Weekly readings – 24th August 2019

Spotify’s pitch to podcasters: valuable listener data

Netherlands’ Building Ages. How cool is this? It must have taken quite some time and effort to build this map.

OuiWork? The quick case for WeWork as an actually disruptive business

Apple Targets Apple TV+ Launch in November, Weighs $9.99 Price After Free Trial

Where Top US Banks Are Betting On Fintech

Manufacturers Want to Quit China for Vietnam. They’re Finding It Impossible

Apple’s New TV Strategy Might Just Work

MoviePass database exposes 161 million records. Much as I am grateful to MoviePass, perhaps it’s time for the company to be shut down

Starbucks, monetary superpower. Let me give you a notable quote to get an idea of what this article is about

Starbucks has around $1.6 billion in stored value card liabilities outstanding. This represents the sum of all physical gift cards held in customer’s wallets as well as the digital value of electronic balances held in the Starbucks Mobile App.* It amounts to ~6% of all of the company’s liabilities. 

This is a pretty incredible number. Stored value card liabilities are the money that you, oh loyal Starbucks customer, use to buy coffee. What you might not realize is that these balances  simultaneously function as a loan to Starbucks. Starbucks doesn’t pay any interest on balances held in the Starbucks app or gift cards. You, the loyal customer, are providing the company with free debt. 

Now bigger than eBay, Shopify sets its sights on Amazon

Inside India’s Messy Electric Vehicle Revolution

Weekly readings – 17th August 2019

The Amazon Publishing Juggernaut. I saw someone mention on Twitter that America’s exceptionalism is about the endless potential. To be honest, I have been quite surprised by the reactions to Amazon’s branching out to other areas in addition to their long-known expertise. They are taking advantage of capitalism and exceptionalism for which America is known for. If you don’t do a job well enough to secure your market share and please your customers, you’re ripe for the taking. Amazon is just so darn good at doing the taking

The dawn of the age of geoengineering. A super interesting blog post on the potential Earth-saving projects.

Amazon offered vendors ‘Amazon’s Choice’ labels in return for ad spending and lower prices. Not a good look for Amazon.

Apple brings contactless student IDs on iPhone and Apple Watch to more universities. I love the way it is going. Apple makes it more sticky for students to own an iPhone

Is Elon Wrong About LiDAR? A very interesting post on Lidar, a popular technology in the world of autonomous vehicles

Weekly readings – 29th June 2019

Bodies in seats. A horrifying investigative piece on the working environment of and the emotional toll on employees who are tasked with policing content on Facebook.

Millions of Business Listings on Google Maps Are Fake—and Google Profits. Fake business listings plague Google Maps and can spell potential danger on users.

Why Google+ Failed. An insider perspective on why Google’s attempt to unseat Facebook failed.

The 70-year-old retiree who became America’s worst counterfeiter. A highly interesting story that I believe is unknown to many.

GDPR Enforcement Tracker. 56 fines since its official introduction with Google’s $50 million fine as the biggest one so far. Whether GDPR met your expectation, the most important point I think is that without regulations, how could you hold companies accountable?

How E-Commerce Sites Manipulate You Into Buying Things You May Not Want

The Insulin Racket. A deep dive into why insulin, which is very critical to many’s well-being, became three times more expensive in the span of 10 years. Drug companies profited while lives were devastated.

Jony Ive Is Leaving Apple. I like John Gruber’s take on this.

Freemium’s Public Moment. Some interesting head-to-head comparisons between Fremium-based companies

Amazon is watching.

How Apple’s Find My feature works

Wired published details on how Find My feature on Apple devices will work. the feature allows Apple users to find lost or stolen devices even when the devices are offline. Below are my understanding of the process and attempt to illustrate how it works with visuals for easier interpretation

Here’s how the new system works, as Apple describes it, step by step:

When you first set up Find My on your Apple devices—and Apple confirmed you do need at least two devices for this feature to work—it generates an unguessable private key that’s shared on all those devices via end-to-end encrypted communication, so that only those machines possess the key.

Each device also generates a public key. As in other public key encryption setups, this public key can be used to encrypt data such that no one can decrypt it without the corresponding private key, in this case the one stored on all your Apple devices. This is the “beacon” that your devices will broadcast out via Bluetooth to nearby devices.

That public key frequently changes, “rotating” periodically to a new number. Thanks to some mathematical magic, that new number doesn’t correlate with previous versions of the public key, but it still retains its ability to encrypt data such that only your devices can decrypt it. Apple refused to say just how often the key rotates. But every time it does, the change makes it that much harder for anyone to use your Bluetooth beacons to track your movements.

Say someone steals your MacBook. Even if the thief carries it around closed and disconnected from the internet, your laptop will emit its rotating public key via Bluetooth. A nearby stranger’s iPhone, with no interaction from its owner, will pick up the signal, check its own location, and encrypt that location data using the public key it picked up from the laptop. The public key doesn’t contain any identifying information, and since it frequently rotates, the stranger’s iPhone can’t link the laptop to its prior locations either.

The stranger’s iPhone then uploads two things to Apple’s server: The encrypted location, and a hash of the laptop’s public key, which will serve as an identifier. Since Apple doesn’t have the private key, it can’t decrypt the location.

When you want to find your stolen laptop, you turn to your second Apple device—let’s say an iPad—which contains both the same private key as the laptop and has generated the same series of rotating public keys. When you tap a button to find your laptop, the iPad uploads the same hash of the public key to Apple as an identifier, so that Apple can search through its millions upon millions of stored encrypted locations, and find the matching hash. One complicating factor is that iPad’s hash of the public key won’t be the same as the one from your stolen laptop, since the public key has likely rotated many times since the stranger’s iPhone picked it up. Apple didn’t quite explain how this works. But Johns Hopkins’ Green points out that the iPad could upload a series of hashes of all its previous public keys, so that Apple could sort through them to pull out the previous location where the laptop was spotted.

Apple returns the encrypted location of the laptop to your iPad, which can use its private key to decrypt it and tell you the laptop’s last known location. Meanwhile, Apple has never seen the decrypted location, and since hashing functions are designed to be irreversible, it can’t even use the hashed public keys to collect any information about where the device has been.

THE CLEVER CRYPTOGRAPHY BEHIND APPLE’S ‘FIND MY’ FEATURE
Exhibit 1 – Two devices have its own public key and a shared private key
Exhibit 2 – A step-by-step illustration of the process, from top to bottom

If you think there are any errors in my understanding of the how this works, please leave me a comment and share your thoughts.

The value of trust

Watching Apple WWDC event made me think about the value of trust in business.

During the two-hour event, Apple repeatedly emphasized the trustworthiness of its products and services. The message that Apple protects your privacy and secures your data was told in one segment after another. The thing is that consumers seemed to find Apple’s claim more credible than that of other companies. They trust Apple more in this sense. With that trust, Apple seems to have an easier time introducing very personal products or services to users than others. In addition to a continued push into healthcare, Apple introduced Apple Pay, HomeKit Secure – which allows you to monitor the camera at your front door and sends an encrypted copy to iCloud and Single Sign On. Without trust, I don’t think the enthusiasm would have been as much as that shown during the event. And if they want to introduce something similar to HomeKit Secure, well, good luck with that.

One of a notable releases was Mac Pro, which will cost around $6,000 apiece. though the figure itself does sound expensive, it’s not out of character for Apple. The company has been able to charge users outrageous prices for its devices, yet their annual revenue for the past decade has grown dramatically. It is evidence that consumers trust Apple enough to spend a significant sum on its hardware. In order to pay for a premium, you will need to trust that it carries out basic functions first and on top of that it is worth it. After trouble with Note 7 and the foldable phone, would you still trust Samsung enough to pay $2,000 for its phone?

Trust requires hard work and consistency. Yet, once form, it is a powerful competitive advantage and can open many doors. In some cases, I think it can be the most valuable asset a company can have.

Weekly readings – 31st May 2019

The Future Of Fashion: From Design To Merchandising, How Tech Is Reshaping The Industry. How technology is affecting the fashion and retail industry.

Investing in the Podcast Ecosystem in 2019. A lot of great findings on the podcast ecosystem

Want a great deal on a house? Find one where someone was murdered.

Grab vs. Go-Jek: Inside Asia’s Battle of the ‘Super Apps’. An interesting story about the heavyweights in Southeast Asia in a race to become the dominant Super App

Hollywood Studios Say They’re Quitting Netflix, But the Truth Is More Complicated. Though it’s true that most of Netflix’s popular shows are titles owned by others, Netflix already has the titled tied up to its platform for a foreseeable future.

Sprint’s 5G network is here, and it’s completely different from what Verizon and AT&T are doing. Top speed/spotty coverage vs reasonably fast speed/better coverage. It’s an important point to know about the 5G battle between AT&T, Sprint and Verizon.

Apple’s Billion Users. A very interesting analysis into Apple’s subscription base and its importance to Apple’s future.