As cobalt powers the lithium batteries in more of our devices, tech companies battle to lock down deals with the mines that produce it. The Hustle Thur, Feb 22 Brought to you by Stitch Fix… outfits to love, delivered. Apple wants to buy up cobalt for its batteries before electric carmakers deplete it The tech […]
February 22, 2018
As cobalt powers the lithium batteries in more of our devices, tech companies battle to lock down deals with the mines that produce it.
A spike in electric vehicles (which also use cobalt in their batteries) has stoked fears of a potential shortage of cobalt — and leaving nothing to chance, Apple is now looking to buy “several thousand metric tons” of the metal per year over the next 5 years, directly from mining companies.
The cobalt market is pretty cutthroat
While cobalt itself isn’t a rare resource, there are a limited number of mines producing it, creating a “supply-demand imbalance.”
This has sparked an all-out battle among big companies — BMW, Volkswagen, and Samsung included — to sign multi-year contracts that will allow them to scale their products in the coming years.
In the past 18 months, the price of cobalt has tripled, to $80k per metric ton — and cobalt usage in car batteries and smartphones is projected to increase from 55k tons (2017) to more than 325k tons by 2030.
Cobalt’s also got some ethical issues
Roughly two-thirds of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where concerns have been raised over ethical mining.
A 2016 Amnesty International report determined that many of the big tech companies buying cobalt, including Apple, had been working with mines that relied on child labor.
In response, Apple published a “supplier responsibility guide” in which they promised to track their cobalt and work with only ethical suppliers.
Apple wants to be ethical — but mainly, they want to save $$$
By partnering directly with cobalt mines, Apple will have tighter control over the origins of its resources.
But it should also help them up the margins on iPhone sales: Buying in bulk should drive down their price per metric ton.
The average iPhone uses about 8 grams of cobalt — and the company sold 216m of them in 2017. So, even a little savings will go a long way.
Cobalt of the Earth
Fortune 500s skip big consultancies… and ask college clubs for crypto advice instead
Enterprise companies are finally jumping on the blockchain bandwagon. But, without traditional “experts” to turn to for help, big business is heading back to school to learn how not to be a (blockchain) fool.
Founded in 2014, a student group called Blockchain at Berkeley is beating out giants like IBM, Accenture and McKinsey to consult for companies like Qualcomm, Mercedes Benz, and Airbus.
“That’s what we love about crypto-geniuses…”
We keep gettin’ older, they stay the same age… A 2017 study found that 28% of large enterprises are considering blockchain technology, yet only 3% are actually using it — in part, because no one actually knows how.
But who actually understands blockchain? Answer: college kids.
In fact, when announcing new blockchain regulations, the SEC turned to Blockchain at Berkeley, which consists mostly of sleep-deprived undergrads working between classes “for the experience,” to host its conference.
Blockchain may be on the 5-year plan, but it will graduate eventually
While college blockchain clubs may be the best option for businesses today, blockchain-specific consultancies — many of them founded by B@B alums — are beginning to fill the void.
In addition to UC Berkeley’s pioneering program, schools like Carnegie Mellon, MIT and Duke are also establishing blockchain programs in an effort to send their students to join Berkeley at the helm of a new generation of blockchain consultancies.
Elon Musk leaves OpenAI after new report causes conflict of interest
On Tuesday, a group of researchers released a report outlining the dangers of AI advancement, aptly titled “The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence: Forecasting, Prevention, and Mitigation.”
The report — which warns of a dangerous sci-fi future where hackers could build swarms of deadly micro-drones and use self-driving cars as weapons — comes from major AI organizations, including the Elon Musk-backed nonprofit OpenAI.
Now, citing a conflict of interest, Elon Musk has left the very organization he co-founded in 2015 to counteract the alleged corporate recklessness of AI development.
So what’s in these papers?
The 100-page document cites the possibility of wrongdoers adding new avenues to existing human-powered threats, through drones, self-driving cars, and advanced “spear-phishing” scams.
Scenarios in the report include autonomous explosives, “total surveillance,” and the rapid spread of dangerous misinformation — all of which experts recommend combatting with more transparency and more regulation.
Conflict of interest… ya think?
Musk has long been vocal about the impending dangers the advancement of AI poses on society, saying at one point, AI is “potentially more dangerous than nukes.”
Many have criticized his lofty concerns, calling such extreme claims from a person of his ilk to be “irresponsible” and “hypocritical” — even Mark Zuckerberg accused him of “fear-mongering.”
As Tesla goes deeper down the rabbit hole of perfecting self-driving cars through AI, this paper all but sealed Musk’s fate within OpenAI, sacrificing his position in the name of creating AI awareness.
UK KFC’s chicken supplier drops the drumstick, leaving 640 branches birdless
640 of the 900 UK KFC locations were closed on Monday thanks to “operational issues” involving their new delivery partner, DHL, which left the chain up a gravy river without a nugget.
As of yesterday, hundreds of locations remained closed in Day 3 of the Great Chicken Shortage.
Britain is the 5th-largest market for KFC, making up 6% of its global sales, but, as KFC put it in their recent statement, “getting fresh chicken out to 900 restaurants across the country is pretty complex!”
“WELL, FIGURE IT OUT” — hangry British people
Concerned, chicken-deprived citizens have been calling their local police to do something, anything…
And the police are asking them to stop. “It is not a police matter if your favourite eatery is not serving the menu that you desire,” tweeted a London police department in response to the influx of calls.
You had ONE job, DHL
KFC switched from their old distributor, Bidvest, to German partner DHL last week, but botched logistics have held up the birds for days.
To make matters worse, the media coverage alerted a local UK food safety council to the existence of an unregistered storage depot at the core of the chicken crisis. That means some of the poultry will have to be destroyed, and potentially more delays.
Meanwhile, Bidvest is feeling pretty smug right now. “We tried to warn KFC,” said Mick Rix, a union officer representing Bidvest workers. “Now the chickens are coming home to roost.”
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