So confident is Amazon that it will soon have a drone delivery system that its website features Amazon Prime Air, which is guaranteeing package delivery in “30 minutes or less.” The crowded airspace over the U.K. is about to become more so following Amazon’s agreement with the nation’s government to begin drone testing, but many problems need to be ironed out before such a delivery system is launched.
One such problem is how to stop ubiquitous, low-flying drones from colliding, and Alphabet is making great strides on that score. Alphabet has just received the go-ahead to begin drone testing on this side of the Atlantic, with Project Wing of Google’s moonshot lab in Silicon Valley.
The news came as the White House announced an initiative to advance research on unmanned flights. Over the next five years, the U.S. National Science Foundation will invest $35 million in unmanned flight research, and the Department of Interior will expand its use of drone flights. The FAA is looking at drones’ ability to assume the more dangerous tasks currently performed by manned flights — aerial inspections of refineries and crop dusting, for example.
X, a subsidiary of Alphabet, will not be testing drones over longer distances, as Amazon plans to in the U.K. Instead, X’s Project Wing will be limiting flight ranges and conducting research on radio transponders that alert other aircraft of a drone’s presence. Flight will be conducted at six drone test sites approved by the FAA, but the locations have not been revealed.
Alphabet already has a guaranteed market for the product because the device is to be installed on all aircraft in the U.S. by 2020. According to Dave Vos, head of Project Wing (as paraphrased by Bloomberg): “If all drones flying near the ground were equipped with these transponders, it would permit the craft to fly in congested areas without hitting each other.”
Amazon and Alphabet discussed rules for registering and identifying drones with the FAA in 2015, and Walmart was also in on the action. With 90 percent of Americans living within 15 minutes of a Walmart, the retailer’s many locations could act as fulfillment bases for a drone delivery network. At the Bentonville HQ, Walmart is already using drones in-house for inventory management. Alphabet’s X, like Amazon, hopes to have drones start delivering its products within one to three years.
The scepter’d isle seems to be in favor among the retail and tech conglomerates. Not to be outdone by Amazon, Alphabet is also cozying up to the U.K. Alphabet’s life sciences subsidiary, Verily, has teamed up with GlaxoSmithKline to create U.K.-based Galvani Bioelectronics.
The U.K.’s business secretary, Greg Clark, said: “This latest investment from GSK — just a week after their £275 million commitment across the U.K. — is yet another significant victory for U.K. business and our global leadership in life sciences.”
He also took some credit with the following statement: “This venture with Verily Life Sciences demonstrates the global appeal of our scientific expertise that is helping attract investment, grow the economy and pioneer technologies that could improve millions of lives.”
Over the next seven years, £275 million will be invested in Galvani Bioelectronics, which is experimenting with electrical signals to treat chronic illnesses. Bioelectronics is an emerging field with cutting-edge, futuristic medical treatments. Devices are implanted that modify the electric signals traveling along the nerves in the body, and treatments can be integrated with traditional medicine. Initial clinical proofs will be developed for type 2 diabetes, metabolic and hormonal conditions and inflammatory conditions.
GSK will hold 55 percent ownership of Galvani Bioelectronics and Verily the remaining 45 percent. A second research hub will be located in San Francisco, where Verily is based.
Google Easing Friction For Android Users
Google and Dashlane are collaborating to ease the friction for Android app users. Open YOLO (You Only Login Once) is a new API that gives apps access to users’ login information. Recent increasing breaches have encouraged a trend towards centralized password protection.
The new open API allows Android apps to access passwords stored in consumers’ password managers. Applications can be logged into securely, and just once, removing a significant source of frustration for users. Although Android is currently the only platform to host the API, Dashlane plans to target other platforms later and achieve “universal implementation by various apps and password managers across all platforms and operating systems.”
Google has been busy on the password protection and security front. The company launched Smart Lock, also for Android apps, earlier this year. Late in 2016, Google plans to launch Project Abacus, a password-free authenticator that can use biometrics for identification.