-one rank on a website called Kaggle that has turned data analysis into a kind of sport, and transformed the lives of some competitors. Companies, government agencies, and researchers post datasets on the platform and invite Kaggle’s more than one million members to discern patterns and solve problems. Winners get glory, points toward Kaggle’s rankings of its top 66,000 data scientists, and sometimes cash prizes.

Ryan Young for Wired

Alone and in small teams with fellow Kagglers, Titericz estimates he has won around $ 100,000 in contests that included predicting seizures from brainwaves for the National Institutes of Health, the price of metal tubes for Caterpillar, and rental property values for Deloitte. The TSA and real-estate site Zillow are each running competitions offering prize money in excess of $ 1 million.

Veteran Kagglers say the opportunities that flow from a good ranking are generally more bankable than the prizes. Participants say they learn new data-analysis and machine-learning skills. Plus, the best performers like the 95 “grandmasters” that top Kaggle’s rankings are highly sought talents in an occupation crucial to today’s data-centric economy. Glassdoor has declared data scientist the best job in America for the past two years, based on the thousands of vacancies, good salaries, and high job satisfaction. Companies large and small recruit from Kaggle’s fertile field of problem solvers.

In March, Google came calling and acquired Kaggle itself. It has been integrated into the company’s cloud-computing division, and begun to emphasize features that let people and companies share and test data and code outside of competitions, too. Google hopes other companies will come to Kaggle for the people, code, and data they need for new projects involving machine learning—and run them in Google’s cloud.

Kaggle grandmasters say they’re driven as much by a compulsion to learn as to win. The best take extreme lengths to do both. Marios Michailidis, a previous number one now ranked third, got the data-science bug after hearing a talk on entrepreneurship from a man who got rich analyzing trends in horseraces. To Michailidis, the money was not the most interesting part. “This ability to explore and predict the future seemed like a superpower to me,” he says. Michailidis taught himself to code, joined Kaggle, and before long was spending what he estimates was 60 hours a week on contests—in addition to a day job. “It was very enjoyable because I was learning a lot,” he says.

Michailidis has since cut back to roughly 30 hours a week, in part due to the toll on his body. Titericz says his own push to top the Kaggle rankings, made not long after the birth of his second daughter, caused some friction with his wife. “She’d get mad with me every time I touched the computer,” he says.

Entrepreneur SriSatish Ambati has made Kagglers a core strategy of his startup, H2O, which makes data-science tools for customers including eBay and Capital One. Ambati hired Michailidis and three other grandmasters after he noticed a surge in downloads when H2O’s software was used to win a Kaggle contest. Victors typically share their methods in the site’s busy forums to help others improve their technique.

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H2O’s data celebrities work on the company’s products, providing both expertise and a marketing boost akin to a sports star endorsing a sneaker. “When we send a grandmaster to a customer call their entire data-science team wants to be there,” Ambati says. “Steve Jobs had a gut feel for products; grandmasters have that for data.” Jeremy Achin, cofounder of startup DataRobot, which competes with H2O and also has hired grandmasters, says high Kaggle rankings also help weed out poseurs trying to exploit the data-skills shortage. “There are many people calling themselves data scientists who are not capable of delivering actual work,” he says.

Competition between people like Ambati and Achin helps make it lucrative to earn the rank of grandmaster. Michailidis, who works for Mountain View, California-based H2O from his home in London, says his salary has tripled in three years. Before joining H2O, he worked for customer analytics company Dunnhumby, a subsidiary of supermarket Tesco.

Large companies like Kaggle champs, too. An Intel job ad posted this month seeking a machine-learning researcher lists experience winning Kaggle contests as a requirement. Yelp and Facebook have run Kaggle contests that dangle a chance to interview for a job as a prize for a good finish. The winner of Facebook’s most recent contest last summer was Tom Van de Wiele, an engineer for Eastman Chemical in Ghent, Belgium, who was seeking a career change. Six months later, he started a job at Alphabet’s artificial-intelligence research group DeepMind.

H2O is trying to bottle some of the lightning that sparks from Kaggle grandmasters. Select customers are testing a service called Driverless AI that automates some of a data scientist’s work, probing a dataset and developing models to predict trends. More than 6,000 companies and people are on the waitlist to try Driverless. Ambati says that reflects the demand for data-science skills, as information piles up faster than companies can analyze it. But no one at H2O expects Driverless to challenge Titericz or other Kaggle leaders anytime soon. For all the data-crunching power of computers, they lack the creative spark that makes a true grandmaster.

“If you work on a data problem in a company you need to talk with managers, and clients,” says Stanislav Semenov, a grandmaster and former number one in Moscow, who is now ranked second. He likes to celebrate Kaggle wins with a good steak. “Competitions are only about building the best models, it’s pure and I love it.” On Kaggle, data analysis is not just a sport, but an art.

Tech

This Common Speaking Habit Is Draining All Your Negotiating Power

“John – we are receiving some feedback about the team and their presentation style. In particular we get comments about the inflection of their voice going up at the end. Can you work on this with folks on the team?”

Uncertain Language vs. Command Language 

This is something I see a lot. I call it “uncertain language,” vs. “command language.” Let me explain. The problem with using voice inflection at the end of a sentence when it is not a question is that it makes your statement sound like a question, even though it isn’t, and you come across as uncertain. That dramatically reduces the perception of your status and power.

Saying your statement isn’t a question isn’t the complete truth. Often, when your voice tone goes up at the end of a statement there is an implied question. It’s usually something like “do you agree?” “Am I being understandable?” “Are you okay with this?” “Can we just all get along?” or some desire for approval and connection. It can makes you sound like you’re uncertain, and/or lower status than you actually are. 

When you’re speaking; when you’re the host, or tour leader, or speaking to groups of people, your listeners want to believe that you know what you’re talking about. They like to know that you’re in charge and that you’ve got things handled. Going up at the end of your sentences robs you of that.

Lower, Slower and Louder

There is a discipline called Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). Pseudo-science? Maybe so, but I’ll take things that work from wherever they may come. NLP has something to offer here.

One of the ways you can be more effective and persuasive is to begin consciously using embedded commands. Embedded commands allow you to make powerful suggestions by embedding them indirectly within longer statements.  One key step to doing this is making your voice subtly lower, slower and louder when you embed the command.

NLP calls this technique analog marking. In NLP analog communication is nonverbal communication, while words are referred to in NLP as digital communication. Analog communication goes back to our earliest communication; pre-language communication. Sound and movement. 

When you use analog marking to communicate some part of what you’re saying, the unconscious mind notices and understands your communication differently than the conscious mind does. And, when you use sounds and movement the unconscious mind pays special attention. Body language, movement, voice tone, volume, speed and so on. And, you’re always using analog marking. The question I ask myself is whether it’s supporting my message, or my insecurity.

Commands vs Questions

The difference between “you’re going now.” and “you’re going now?” is pretty obvious. What is less obvious is that when you go up at the end of something you do not intend to be a question it sends a very strong signal to the unconscious mind of the listener and has as big an impact on your credibility as the question mark vs. the period has in the sentences above.

Here are a few examples of embedded commands.

  • “I’m here to talk with you and I want you to feel good about yourself”- I might mark “feel good” by saying it slightly louder, slower and with a downward pitch to my voice.
  • “You definitely don’t have to accept what I’m saying if you don’t want to.” “Accept what I’m saying” could be marked by making an open hand gesture.
  • “Would you tell me your story sometime?” I could mark “tell me your story” with a subtle body movement closer to the person. 

To be effective your statements must be statements, not questions. We understand a rising tone at the end of a sentence to be the marker of a question. Going up at the end of a non-question sentence sends the message that you have a question. If the sentence isn’t actually a question then the non-language message is still that there is a question, and it becomes a question about your credibility, or status or knowledge, or some other factor that you don’t intend to call into question!  

The Bottom Line

A question has a rising tone; the inflection goes up at the end of the sentence. A statement has no change in inflection at the end; it is flat. And, a command (this can be a subtle command) goes down at the end of the sentence; it has a downward inflection at the end. And, command language is very powerful. Going down at the end of your sentences gives them extra impact. You can’t do it all the time or you’ll sound silly, but if you take on speaking in command language you will avoid unsure language. And, that will have you sounding more powerful everywhere in your life. 

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