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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Why it matters: Amazon is putting all the pieces together for a comprehensive smart home system, with Alexa's voice presiding over constellations of Echo speakers, Blink home security systems, and Ring smart doorbells.
Our thought bubble: Not only is this a strategic move for Amazon, it's a good time for Eero to give up trying to go it alone in the increasingly competitive market for networking hardware.
The big picture: Although this deal alone isn't likely to raise significant antitrust scrutiny, it's yet another example of Amazon expanding its reach into new areas.
History lesson: Amazon previously invested in Eero rival Luma though its Alexa Fund.
What they're saying:
The bottom line: Whatever Amazon paid (and it's not saying), it will profit not just by selling Eero's networking gear but also by providing customers with the reliable networks they need to use other Amazon products and services.
Russia is planning to sever itself temporarily from the global internet, ostensibly to prepare the country to deal with a digital attack that would leave it cut off, Axios' Joe Uchill writes.
Why it matters: That's Russia's stated intent, but experts believe the goal is actually to wrest more control over the country's domestic internet — and take the first steps toward building an "Iron Firewall" to block dissent, à la China.
Yes, but: Though the government of Russia has publicly expressed concern that other nations may cut it off from the internet, experts are skeptical.
Between the lines: "Really, this move would be about Russia wanting to have the same capabilities that China does — in essence, to be able to control the flow of information into and out of the country," Daniel said.
For years, McCormick has relied on its own culinary experts to come up with new and creative ways to blend its spices. Now, Axios' Shannon Vavra reports, it is looking to artificial intelligence to create new combinations.
What's happening: McCormick, the world’s largest spice company, has begun working with IBM Research to create new spices that humans might not consider. Among its latest concoctions — the cumin pizza, says Richard Goodwin, principal research scientist at IBM.
Why it matters: AI is starting to change our palates and not just when it comes to food. As we've previously reported, AI is introducing novelty and creativity into food, in addition to fashion, art, cocktails, and dance.
How it works: The system, which is still in the testing phase, pulls from decades’ worth of data on spices to identify a base formula for a flavor category (such as a BBQ sauce).
At the end, humans make the decision. A consumer taste-test follows the AI process. "There's always going to be a need for humans to taste," Bob Doyle, VP of the Robotics Industries Association, tells Axios.
Bill and Melinda Gates used their annual letter to reflect on a number of "surprises" they've encountered in recent years.
Details: It's a list that includes inaction and denial over climate change, the struggle to grasp that AI algorithms can be as biased as humans, and a lack of global commitment to vaccines.
"The world looking backward from today is very different from what we pictured a couple years ago," the pair wrote in the letter, published today. "A benefit of surprises is that they’re often a prod to action. It can gnaw at people to realize that the realities of the world don’t match their expectations for it."
Yes, but: Not all the surprises have been bad, they note. Melinda points to the effect smartphones have had in empowering poor women.
In the end, the letter sounds an optimistic note, as anyone who knows Bill and Melinda would expect.
"When we’re feeling overwhelmed by negative headlines, we remind ourselves that none of us has the right to sit back and expect that the world is going to keep getting better. We have a responsibility to do everything we can to push it in that direction."
"In that way, we’ve found that optimism can be a powerful call to action. And it has a multiplier effect: The more optimists there are working for a better future, the more reasons there are to be optimistic."— Bill and Melinda Gates
The pair dedicated the letter to Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder who died last year.
Aiming to convince cities to move faster on 5G, Verizon is enlisting its consumers, Kim reports.
What's new: The company launched a website on Monday where consumers and businesses can petition their local governments to support the deployment of new networking gear, known as small cells, needed to deliver the next generation of cellular technology,
The purpose is two-fold: Getting customers to engage with public officials in favor of 5G, and spotting groundswells of interest as an indicator of demand.
Why it matters: A major hurdle for telecom companies wanting to roll out 5G is getting each municipal government to approve all the permitting requests to install hundreds of thousands of small-cell antennas all over town.
Verizon is also taking a page out of the playbook used by tech companies when expanding to new areas.
Our thought bubble: Motivating the masses to shout loudly that they want 5G faster could be tough. Despite the industry hype around 5G, many consumers still have no idea what it is or why they should care. For many, their current 4G LTE service allows them to stream movies and browse the web just fine.
I see your queen next to my bishop...